While the World Stands Still
The world has “nearly” stopped for 6 weeks now, because of Covid-19. Most of the people I know are devastated, and many are facing financial hardship. I have been self-isolating and keeping extremely busy. The time is going fast as I have my first fulltime semester at The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). I am raising my son that has High Functioning Autism, (Asburgers), and homeschooling him at the same time. My heart goes out to everyone that is impacted by the economy shutting down. In this article, I am sharing my experience living through a pandemic homeschooling both myself through University and my son while overcoming some challenges.
This self-isolation time has proven the saying, “It takes a community to raise a child” to be true, and the absence of community has impacted all of us. It’s allowed me to appreciate the early intervention that the B.C Government provides for families with a child living with Autism and all the people that work in the field, helping children and families. Since they have quite coming I have really realized how much they do.
The Begining of Change from Covid-19
Our homeschool issued an order to stop allowing people to work in person with children on March 17, 2020, when the B.C Government made the call to comply with the Provincial Health Officer. The same week, UFV paused all courses for one week and transitioned classes to an online format. This is when it really hit that are facing a serious issue. My extended family began to call and ask me if I was stocked up on food. Ironically, I had just completely depleted my panty for the first time in years. I was oddly calm and had a great sense of peace beyond my own understanding. I will write more about the Covid-19 pandemic later, sharing how toilet paper, flour, sugar and soap became impossible to purchase.
Homeschool for University and Grade 2
Just before this happened, I had many significant changes in my life, and it was turned upside down. My daughter went to Hawaii with my Mom at the tail end of the upheaval, and I had my three-year-old grandaughter for two weeks. I put a lot of my course load on the backburner to savour my time with her. We went to Vancouver Island to help my Great Aunt, the Vancouver Aquarium and did all kinds of fun things. It was a visit to treasure, and I miss her dearly.
The week she went home was the same time that all of our supports and services were cancelled, and I was left with three final papers and exams to study for!!! I spent hours researching, note-taking and paper writing for Sociology, Social Work and Geography. (The picture above is the research for one paper) My ADHD brain wondered all over the place, and I had to use many different strategies to keep some focus and make each deadline.
My Mom responsibilities came first, and I felt like I walked an impossible tightrope to the finish line. If I leaned too far in one direction, I began to neglect to spend quality time with my son and screen time and t.v time became uncomfortably too high. On the other side, I was not getting my regular weekly school work done, managing self-care and was beginning to feel angry and short-tempered. I knew that I needed to make some changes to make the time as pleasurable as possible for both of us.
Within a week, I had figured out a few essential daily pieces of routine would be needed. I cancelled my insurance and decided to walk everywhere I needed to go. Each day, I chose a route to walk and incorporated picking up essential products along the way. At first, I needed to find incentives such as a walk to UFV, where a building with a vending machine was open, and my son could get a treat before we would return home. Our walks began at about 3 km and ended up being 10+ km each day. My son lost weight and a couple of clothing sizes in a few weeks and gained an enormous amount of energy, lasting far longer than mine. He has this amazing ability, just as I did when I was a child, to talk and ask deep questions the entire time we are walking. There were days that we wandered for 4-5 hours, and he didn’t take a moment to be silent. I started a list of his questions, and we dedicated time each day to find the answers.
Soon I realized our walking time was homeschool time and began to bring paper, pens and a picnic with us. No longer were incentives needed as he looked forward to this time each day. We had to find remote places where no one else would go to comply with the orders to stay home and only go out if you had to. We kept 6 feet away from others when we did come across someone, but most of the time, we chose routes that others didn’t.
We discovered signs taped to posts, hearts taped to windows and windows painted to send love to frontline workers and send hope and encouragement to the world. My son enjoyed finding wonderful things so much that he forgot walking takes effort. We made a 5-minute rule; each day, we would walk for 5 minutes and then turn around if we didn’t want to walk any longer. One day, it was raining, and I said that we could dance instead of walking, and he reminded me of the 5-minute rule! Only, we didn’t turn around after 5 minutes, we ended up going on a rainy adventure.
Finished The Semester
By the Grace or Mercy of God, I finished all of my papers. One paper was on a pandemic and one on single-mothers. It was ironic, and they were challenging to write because I was so close to the situation. I took away some amazing discoveries and grew as a person from them. I had to wait a couple of weeks to get my grades and wasn’t sure if I would pass or fail. I did pass and ended up with an A and an A- landing me the GPA to apply to a program that will help me get to where I want to go quicker. One day I will write more about my journey from drop out to A student because it shows that anyone can do anything they set there mind to that is within God’s will for their life.
Homeschool During a Pandemic
For parents that would like to read more about homeschooling a child that has high functioning Autism, I will write more as well. There are a few lifesaving takeaways I was given from the professionals that are in my life:
- Use a visual schedule and plan out the day allowing your child choices when possible – ie. do you want to get dressed first or brush your teeth first? Martial Arts or Books?
- Let them move the magnet over when they have completed the task. In this picture, the middle line has been erased, but Breakfast and chores are done.
- Plan breaks for yourself, his screen time is my school time, prayer time or writing time.
- Let them help choose the menu items!
What about the Podcast?
A few people messaged me to ask when I would do the podcast again? After I started school and made the decision to focus my 100% on it things started to happen. I was offered my first sponsorship, offered a few great guests to be on the show and asked to speak on other people’s podcasts. It showed me the power of podcasts and spreading other people’s positive life stories. I checked the statistics yesterday and was surprised to see that after 4 months, it is still being listened to regularly!
The picture above was taken on a picnic with my son in my favourite quiet place. It reminds me of the name I finally settled on, Life’s Valleys and Mountaintops. Finishing my first full semester was like climbing a mountaintop. I learned new habits, skills, overcame toxic beliefs that I made about myself over 20 years ago and completed it. Homeschooling my son and learning about the needs of a child with high functioning Autism has been like climbing a mountaintop. Watching my family continue to live through brokenness and walking through each day with a broken heart has been much like wandering an endless valley. We all have our difficulties, our good days and bad, and I write to encourage you to keep your faith. Continue on in prayer and praise to our God almighty that is always with us. However, we may not always understand what or why something is happening. (At least that’s how I feel)
I decided to leave the podcast on the back burner for now, and write when my heart feels the calling to share something that may touch a life. One thing that I have learned from living through the Covid-19 pandemic is that life can be cut short with little notice, and every moment counts. I will speak on other podcasts and have been invited to be coached by Michael Hsu on his podcast, Heal From The Ground Up. (When I can order a webcam which is impossible to order right now due to the pandemic). In the meantime, I will be continuing my full-time studies, homeschooling and hiking with a big ambitious goal to successfully train and run a marathon with angina.
If you need someone to talk to during the pandemic, I am offering a few probono coaching sessions. Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you think it would be helpful. No one should be alone, please reach out if you need help. I can offer to connect you to resources if coaching is not what you need. Be kind to yourself, it doesn’t matter if you are productive or just surviving each day, we are all in this together.