S6 E14 | Homeschooling Through Life’s Challenges: Medical Crisis (Julie Ross with Ella Savchuk of Schoolhouse Grace)
When a crisis strikes, how do you keep homeschooling? What does it look like to continue educating your children at home when your time is torn between caring for your children and caring for your husband in a medical crisis? Ella Savchuk joins Julie Ross to share the story of her husband’s unexpected medical event and how she and her family managed to stay afloat in the aftermath. Ella’s story is one of giving yourself and your kids extra grace, prioritizing what’s most important, and leaning on God’s strength in every moment. Whether you have walked through a crisis or not in your homeschooling journey, may you be encouraged by the story of hope Ella shares in this episode.
Ella Savchuk is a follower of Yeshua, wife of 17 years, mother to 5 children from high school to preschool, former L/D RN, and a Charlotte Mason leader. She began homeschooling 6 years ago, created a flourishing CM community in the Twin Cities of MN, and taught many co-op classes. She recently moved across country from MN to SC to begin a homesteading lifestyle, raising animals and growing cut flowers. She loves reading, gardening, and water coloring in her nature journal.
Julie H. Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, curriculum coordinator, and assistant director of a homeschool academy, Julie has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.
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Julie Ross Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Miss Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich living education in your modern homeschool. So pull up a chair. We're glad you're here. Today's episode of The Charlotte Mason Show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at MediShare.com.
Julie Ross Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I am here today with Ella Savchuk, and we are going to be talking about a difficult topic. We have been doing this series on homeschooling through life's difficulties, and I've been so grateful for the guests that we've had on and just their vulnerability and their willingness to talk about difficult things. But also I have just been so encouraged by everyone and just the way that they have persevered and the hope that they have. And so Ella has been gracious enough to come on today. And if you have followed her on Instagram @SchoolhouseGrace at all, you probably know some of her story. But I'm sure there's some people who are listening who aren't familiar. So I am glad that you're willing to talk to us today, Ella. Thank you for your time.
Ella Savchuk Thank you, Julie, for having me. I'm happy to be here and just kind of share what our life has been about in the last few— six months or maybe even more.
Julie Ross Yeah, well, let's start back before that. Can you give everyone kind of like a brief overview of your family and how you all got into homeschooling and some of the things that happened kind of prior to that?
Ella Savchuk Sure. So we are in the process of completing our sixth year of homeschooling, and that might be a whole summer adventure just from everything. But we started homeschooling in 2016. I have five children, so my oldest at the time had just finished fourth grade and younger from there. So we kind of began homeschooling with my oldest entering fifth grade. My children right now— they're 16, 14, 12 are my boys, and then my girls are 10 and 4. So we've got five children. And.
Julie Ross Sounds a lot like my spread.
Ella Savchuk Yeah. Yep. So we had four at the time when we started doing homeschool, but we were living in Minnesota. So I'm mostly from Minnesota. We just moved here in August to South Carolina, the Greenville area. So we just kind of began trying to figure out what does homeschool even mean, how to homeschool, what to do with that. And our second year of homeschooling is when I became pregnant with our fifth child, and I had some health issues which I was on kind of bed rest for a good portion of it, and that allowed me to do a lot of research, a lot of reading. When we first started out our homeschool journey, I loved it and I knew that we had come to the right decision and come to the right kind of way that we wanted to do life with our children. But I wasn't happy with the way we were doing it. It didn't feel like that warm, cozy kind of homeschool environment that I thought homeschooling was all about. I was very focused on academics and making sure my children just could memorize a lot of information and that kind of thing. But our second year really forced me to slow down because I had to. I was in bed a lot. And I met Charlotte Mason through a dear friend of mine who was also kind of entering into that journey in her life with her five children. And so I read all through Home Education, A Philosophy of Education. I listened to probably— like I binge listened to all the Delectable Education podcasts. I went through Ambleside Online—the frequently asked questions—over and over, and I was like, this is what we're missing in our life. And so it was a blessing that I had that time where I— you know, that's hard to say, but like when I was sick, and I had all this time just to be in bed and read, but it really was a blessing because it changed the relationship that I had with my children from just kind of being very hard on them and expecting them to do very well academically to creating that nurturing home environment. And so that's kind of how we came to know Charlotte Mason was through hardship during that time.
