Today was a very big day in our household.
Chris left for Grand Rapids Michigan this morning. He will be there for most of the next month, serving as guest lecturer and co-teacher for an interim class at Calvin College. The class will be reading and discussing Tolstoy's War and Peace. Chris will be lecturing on the religious life and conversions depicted in the novel. We are hoping that this time away from the pulpit, and pressures of everyday ministry, help him return refreshed and renewed when he is done with his Sabbatical.
I've been asked a lot about how I feel about him being gone for so long, and all I can say is that I encouraged him to do this and I support him. Everyday life will be strange. Not having another adult to decompress with, to comfort and encourage me will be hard, probably harder than I can anticipate. I am a very independent person, an introvert and generally happy doing my own thing, but I am surely going to notice his absence, and not simply because the garbage & kitty litter will need emptying. People have asked me how they can help support me. And I am struggling to figure what to answer. I just don't really know yet. Maybe a meal will work, even if my girls are picky, maybe just checking to see if I need to get out for some adult time will be the thing. I just don't know.
The second momentous event in our lives is the fact that as of today we have started homeschooling Zee. Aay went off on the bus back to RCS without her and that was weird, thrilling and frighting. Zee has been emotionally struggling with school for years. About 5 years ago Zee was diagnosed with ADD, and we went through the whole ADD medication rigmarole for about 2.5 years. The drugs were very helpful in helping her settle down and focus long enough to learn to read and write, but eventually the side effects of insomnia & suppressed appetite were just too much to ignore. She would have successful school days but become an emotional mess due to lack of sleep, low blood sugar and over-stimulation at the end of her days. So after playing around with various dosages, and types of meds to the point she said she felt like a science experiment, 2.5 years ago we took her off the ADD meds and tried to make it work at school without them. Academically she has done well. She struggles with organization, and sometimes rushes through it, but she loved to participate in class and was certainly learning even her homework was late and somewhat messy. Socially and emotionally she really started thriving at home, looking happy, healthier and better rested, however school became a battleground. Her impulsiveness aggravated conflicts at school, her disorganization made it so she was often defensive and aggressive with her teachers. So last year we found her a good psychologist, who understands her and together they are doing a good job helping her figure out better ways to deal with stressful situations. She has made incredible progress in being able process and control her emotions but despite learning a lot of techniques and the school making huge accommodations to help her deal with stress/difficult situations, we felt things were escalating negatively at school. Essentially school provided too many conflict opportunities, and there were too many variables for her to cope with on a daily basis. We felt we were setting her up to fail each day.
As parent, I have always felt my job is to equip her to be the best person she can be without crushing all the tender parts that make her who she is. Zee is an amazingly bright, creative, open-hearted and happy kid and we hated that this was not who she was at school.
After talking to her teachers, the principal, her therapist, Zee, and crying and praying at ton we decided that the best thing we could do for her was to pull her for the rest of the school year Which posed an incredible challenge for us. How can we homeschool when I work part-time & Chris full time (and he would be out of town for month!). But things fell into place. I reached out to lots of our church friends who homeschool for advice and resources and we now have a pretty good idea about how this will work. The school graciously offered me a leave of absence for the month of January. I will be on call for tech related emergencies, and providing virtual support. We found a wonderful sub, who is willing to take on my classes as long as I keep writing the lesson plans.
When Chris returns we will alternate the home schooling responsibilities. I will be able to go back to teaching my regular schedule. Thankfully Chris has flexible schedule, and the ability to work from home when needed and be able to provide supervision and instruction to Zee during my work-days.
Today was day one, and it went really well. We picked up where she had left off in her math book, we worked through the next part of her social studies chapter, reviewed her science lesson together and then did some ELA work. In retrospect tackling science straight after math and social studies was just too much. So tomorrow we will flip the order around and see if we like it better. We cuddled, we laughed, and school wasn't this dreaded anxiety monster. She missed her sister and her sister missed her, but she is peaceful and so is our home.
So please pray for us as we try these new things. We are trying to figure things out, so this might not work out, and we might need to try something else, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do it.