Back in April, about a month into distance learning, Frank and I were chatting over lunch and I floated the idea of homeschooling. Like, really homeschooling with our own curriculum and schedule. It would mean pulling our girls out of our beloved neighborhood school, where they are known and loved. It would mean Elle missing out on the sweetest year of teddy bear picnics and leaf mosaics. It would mean a shift in my own identity as a fierce advocate for choosing our flawed public school. It would mean even more of a loss of time and space as we chose to spend every moment together.

Frank was immediately on board, listing all of my professional qualifications for considering this adventure. I overanalyzed it with friends, questioning every projection and news article about the scope and curve of COVID, listing pros and cons, and asking for advice. I found three boxes in our basement filled with lesson plans and materials from my teaching days, marveling at all I’d kept. I was pregnant with Bea when I taught third grade and now I faced the idea of teaching my own third grader.

Even though it took months before I sent our official intent to withdraw to the district, I leaned into that initial gut instinct that this would be a year to reframe our view of learning, education, and community. We aren’t pulling the girls out forever but viewing this more as a sabbatical year. A time to rest and connect during a stressful season. A time to take a tiny bit of control over the potential starts-and-stops of returning to a classroom environment in the midst of a pandemic. A time to deconstruct mainstream history and look at our nation’s foundations through perspectives that often go unheard.

We originally made this choice because of COVID but as the year actually began, I knew I had to shift my perspective. What began as a response to something out of our control morphed into a gift given to us. We are homeschooling because of the gift of uncertainty. We are using this unexpected opportunity to have a family adventure.

I know this year won’t be all magical. Two days in, we’ve already had moments of stress. But we’ve also had sweet moments and I’ve gotten to see my girls learning up close and in a way I hadn’t when I was simply their mom. Shifting my perspective means knowing that we’ll have incredible days and hard days, just like we did before COVID, just like we did when we walked to school every morning. Some parts of life will always be consistent.

This gift of an opportunity has made me open my eyes to other moments from the past six months that likely would never have happened otherwise. Daily hikes, watching church over brunch with “bubble friends,” and an appreciation for smaller things just around the corner. I hope that, if we learn nothing else this year, it’s that we should look small first. Look small for help – who in our community knows something we don’t? Look small for adventures – what park has a hidden trail, just around the corner? Look small for family foundations – how can we lean into our relationships without distractions?

Who knows what this year will actually hold for us. It could open doors we had never dreamed of before. We could return to our school next fall with a greater appreciation for that community and building. I love the unknown of this – the fact that it was never part of our future plans and so holds no expectations. What I do know is that we are ready to reframe our thinking, not just around the school year but around all we plan.

What are some gifts that have come out of this time of uncertainty for you? How are you reframing life these days?

4 thoughts on “The Gift of Uncertainty

  1. Hey Annie, as usual, it’s great to get your take on life! Before Covid I could not imagine home-schooling and thought everyone who did it was nuts (I am British, it is very very unusual for us to undertake this). But during Covid I began to get a feel for what it would be like to shape and frame everything that our children learn. Of course it can be ‘abused’ and result in a very narrow world-view and restricted thinking, but that would be worst-case. And it sounds like you are striving at completely the opposite! I wish you lots of joy and satisfaction in this new venture! I also love the way you see it as a sabbatical – great idea. Nothing has to last forever. Love from Switzerland.

    1. I had always assumed most homeschoolers did so out of fear. While I do think it’s important to check motivation, this experience has made me recognize there’s so much more to our educational decisions. I think this is going to be a year of a lot of deconstruction and learning – on so many levels! But also a year for a lot of growth and memories. Best of luck to you guys, as well! xo

  2. The title was enough to make me stop and consider things as gifts that I’ve thought anything but. Your perspective is one I need to adapt more and it can be as simple as rephrasing things. Thanks, Annie.

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