Julie Ross Yeah. That's really interesting that you say that. Yeah. That's a really neat perspective, I think.
Ella Savchuk I know. I didn't think of it during that time.
Julie Ross Yeah. Oh, of course not. No. Right. I'm sure that was hard for you.
Ella Savchuk Like in the moment, I was frustrated.
Julie Ross Yeah, I'm sure that was very hard with the pressure you were probably putting on yourself to feel like they had to live up to these academic standards. And then for you kind of having to be almost forced to not be able to have that kind of structure or input on a daily basis, I'm sure that that was really hard. But I love just that you took the time to really dive into Charlotte Mason's writings. That's a big goal and a big bite to chew off. But I mean, we encourage people constantly on this podcast just to try it because the richness that you find and the importance of kind of figuring out your philosophy of education before you get started on this journey and how important that is, because that really does guide everything that you do from then on. And I'm sure, as we kind of transition here into what's been recently happening in your life, that foundation was super important to keep going.
Ella Savchuk Oh, absolutely. I think had I not met Ms. mason and understood the whole kind of "children are born persons" and just how much grace we need to allow in our education and just to even give them, I think this would have been so taxing on me during a difficult season because I would have had such ridiculous expectations I will say that I kind of started out our homeschooling journey with. And there's reasons for that. I mean, I come from a family— so I'm originally from Ukraine, and my parents went to Soviet Union schools. And so everything is very hard and rigorous, and all your life you must bring an A home, otherwise you're not worthy to be in the home. So I had a lot of that as my own background. And while that was maybe my education— and so I kind of was almost inflicting that on my children when we first started homeschooling. But I knew it and I felt like it was wrong. And I'm so thankful that the Holy Spirit brought me to Ms. Mason just because she had such a love and understanding for children and their capacity to learn and just really focusing on even the short lessons and not trying to— and their brain is so different, right? I mean, we adults lose our attention so quickly, too. But yeah, absolutely. I think it was such a blessing that the Lord brought me to her and just to this beautiful community of friends that were also kind of seeking very similar things in their life at the same time. And so we had this whole community that was wanting to learn together.
Julie Ross Yeah, that makes a huge difference.
Ella Savchuk Absolutely. So we enter that into our second year of homeschooling and then there's been no turning back. I mean, I have no desire to look for any other methods or philosophies. I think this is just such a rich way to educate. Right. And it gives you the freedom of doing all the things, right? I'll frequently say like, "Yes, there were like over 28 lessons in a Charlotte Mason school, but she also goes back to that not everything was accomplished every term and not every student was doing all the things." So some students maybe only had an hour or two of education a day. And that was really comforting to me during this season of just hard times, because I didn't have to stress over the fact that we only did three of the 28 subjects this week. I could rest in the fact that there is a time in a season and even she allowed that in her PNEU schools. That some students because of sicknesses or maybe if they have other things going on in their life, that they weren't able to do all the things, and that was okay.
Julie Ross And moving. I know she had a lot of families that were overseas and things. And she said that that was super valuable, like real life. That it wasn't this kind of sterile environment; the atmosphere of home is where children learn and thrive best. And so, yeah, that's really— I'm glad you brought that up. Well, let's kind of jump in to kind of what recently happened in your life. So you moved to Greenville in August and then things took a dramatic turn.
Ella Savchuk Yeah. So we sold our home in May of 2021 and then we kind of hopped houses just living in different rentals and friends' homes because it was really hard to find a short-term rental. As we all know, real estate is crazy right now. And so we came to Greenville in August and couldn't find what we were hoping for, and so we decided to buy land and build something that my husband and I said that we would never do in our lives. But we just did. We just moved into our new home three nights ago.
Julie Ross Wow.
Ella Savchuk But yeah, so we decided to build. And then my husband, Boris, he had a good job in Minnesota, and so he wasn't quite ready to leave his job because we were living with my parents and building. And so he just decided to travel for work. And so he would come down to South Carolina on the weekends and then he would be in Minnesota pretty much Monday through Thursday.
