It seems as though the past 5 months has had little focus other than school. S started his master's program in the summer and then the three oldest kids made the transition to an online school at the end of August. Things didn't really click for us with school. The reality of S's school schedule was much more time consuming than we anticipated. The kids didn't just jump right in loving their new way of schooling the very first day. It was all new and we struggled. I kept thinking that we would soon find our way, that things would start to flow and it wouldn't feel as disjointed, stressful or forced. We were used to a rhythm that was based on family dynamic, interests, schedule and routine. The children learned together. They shared in the joys, discoveries and "firsts" as well as the frustrations and disappointments. This fall, things really changed. Instead of learning together with some periods of time for individual or different work, most of the day was spent with the kids in totally different things and little to no time working together. Distraction increased. Sibling relationships were strained. Learning seemed forced. Days were incredibly long. We were now having to spend 6 hours a day in school related activities per child, completing lessons on a much stricter schedule and the children had online lessons they had to attend which certainly took any flexibility we enjoyed before out of the equation. We had ups and downs just as we have had in all years previously but things just were not flowing well. I kept wondering when it would all come togehter. The one who had the hardest time (well other than me) adjusting was L. It was heart breaking to stand back and watch her fall further and further behind knowing she was very capable of doing the work but that for whatever reason she just wasn't getting or couldn't get it done. I wanted desperately to help her move past this, to just accept that learning isn't easy and always fun but that it is rewarding but I couldn't She had to figure it out. We would start school first thing in the morning and then still be doing it late in the evening as each of them needed their lessons covered and they needed me to assist them and it didn't seem we could find a way that everything would flow well. We started doing fewer and fewer things outside of the online schooling that we had enjoyed for the many years before. We had less free playtime, less downtime. Stress increased as did tension in relationships. Kids started blaming each other and school for activities being missed because one was not down school or because Dad's school schedule didn't allow for his assistance or participation and I couldn't' make it all happen. S's school kept him away from the house most evenings. The kids' school was pretty much taking over our days. For me, it was the first thing I did in the morning, what I did for most of the day and then what I did the last thing at night. The word "school" was starting to carry so much negativity in our home. Resistance, complaining, frustration, resentment, tears. They really didn't like the new school. It had taken away flexibility and freedoms. It didn't have to be this hard, but the reality was that it was extremely hard. I sought support, feedback, anything that I thought would make a difference. Things continued to be hard. L sunk further and further behind and her self confidence and self esteem sank as well. Stress and anxiety mounted and that just made it harder to push forward to get the work done. Nothing was working to motivate her. The reality quickly sat in that this was not going to be a good semester for her grade wise. A lot of learning was taking place, it wasn't however how I had pictured it and the result was far from what I could have ever imagined. L had a very poor attitude especially towards school. She hated it. In fact, she more than hated it and if I could find a suitable word to describe her intense dislike for it, I would use it. She slipped further and further behind. I kept asking for assistance from the school but seemed to get no where. In fact the things they were putting into place (consequences for falling so far behind) were adding to the stress, causing her to become even more disconnected from the teachers, the other students and the course material and had a very negative impact on her final grades or the semester. No matter what we did, we seemed to be less connected as a family, relationships were very strained, tensions were high and the fun of learning was lost and had been replaced with the monotony of just getting things done. It wasn't just school, it had filtered into every aspect of our family life. Things were strained for all of us. The end of the semester is fast approaching ( less than a week) and we were anticipating the negativity hitting new highs. Then suddenly things shifted. The attitude of "why bother anyway, since I am going to fail and can't get it done by the end of the semester" faded this week. It was replaced by a calmer child. One who was giving things her best shot despite major time restrictions. One who was finally after months of not really talking to anyone, was emailing teachers to ask questions to clarify assignments, asking friends for feedback on her writing assignments. Glimpses of light in a lot of darkness. I do not fully understand nor can I explain what is happening or why but I am embracing it fully. Things are not all smooth sailing and come this Friday when she is no longer able to do anything about the lessons and grades from the first semester we may have a very hard time (for me to feeling all the "if only I had done or tried......."). The reality is though, we are all learning. Like I said before, it may not be what we had hoped, but we are learning. I am starting to see glimmers of what made learning at home so enjoyable for the past several years appear again. We are starting to find our way. It has been a tough journey but we are still moving forward. I am very hopeful that soon, we will find what will work for us to make this process a lot more fun. People that we know that are having success within the program have fewer children needing teacher assistance and several have a different work/family arrangement so that both parents are involved in the formal teaching process. I am slowly learning that what works for them likely won't for us. I also have three intense kids with an idea of how things are going to flow and very different learning styles and abilities. This has been a hard 5 months for me and at first glance, I wouldn't want to do it again. I have not been the kind of mother I wanted to be. I have not modeled appropriately for my children and I have fallen far short of the standards I had wanted to achieve. I have been tested to the limits. Yet as I look closer, perhaps the learning that was supposed to take place, the lessons in life we were supposed to uncover were more about dealing with life than proving what you have learned in a class. Here's to next semester, may I be less absorbed in school and more absorbed in what is truly meaningful to our lives.