If you are struggling right now and not sure if you can continue homeschooling, this post is for you! “Resilient Homeschooling” is a Homeschooling in Oregon Spotlight for OCEANetwork written by Jackie Whitesell, homeschooling mom of 10 years in Pendleton, OR. We know you will be blessed by her family and are thankful that she is sharing her experiences with us all.
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Resilient Homeschooling: Persevering Through the Hard Times
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.
I have seen firsthand God prove the Truth of this verse time and time again – not only in my life but in the lives of other homeschoolers dealing with their own set of difficult circumstances. In the words of a dear homeschooling mama who is currently responsible for the well being of both her parents who have dementia, “I don’t know how I keep going. I remind myself all the time that this is the only opportunity I have with my kids to affect them for Christ or to KNOW them. Time with them is short.”
A public school teacher friend of mine gave me a beautiful hand-crocheted scarf with a secret word stitched into it. She had watched me go through a house fire and then rebuild. She said the word reminded her of me. So I looked up the word “resilient”. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word Resilient means: “Capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture.”
What is Resilient Homeschooling?
Resilience comes from Christ. We can’t be resilient on our own. It is important to keep putting God’s truths into our minds and hearts during the good times so when bad times come (and they will because we live in a fallen world), we can stand firm in our convictions and the tasks He has asked us to do. But most importantly, we need to truly know that He is working for our good through inconvenient and often painful life events.
Five years ago, our family was uprooted to another town in order for my husband to accept his dream job. This was difficult as we were extremely close to our homeschool community. However, God was preparing us during that major move for even bigger trials ahead. During that time of transition, I learned to be more flexible and realized taking a temporary break didn’t “put us behind” after all. We got through the craziness that comes with moving and established a small homestead.
Two years ago our family lost 99% of what we owned in a house fire. It happened in the blink of an eye. One minute I was reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis) out loud to the kids and the next I was seeing smoke pouring down our hallway. A heat lamp over some chicks had accidentally fallen over into their bedding and caught fire. I had just enough time to get the children out before the house was completely engulfed in smoke. I will never forget standing barefooted in our yard, watching the flames and the smoke. I thought to myself, “Life will never be the same”. I was right.
(Our burned out trailer house – March 14th, 2017)
In the midst of the utter helplessness I experienced as I tried to comfort my children, worship songs started rolling through my mind and out of my mouth. I knew right then and there that no matter what – the Lord was going to take care of us. And I also understood in my heart that somehow, someway it would be for our good. Even though I knew these things, I was about to embark on a grieving process that still catches me by surprise – even two years later.
We had homeschoolers, as well as family, friends, and even strangers from all over Eastern Oregon reach out to us, offering practical help. OCEANetwork gave us a scholarship to attend the annual homeschool conference. It was a huge shot of encouragement that we desperately needed during that time.
As you can imagine, this event disrupted our lives significantly. Somehow we managed to keep going despite “camping” out on our property for 8 months while our new home was being built. We homeschooled, cooked, ate and hung out in the shop. Let’s just say the shop was cold when it was cold and hot when it was hot. Our insurance company paid some money for us to buy a travel trailer. We were able to hook it up to our well and have running water in the trailer. We were blessed to have been able to camp on our property and take care of our animals. The fire happened right in the middle of lambing season. We encouraged our children to view the situation as an adventure, yet we allowed them to grieve their personal losses.
(We cooked and homeschooled in one side of our shop. We slept in our travel trailer)
We took a full month break from homeschooling immediately after the fire. In the meantime, we worked hard at the painful, depressing task of inventorying all of our belongings lost in the fire. Some rooms were completely destroyed and we had to do it all by memory.
We strove to find humor in our situation. We learned how to live with sheep because we were camping in THEIR pasture. One ewe in particular, Dixie, became part of our family. I’d have to reach over her to do the laundry in my outdoor washing machine. She’d even insist I share my coffee and toast with her in the quiet of the mornings when I would sit on my “couch” (an outdoor bench swing) to pray and do bible study before the kids got up.
(Our homeschool room – we inventoried over 700 destroyed books)
We had a camp kitchen set up in the shop. I was having to do dishes by hand in the outdoor shower hooked to our travel trailer. I decided to buy paper plates and use plasticware to save time on doing dishes. My kids learned how to use a microwave (gasp!), and subsisted on corn dogs, pizza pockets and microwavable breakfast sandwiches. By mid-summer, I bought an Instant Pot which made it easier to cook simple, healthy meals for the family.
Our homeschool co-op was patient with us and we managed to finish The Chronicles of Narnia unit study we had begun in the fall. Of course, all our curriculum burned so we dropped subjects that weren’t absolutely essential. Some homeschoolers donated curriculum to us which helped greatly in the cost of replacing the most important items. God had our backs and we managed to get through that year. We homeschooled through the summer, focusing on the 3 R’s only.
(Co-op in the shop)
After going to the OCEANetwork conference in June of 2017, I realized my 10-year-old daughter likely had dyslexia. I felt completely overwhelmed by this. Not a lot of options for private tutoring in Eastern Oregon, and we couldn’t afford it anyway. We ended up taking her to the local elementary school and had her tested. We decided to put her into a special reading class at that school for two hours a day, three days a week to help teach her skills I didn’t have the time or energy to learn. It was a great relief. We will be finished up with this special instruction at the end of this school year and I plan on bringing her home full-time next year.
Also in June of 2017, we started building our new house. We were blessed with an amazing contractor who worked hard for us. He finished the main build of the house in a miraculous time period – a month and a half. We decided to do much of the finish work ourselves to save money. God is so good. He moved us to the front of the line, over and over with contractors, inspectors, etc… God allowed our new house to be finished enough for us to move in to before Nov 1st, 2017 – only four and a half months from breaking ground to living in it. Crazy, huh? But God knew our needs and provided an army of people to help us along the way.
Lessons in Resilient Homeschooling
We are determined to use the beautiful new home God has given us for His glory. It is a balm to our hearts. We can’t help remembering all the special things we lost. But they truly are just things. We have a new perspective on life because of this experience. We can appreciate much more now. Our kids have been amazing through all of this and are still embracing the adventure of the situation. We pray God will use this hardship in their lives and bring them a new perspective they will remember always. We’re VICTORS, not VICTIMS!
We’ve grown closer through this and have learned to truly lean on the Lord and wait with bated breath for His provision. It ALWAYS comes! He did not forsake us, even when He said no. It was always for our good. He loves us and wanted us to grow and be sifted through this trial. We won’t always get it right. We’ll probably panic when more trials come our way, but, hopefully, we can look back on this experience and be reminded that God truly does have our best interests at heart despite the pain and inconvenience of the moment. We hope our story can encourage others who might be going through a difficult time as well. We trust not one tear will be wasted from this trial. Praise God through whom all blessings flow!
Jackie Whitesell has been married to Michael for nearly 24 years. She’s been a military wife for 23 of those years. They have three children, ages 15 to 4 years old (quite a spread!). She’s homeschooled for 10 years now. They live in Pendleton, OR on a small homestead. Her passion is to help encourage and connect homeschoolers throughout Eastern Oregon so they never have to feel they are alone on this sometimes very difficult journey of home education. She is also a tour guide for Pendleton Underground, giving educational tours for homeschoolers and other groups.
If you would like us to consider publishing your homeschooling story and how OCEANetwork has been a part of it as an upcoming Homeschooling in Oregon spotlight, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.