Julie Ross Wow.
Ella Savchuk And so we were kind of doing that for the three months or so.
Julie Ross And that in itself was a huge transition. Right? Like, I mean, moving across the country is a huge— we did a whole episode on homeschooling through moving. I mean, that's a whole 'nother thing, right? Yeah.
Ella Savchuk Oh, for sure. I mean, you're trying to find your homeschooling stuff out of the boxes. You're trying to find a new community for your children just because they were so used to the Charlotte Mason community we had in Minnesota that was so dear to them. It was so hard for them to leave. And so, of course, and trying to find a community here, and you're trying to single parent also at the same time because your husband's away. Now, I know a lot of husbands do travel for work frequently, but it just wasn't something that we were used to. We were always used to having him home, so we had a—
Julie Ross Oh yeah, it's a huge transition.
Ella Savchuk We had a very balanced kind of like— I homeschool; you do maybe the discipline, the other parts, right? and so now it was like all me. So that was hard in itself, which I know a lot of families probably experience too, of not having their husband around or even maybe single mothers. I'm sure that's definitely something that they feel the burden of too. We had a nice long Thanksgiving break. He was down here for almost two weeks. And then in December he came down for the weekend again, and we spent some time with our community and he got to meet some of the family and friends. My oldest was in a play, The Christmas Carol. He was Scrooge; he had the lead role, and so that was really neat for my husband to be down here, be a part of. And then he went back to Minnesota and then he was supposed to come back again Thursday and we were going to go for like a two week winter trip up there because my children were just crying over the fact that they missed all the snow and they missed the cold and they wanted to go ice fishing. So we were like, "Okay, we're going to do this." So I dropped him off at the airport, not even thinking anything, just being like, "I'll see you on Thursday." And yeah, that's when it really really got hard. And so he flew back that night and he was visiting his grandfather, who was 99. That was another reason we were going to go to Minnesota. His grandfather was living at home, but he was slowly dying. And he went to go see his grandfather. That's the last video he has recorded on his phone of his grandpa. And his grandpa was in his right mind and everything. He was just 99 and he was just going home to the Lord. And then I didn't hear from my husband that night or that morning. And being busy with five children, you don't think; you're just kind of like, "Oh, he probably went to bed early." And the next morning you call him and it's like he's probably at work and he's busy. He'll call me later. We have a very trusting relationship. There was, you know— and so yeah. And so then I got a phone call that he was missing and I had to call the police there. And here I am in South Carolina frantically calling the police over there and saying, "Please go search for my husband." And they're not really hyped up about it because it's unfortunately a common phone call that they receive. Yeah, but thank the Lord they found him within probably not even an hour, just right outside his grandpa's apartment. And he had suffered a massive stroke and he spent 13 hours in the car all alone in a Minnesota winter. Mind you, it's very cold up there and it's below freezing. But God provided that his gas never ran out and his car and all night and he had the door of his car ajar for the fresh air to kind of keep coming in. There's just so many little detail things that the Lord really wasn't ready to take him away. His grandpa died that night, but my husband lived. And so there's just so much in that alone. His grandfather was very near and dear to my husband's heart. He was very close with the Lord and so was a huge influence on my husband's life as well. And so that's when my kids and I jumped in our car and we started driving to Minnesota. I couldn't find tickets last minute.
Julie Ross Especially around the holidays.
Ella Savchuk Right. And I was like everybody get in the car. Nobody brought their winter jackets or their boots or everything. We just left our warm South Carolina. And I was like, "I don't care. We'll figure it out once we get there." And you know, you don't think in your right mind either when something like this is happening. So yeah. So we came up north and basically I spent the next three weeks in the ICU with my husband and then my children were there and then we transferred him to a hospital in Greenville and spent two and a half more weeks. So he was in the hospital for five and a half weeks and I was there every day with him. Couldn't be with my children. My husband lost his ability to speak because of the stroke. And I had to be there. I had to be there. I had to be his voice. And I'm so grateful that I was able to be with him because there was so many things medically— I am a nurse. I've been a nurse for 14 years.
Julie Ross Oh, I didn't know that. Oh, okay.
