Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where I Was At This Time Last Year

When you homeschool and work you're always worried about the 'what ifs.' What if something happens to my child care provider and I'm unable to work. Do I have a back-up plan in place? It is a stress that I can't do justice with words.

My mom was my primary child care provider. On days when I worked, she was with the kids. She was a former primary school teacher and loved being with the kids and they loved being with her. She was a very young 79 year old. Lots of energy and enthusiasm. We are so grateful that our kids had this quality time with her. They spent a huge amount of time with her and had a very strong bond.

Last August my mom celebrated her 80th birthday. It seemed to be a major milestone. Little did we know at the time, what this number meant. Now, I know that many medical personnel seem to believe that 80 years of age is when everything goes downhill and health can turn on a dime. I still don't believe this - although it is what happened to my mom.

On Labour Day weekend last year my mom had her first stroke. It didn't look like much. It was fairly mild, but there was a lot of confusion. She was admitted to the hospital that weekend. This was how my school year started. It was incredibly stressful not knowing what was happening with her health and what this meant for my homeschooling.

She stayed in the hospital for all of September and October because she kept having recurring strokes/seizures. She managed to get out and went to a rehab centre for all of November and then we got her home for three weeks in December. Her home stay was choreographed by me and supported with many different agencies and organizations. Right before Christmas she suffered two more strokes and ended up back in the hospital, until she went to Hospice in the middle of January where she eventually passed away.

All in all, she suffered (from what we saw) 23 strokes or seizures. The doctors never did figure out exactly what they were as they presented the same way. We witnessed her go from being a vibrant, active, elderly person, to a frail, shell of herself. In the end she could no longer talk or eat. I cannot tell you what it is like trying to make life and death decisions for someone who cannot communicate with you.

What did this mean for me? It was probably the most difficult time of my life (and I've had a few!). Her health was so precarious and unpredictable that I had to be available 24/7 and I was the only one in my family to be able to do this. One day she'd be relatively fine, joking and eating and the next she'd mix her words and would choke when eating. This went on for months. I had to navigate the health care system and be a strong advocate for her. Sometimes this meant being pushy - which I was not comfortable with. It was extremely trying and emotionally draining. I lived at the hospital, day after day. I often was met with the response, "well, she's 80, she's had a good life, and this is what happens when one turns 80." Because of this attitude, some things were not done that should have been done. In the end, our family had to make some very difficult decisions. Decisions that I have to live with.

What does this have to do with homeschooling? How do you continue to homeschool through something so challenging? I was so worried about the kids and what this meant for our family when mom got sick. How were we going to cover the days I had to work? I had to ask for help. This is something I've never been very comfortable with but I knew I had to do it. I asked and people responded. The gratefulness that I feel to these friends is something indescribable. There are no words. These friends got me through the year. I was able to focus on my mom.

As far as homeschooling goes, I let go a little. I didn't worry about time lines, and expectations. I went day by day. When we were able to do some work, we focused on math, reading, and writing. The kids got some additional learning at a co-op they went to. And then unschooling came into play. Unschooling is not a style that I would say I follow, but in situations like these, it just naturally happens. The kids naturally gravitated to subjects of interest and explored them on their own. Mason took the time to really explore the Middle Ages. After mom passed, we were able to resume our regular homeschooling style but it was a new kind of norm.

We miss Grannie greatly, but we appreciate all the time we had with her and the great experiences she brought to our lives. She was a true supporter of what we were doing with the kids and could see and appreciate the benefits. This is something I truly miss. I miss my advocate. I miss my foundation. 

For those friends who were there for me and still are - thank you SO, SO much for everything you did. I hope over time, I can repay you.

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