I started writing this post in February but life was still busy and I never finished it. I feel like this week is the perfect time to finish it and reflect on the one-year anniversary of the hurricane. I want to be very clear that I share this not to brag on what we did because we only did what needed to be done and so many people did so much more than we did. I share it to help you see what our experience was and hopefully to help those who may go through a similar situation whether it be a hurricane or other natural disaster. Everyone can help after a disaster but as a homeschooling family we have some unique opportunities to really help our children learn to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in crisis. I am sharing today about our personal experience and tomorrow I will follow up with part two which will share the lessons we learned and how you can apply them to your homeschool.
A week and a half into our 2018-19 ‘school year’ Hurricane Florence came along and did major damage to our area. We had gotten into a great routine and the year was going surprisingly smooth considering that we had a baby and a four-year-old along for the ride. I was a bit frustrated that my routine was going to get messed up but I resigned myself to losing about 3 days (maybe a bit more for the subjects that required a computer) and planned to hop back on track that next week. As a native of eastern North Carolina, I had weathered many hurricanes and did not really expect that this one would be that much different than all the rest.
Unfortunately, this one was different than most storms I had been through. We weathered this storm well as a family, but thousands of people in our community lost their homes to the flood waters. Areas that had never flooded before and were not in any flood planes had feet of water in them. For the first few days we stayed pretty close to home and actually did a little bit of schoolwork to pass the time. The children helped our neighbor clean up limbs and even went with my husband to help a family just down the road who needed to clear out his home because of flooding. There was a curfew in place in the city limits where our church and most of the businesses we use are located, so we couldn’t really travel in town. Also, we did not have power and needed to be home to tend to the generator. We got power back on the Monday following the storm and the curfews were lifted on that same day.
On Tuesday, we went into town, to our church, to figure out how we could help and to get a better idea of the scope of the damage. Most of the hurricanes that I have been through the damage is spread out throughout the area. While there certainly were a few homes that had wind and tree damage, the vast majority of the damage from this storm was flooding. That meant that while there were large areas and many homes affected, they were also large areas that remained untouched by the storm. If you were far enough inland to not flood there was a good chance that other than a power outage or some tree limbs down you escaped unscathed.
Our power and internet had been restored just five days after the storm and we could have returned to school as usual, but we saw that there were many needs in the community and wanted to meet those needs. In the first days and weeks after the storm the public schools were also out of school and the decision to not stick to our scheduled curriculum was easy. We knew that we had an obligation to help those in need and that the children were getting a different kind of education.
For the first two or three weeks we simply devoted ourselves to helping. Our church was bringing in groups from out of town to help ‘muck and gut’ flooded houses as well as having many of our own members help each day. With a small baby I couldn’t safely go into those homes, but I could go to the church and help feed the volunteers. Our family was able to help coordinate and provide meals to 50-100 volunteers each day as well as helping set up lodging in the church for those from out of town.
Early on the church was collecting donations that were planned to go to a local outreach in our community to be distributed. However, that outreach as well as another large outreach were overwhelmed and limited due to their own flood damage and the number of people needing help. So, the children set up tables and began distributing supplies. Each day we would show up and new supplies would arrive from various places around the state and even other states. They gave away thousands of supply items to hundreds of people that came looking for help. While the adults helped to supervise, my children as well as their friends really ran that operation and did a great job.
During those initial weeks our school day consisted of public speaking, service, organization, and cooking skills. They meet hundreds of people from around the country and had experiences that they will never forget. After the first three or four weeks, we realized that there would be months worth of work to help our town rebuild and we needed to find a more sustainable long-term plan that allowed us to continue to help while also keeping our other obligations (school, work, housework, etc) going.
From the end of October through April (and a few weeks from May to July), we found a bit more balance but our focus still seemed to fall on hurricane relief. We had groups coming into the church most Sunday nights and staying through Friday. These groups were a little more structured and planned (since the immediate crisis was over) and we were able to find a better balance. We would purchase groceries and set up cots on Sunday, cook several meals through the week, and then make sure the groups had what they needed while they were here. Other families and small groups from the church would help with meals, desserts, and other needs. The groups would also often bring a few people with them to help cook some of their own meals.
Through all of this we had the privilege of working with several wonderful organizations, particularly International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES) and Sharing Hope Ministries. These groups provided both resources and leadership for the teams out in the field and helped provide the volunteers that were working. We meet people from various states and backgrounds. There were families, adult groups, senior groups, college student ministries, a teen group, and multiple groups from the Mennonite and Amish community. What an experience we had meeting so many new people that all had a heart to come and serve the people in our town. We made some wonderful friends, several of whom we hope to visit over the next couple of years.
At the end of July, the eight-bay shower trailer that our volunteers used to shower each night was returned to IDES and the classroom that we turned into a ‘food room’ for storing non-perishables and serving meals was returned to its status of adult classroom. On the outside things seem to be back to normal, bur for our family and many others this storm and experience have left us forever changed. We learned so much and grew as a family in ways I never expected. I invite you to join us tomorrow for part two of this series where I will share the lessons we learned and how you can use natural disasters and other events to help your children learn to serve.
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Deals and Freebies
For the Temple by GA Henty Free on Kindle (This is my son’s current book for his literature course.)
So many folks looking for homeschool options at a reasonable price during this unusual time. SchoolhouseTeachers.com is having an amazing sale. For less than $200 you get 2 years access to over 400 courses that you can use with as many students as you have in your home! We use this for several courses and I am always happy to answer questions. Just click on this link and use code: SHARK20
If you are looking for a fun way to encourage reading this summer, check out the FREE summer reading materials from Your Morning Basket with Pam Barnhill. The passport and reading bucket list are a great way to encourage reading!
Homeschool Complete is offering a special 10% off discount to my readers! Just use code: SWAG
Get a FREE Literature Kit from LitWits using Code 11READ4FUN. We are currently enjoying the Heidi kit but have also previously loved the My Side of the Mountain kit.
IEW is offering some great free resources right now.
FREE: Check out this great new FREE resource for classical and Charlotte Mason education! Classical Christian Education & Charlotte Mason. Great for folks already homeschooling or if you have friends that are looking into it!
FREE Historical Fiction StoryBuilders from Write Shop!