Ella Savchuk Yeah. So it was really important for me to be at his side. There was a lot of things— decisions to be made that it was only by the grace of God for sending the right people. Because I've had doctors tell me post-stroke recovery— like, "Had your husband had this procedure, had he had this surgery," that I advocated so hard against; they're like, "he would not be the person he is today." And so I know it was just the Lord sending the right doctors, the right medical professionals into— and just giving me wisdom because I think back to how I responded and said a lot of those things and I think I don't know how I could have done it. It was just the Lord.
Julie Ross That was definitely something I feel like kind of so encouraging watching you walk through this from afar. You were very transparent on your Instagram account, asking people— I remember, you know, "This is what's happening. Please pray. We need to find my husband. I need to get to Minnesota." All these people kind of following along with your story, but able to just pray you through all of it, you know? But because you were so vulnerable, we got to see God work. And that was so encouraging for all of us to kind of watch that as well. So I thank you for— I'm sure that was very hard to put yourself out there like that.
Ella Savchuk Oh, that's so hard for me. I'm such a private person. My Instagram account was solely to be sharing homeschooling resources, and I never intended to share my life on Instagram. I don't even personally really like that. I'm not a very techy social media person, but I think in that moment I was so desperate for life. I was so desperate for prayers. I knew that my husband literally stood between life and death, and I had doctors coming in the ICU and hugging me and saying, "My husband just died a couple of months ago. You're going to get through this." It was like almost they were preparing me for death, for me to say goodbye to him. I could see that. And every time they did something, they would say, "He's probably not going to make it through this." And I had to— I didn't know what else to do. I had to just ask for prayers. And I think God taught me a lot through that just because I am such a private person. A lot of pain, I hold inside. And a lot of— you know, you want to be strong. You want to be strong for the people around you, for your children. You don't want to share your weaknesses, your vulnerable moments. But man, that was really a low point where I was like, "I don't care who knows. I don't care who's praying. I just need the world." And yeah, absolutely. I mean, just asking for prayer through Instagram was really my only communication with social media. But wow, did those prayers get answered. It was amazing. I mean, we had doctors coming in and saying, "We need to take him in to do surgery on his brain right this second." And then I would be like, "Okay, people, please pray because I'm really scared about this. I don't know what to do." And then one of the surgeons was really against it and the other ones fought him hard on it. And it was kind of like— it was to the point where I said, "Listen," I said, "You came in here telling me that you don't think it will be good for my husband to have brain surgery. He might not make it. And now you're telling me he needs to go because your partners are pushing for it?" I said, "What does your gut tell you? I need you to tell me right now. What do you feel like is right for my husband?" And the surgeon said, "I shouldn't do the surgery, but I need to do it because everyone else is telling me to do it." And I said, "Please listen to yourself." I said, "God sent you here." I'm like, "We're praying for you." I'm like, "Please listen to your heart. Please listen to your gut. Please do what is right." And he didn't leave the hospital. He stayed with Boris all night, and he didn't have the surgery. And now I wasn't against it. You know, I'm a medical professional, too. I understand that there are many blessings that come through that hand of surgeons, but there was just something not right about that situation and it felt very different. But God, like I said, provided us the right person legally. Like a week later came and said, "We brought up your husband's case study at our meeting and we just talked about how we really need to be careful and not jump into procedures and things like that because not every person requires it." Anyways. So yes. So many people were praying. Prayers were being answered. And so then we came back to South Carolina, and life changed. Life changed dramatically because, I had a 10th grader. He requires a lot of help with school and Algebra 2. You know, something we were in the middle of and all these things. And I didn't worry so much about my younger ones. Mine were 10th grade, 8th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade, and then I have my preschooler who I really don't do anything with. I firmly believe in not doing much until they're six. At least I didn't have to worry about that. Grateful for that. But yeah, I mean, it was like, all right, what do we do? You know, how do we jump back into this? How do we jump back into life?
Julie Ross Well, I'm sure that was extremely hard because you are—like you're saying—I mean, you're pretty much full-time at the hospital. So it's going from being home, doing school, I imagine all together a lot of the time with you kind of directing everyone to you kind of being separated from your children. So how did you handle that?
