As many of you already know, Schizz and I elected to embark on a major home renovation this year. The project officially started in November, but has been stalled by snow more times than I can count. Now, we are days from April and I can almost see the light. It’s probably safe to say that we were slightly crazy choosing to do this project during our very first year of homeschooling, which also happened to be perhaps the snowiest winter ever, but… whatever! What’s done is done. All of the dust and noise and chaos will be worth it. That said, it certainly hasn’t been easy. Today, I’m going to tell you how you can survive homeschooling through construction.
HOW TO HOMESCHOOL THROUGH CONSTRUCTION
(WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND)
Let’s face it, you’re going to need mass quantities of this stuff. If you need an afternoon cup or two, that is totally okay. You can cut back on your caffeine intake later, once the dust settles. In the mean time, you might need to brew that coffee in an odd location because your kitchen is out of commission, but it tastes just the same.
Busy moms have loved the crockpot for decades. You throw a whole pile of stuff in and – voila!– dinner when you get home. Mamas, this thing will save you during construction. Be sure to use liners. And paper plates for that matter. I am all for going green, believe me. We compost, we have water barrels, we recycle, we do not use paper napkins or paper towels… unless we are in the midst of a major home renovation during an extremely long and snowy winter. Mother Earth may cringe but, believe me, washing dishes in your bathtub gets old quickly.
I know no one likes to admit they need help, but listen to me: accept help. If that help comes in the form of a friend who wants to take your kids for the afternoon, say yes. If that help comes in the form of your mother-in-law dropping off tons of delicious meals for you, say yes. If that help comes in the form of your parents offering you a place to stay to escape construction, say yes. If that help comes in the form of friends offering a much-needed Moms Night Out, say yes. There is nothing wrong with accepting help, folks. Accept, be grateful, and return the favor down the road.
Everyone feels better after a little fresh air and sunshine. Our family loves to be outside. That said, this winter was a challenging one for even the most die-hard of nature lovers. Bitterly cold temperatures, painful wind, and many feet of snow made it extremely difficult to get the kids outside for normal lengths of time. It’s tough to enjoy snow, even with snowshoes, when it is over your head. Just ask Seuss, for at one point this winter we were measuring the height of the snow in Seusses!
Have you ever read this book? I adore it, folks, and love the message. Life is going to get chaotic, you know that. Make it easier on yourself. Simplify your life in response to the chaos. If it’s too crazy at home to concentrate conduct science experiments or to concentrate on math work, focus on what is easy and do that. There will be time for all that other stuff when the dust settles. At one point, in preparation for construction, I cleared out our playroom. It may sound crazy to you, but having less felt better. It was as if an instant calm had fallen over our home. And, during our worst construction weeks this winter, we focused on the things we love: books, read alouds, art, and nature. These activities filled our minds and our souls without any homeschool-related stress.
If nasty weather is keeping you inside, remember your local library. Libraries are calm and quiet with infinite learning possibilities. I wouldn’t have survived this latest construction had it not been for our beloved library and our favorite librarians. When your world gets crazy, the library can keep you sane.
This is easier said than done, but you need to try to relax during this time. You know that date that your contractor told you he’d be done by? Erase that from your mind and do not think of it again. Trust me on this one. You also need to relax your homeschool expectations during this period. Remind yourself that homeschooling is going to look different during construction, and that’s okay. It may be more difficult to access a desktop, or locate materials in the clutter, or work with the ceaseless noise and interruptions. Try to roll with it. You can get back into the swing of things once life is calmer. Also, and this is so important, make sure you do at least one thing each day that is for YOU. Self-care is super-important during this time.
Vent to your closest friends, preferably outside of your messy house and over wine. I promise you’ll feel much better. I’ve lived through a major home renovation with children twice now and I would not have survived if it hadn’t been for my friends. Yes, you’re exhausted. I get it, but you need to do this for YOU. So throw on that bra, get out of your dusty house, and rally for a MNO. You won’t regret it.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this first year of homeschooling it is this: children are learning all the time. Remember that you don’t need to hole up in your one room school-house, trying to muddle through assignments with the noise of construction in the background. Distract yourself with field trips, play dates, and library trips. And keep in mind that any excursion can be educational if you change your mindset. If you change your outlook, any errand can be a field trip of sorts. And if you are stuck at home and you don’t get as much done during a construction-heavy day than you otherwise would have, just take a moment to reflect upon what your children have learned from the construction itself. My children have enjoyed watching the transformation of our home. From dumpsters to portable toilets to siding to framing to demolition to construction to plumbing to electrical work to painting- they have observed and learned a great deal.
You’ve been cognizant of screen time for how long, homeschooling mama? You can let loose a little during construction. It’s okay. Throw in something educational and declare it a lesson. Or, throw in a movie and have some family time. Or, hand your child a tablet and retreat to your room for a much-needed moment of silence. It’s okay to lean on screens more than usual during this time. You’re in survival mode.
Let me tell you, folks, I cringed the first time I let my kids have cereal for dinner during construction but they loved it. I kid you not: they jump for joy on the nights I declare it a cereal for dinner night. We’ve done it several times and they keep telling me they are going to be sad when construction is over because it will mean an end to cereal nights.
Feeling overwhelmed? Can’t think in the chaos? Is that bad mood trying to engulf you? Wait until the workers go home, turn up the radio, and dance your cares away. Or, don’t even wait until they leave to dance it out. Believe me, by the end of construction these guys will be like family. If you declare it to be a Kenny Hour and rock out, they won’t bat an eye. At least not in front of you. I promise you, you will feel better.
If at all possible, leave town entirely for a bit. I packed up the kids and headed north, to my parents’ condo in the mountains. We spent two of the dirtiest construction weeks up there, and I am so glad that we did. It was nice to be in a warm and clean place with a working oven. And, when we got home, we could really see the progress. In fact, I could almost see the light.
Tell me, have you homeschooled through construction? How did you survive? Share your tips here!
Patience is not simply the ability to wait- it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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