Ella Savchuk Yeah, so I just had to go back and think there's grace in this. There's grace in the fact that they're not going to do school for six weeks. No school. I had to be okay with that. And you know what? God just gave me that peace. Now I'm a planner. Every day, we school. It's just something that is really important to us, just education and making sure that we do the things. But in that moment, I just was like, God knows our situation. He allowed this to come into our lives and he knows that I can't homeschool right now. He is so aware of that. And yet, I'm just going to have to be okay with it. I'm just going to have to be okay with putting things to the side. My husband, their father is priority right now. We have to do everything we can. It's one of those things like, I believe in prayer, I believe in miracles. But, you know, it says faith comes with works. And so, yes, it's important to pray and it's important to believe, but it's also important to do what you can to help achieve that. And so all our focus was how do we make papa better? So that meant taking him to therapies. That meant doing the home exercises. That meant sitting on the couch for an hour trying to figure out that one thought that he's trying to share. And because it's hard for him to express and communicate—thank the Lord, so much easier now—but still, sometimes I would just have to sit there for an hour and try to understand that one thing that he felt like was important to share. And so, you can't— like, that's time. And so basically with my children, I just said, "You guys, please just practice your instruments." They all play piano except my second plays guitar. And so I was like, "Please keep doing that. You can do that without me. Just play your old pieces. Perfect your old pieces. Just keep doing it. Please keep reading your Bibles independently. And then— they love to read, so they would just read. It's interesting. My children love to read, but when the book is assigned for school, they're like, "Well, we can't read that."
Julie Ross Oh it's not just in my house? Okay, well, that's good.
Ella Savchuk They're like, "We can't read that because that's a school book. So we're going to go over here and read all these other books." But I was like, "Whatever." So they read a lot. They played outside a lot. My sister that lives here, she was pregnant and about to have a baby and had these baby shower things that she was planning for. So my second child wood burned all these baby blocks for her because that was a skill he had that we did for handicrafts.
Julie Ross Yeah. All that comes into play, right? I feel like because you had that foundation of self-education, they were able to keep doing things. Yes, right.
Ella Savchuk Yeah, that's exactly right. So they just kind of just kept on going, which wasn't technically school, but it was all the things they had learned from school that now they could fill their time with. And so my oldest loves to read. He probably reads the most, so he spent most of his time just reading books. But my second enjoys reading, but not as much. So he was doing more things with his hands. And then just helping Grandma and Grandpa around the home. So mowing the lawn, taking care of— my daughter just fell in love with taking care of the animals. We inherited four sheep and a goat. They already had the chickens. There were some people that wanted to bless our family in very unique ways. And one of those was to bring us two pregnant sheep.
Julie Ross Well, yes, that was very unique. That was one I have not heard yet on how to support people. So we'll add that to the list.
Ella Savchuk Right? Well, this one older lady knew that one day we wanted to have a homestead, and she was like, "I have these two pregnant sheep. Could I gift them to your son-in-law?" She was telling my mom. And so we ended up with two pregnant sheep that had babies, and that was something my ten year old—
Julie Ross The pictures were adorable.
Ella Savchuk Aw, thank you. Well, and that was her thing. So everybody kind of found their own thing to do. And so my daughter actually knows more about sheep than I do. I have so much to learn from her. But that makes me think of all the James Herriot's Treasurys, and how the children would take care of the animals. And I'm like, that's just so sweet and that's just so wonderful and unique in its own way.
Julie Ross Mhm.
Ella Savchuk And then the homeschooling community here locally just really, really was such a huge blessing. They brought us meals, they asked if they could take my children ice skating or to do other things. And so then my children, I felt like, always had something to do if they needed to maybe be distracted for a little bit or whatnot. And then my oldest started a job at Chick-Fil-A. And so that was really a blessing, too, because he spends a lot of time working a lot more hours than maybe what most homeschooling 16-year-old families would be okay with. But you know what? In our season at that time right now, it was good for him to be in that good, safe work environment than just to be idle at grandma's. And he's 16, and so there's different things that come with that. So basically we didn't do school for a long time. We just focused on making sure we read the Bible and then we sang a lot of worship songs. And that was another huge blessing, too, because while Boris can't really talk yet a whole lot, he can sing. He could sing really familiar hymns. And that's an interesting thing with stroke patients, is that singing is a different part of the brain than talking is. And so then I really made making sure that we had worship time a really important part of the day because that allowed his speech to have some practice, if you will, and just therapy, if you will, almost through singing. So my second child loves to play the guitar. So he would play and we would sing and we would read the Bible and we would pray and pray and pray all throughout the day. And that was kind of it for our homeschool life for a little while. And then once my husband became more independent and he could take his own shower and he could walk from room to room without me being at his side, making sure he doesn't have a fall or anything like that, that's when I felt like I could start taking out those planners and maybe writing in a few things for my children what to do the days that we were at therapy. And then we just started with, we'll do a math lesson a day, whatever that means. Sometimes that might mean just you're going to do a review. And then of course, I focused on my older child that's doing Algebra 2, and I would assign one reading for them. And then I would just ask that they did a written narration because I have Form 2 and older children and it was really hard for me to find the time to have them share their oral narrations just because of the situation. And so they actually don't mind. They prefer to do written narrations, which may be interesting. I don't know.
Julie Ross That's great.
Ella Savchuk It is. It really was. And I'm glad that we had that established before this happened because then I could kind of read at my own time, and so that was kind of it. They would just do a reading. The younger ones would just do a reading and a narration and a math lesson. And the older ones might have two readings, narrations, and a math lesson.
Julie Ross And I'm sure for them, they were going through a lot mentally as well.
Ella Savchuk Absolutely.
Julie Ross That's probably all they could handle. Right? Yeah.
Ella Savchuk Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, they're very stoic children, too. They probably have learned that from me. So it's just— I know it was a lot. It was losing their dad. Like not losing their dad, but losing their dad's kind of presence, if you will, in their lives was really hard. And we had to talk through a lot of things of why is Papa— why is the Lord not healing Papa instantaneously? We're praying. How come God's not answering my prayers?
Julie Ross Wow.
Ella Savchuk Especially my ten-year-old daughter would bring that up and just saying, "I prayed for Papa to be healed by the stage or by this—" you know, children, they have their own understanding in their own mind.
Julie Ross Right.
Ella Savchuk Yeah. Just really talking through and counseling them through that. And I didn't feel like I was always in a position where I—I don't know—had the mental capacity to explain that, if you will.
Julie Ross Right.
Ella Savchuk Because I might have had some similar thoughts.
Julie Ross Right. And you're grieving, too. Yeah. You don't always have the answers because you're going through it, and they're— and I know like with my stuff that my kids' questions would trigger some of my doubts and insecurities and worries and fears and sadness, you know? So it's like, "I want to talk to you. I want to be here for you. But talking to you is also making it really hard for me, too." Yeah.
Ella Savchuk Exactly. Because you're trying to come up with answers that you don't even understand yourself, but you want the children to feel safe and feel the comfort and know that God is sovereign and he's righteous. And everything that the Lord brings into our lives is a part of His plan and purpose. And it's so hard to make sense of it sometimes, but, you know, you're trying to teach those truths to your children and for them not to doubt the Lord and for them not to— for their faith not to be rocked. Right? And then at the same time, you're like, I'm preaching to myself right now because I'm going through the same emotions that you are. But I just need your faith to stay strong as well. And so I look— I think about this. It's been six months now, six and a half months. And my husband is really good about reminding me the anniversary of his stroke every month because he'll be like trying to say it's been this long, you know? And I know for him it's hard, too. He'll say, "Why?" You know, like "Why am I not the same?" But I can't focus on that because when you do, you start going through so much and pity and everything and you're just like that's not getting me to a better place. But I think it's also such a blessing for the children to see that when hard things come into our life, God is the answer even though He's not answering maybe in the ways that we expect him to be answering, but he is the answer to everything. And we don't know where the future is headed. We don't know what it means for us homeschooling families as our children start to finish high school. And you know that. I mean, they start to choose their college choices and all these things. And so with the way society's headed, we just don't know what options they will have, right? Like in the future, what decisions they'll have to make or choices they have to make. But one thing that I think we can kind of build in their childhood is that God is the answer to everything. Sometimes God's answers don't make sense to us, but yet we still have to keep believing. We still have to keep trusting. And if we can instill that into them while they are still home with us, and that when they go off to college or go off to jobs or whatever—right?—their life is going to have for them after homeschool is over, that they have that foundation of I'm going to run to the Lord every time something hard comes into my life and I'm going to trust that he's going to carry me through.
Julie Ross And I think your children have definitely seen that in you and in your husband and your ability to persevere. And it might not be what you all want it to be, right? But it's in that daily choice to keep going that they see so much. So I hope you're encouraged that they have— you don't have all the words, right? They see it in your life. And we don't have to have it all perfect for them to know. Okay, no it's okay to worry. It's okay to have doubts. It's okay to question, but we keep going. And that's real life, right? We don't live in this idyllic world where everything's all wonderful all the time, unfortunately.
Ella Savchuk Right.
Julie Ross So how is your husband doing now?
Ella Savchuk He is doing so much better. The third— when was that? Today's the fifth. Okay. So two days ago, he walked into the kitchen with my four-year-old in his arms on his hip. And for a moment it didn't hit me. I was like, oh. And I was like, "Oh my. What are you doing? Put her down." Like, "I don't want you to fall over." Just because he still doesn't have a whole lot of feeling in his right side. But as I reflected on it later, that kind of scared me for a moment. I was like, "He did that. He picked up his daughter." He still doesn't have a whole lot of function in his right arm, but every week he amazes me with something more. It's just incredible. My birthday was a couple days ago and he communicated to my mom to get me flowers somehow, and then my mom talked about it later. He kept pointing to the calendar and was telling my mom, like, "Flowers, flowers," you know.
Julie Ross That's so sweet.
Ella Savchuk And so he amazes me in the sense that he's so on top of things. We were just putting together our furniture that we moved over, and I did not pack the furniture. I did not take it apart. I was busy with other things when we were moving. But there's pieces laying around the garage and I have no idea what to do with this. And he'd pick it up and he'd bring it to the thing that it belongs to. And I'm like, "Lord, like you have given back so much to him. If you could just open his mouth and allow him to speak," but for whatever reason, God is still holding that back. But he's doing so much better in the sense that he's walking without his cane inside the house. His cane is a little weathered. He needs a new one, but he refuses to let me buy him one because I think he really believes that he's not going to need it any longer. The bottom of it does not look well. And so I'm like, "If you use that inside our house, you're going to scratch all our new wooden floors that we just had installed. Let me buy you a new one." And he's like, "Nope." And I'm like, "Okay, you must know something that I don't." So he's always doing better. He's getting stronger because his comprehension is getting better. And the speech therapist is so encouraging with reassuring me that that is truly the case. And we still come to therapy three days a week, which is another huge thing with my children having to be home alone during that time. But God has also sent us— because we just moved out of my parents', so they were home alone with my parents, I should say. But God has put on the heart of one of our friends in Minnesota to come down and spend the summer with us. So they just got here a couple days ago since we're out on our new property now, and so they're gonna be living with us for two months. So they'll be there with my children while I continue to take him to therapy.
Julie Ross Oh wow. Great.
Ella Savchuk I know. It's amazing how many different directions God just keeps sending help. And just when you feel like, how am I going to do this? And then it just comes from a direction that you just don't expect. I can't explain it.
Julie Ross No, I totally understand exactly what you're saying.
Ella Savchuk I wish I had the time to write it all down.
Julie Ross Oh, I hope you are writing it all down, right? Because that's what's so encouraging. It's those answers, right? And it's not how we planned it to be or would think the solution should be.
Ella Savchuk Exactly.
Julie Ross I find when I step out of the way and I let go of trying to control the situation and try to make things happen, and when I step out of the way, God's like, "Oh, I've got you. Here you go." And I'm like, "Oh. Wasn't expecting that."
Ella Savchuk Yeah. And it's the people you least expect sometimes, too. Or maybe you had certain expectations of certain individuals, but it's the other ones that you wouldn't even have thought would come. I don't know. God just works in such amazing ways. It's really interesting. So we're just going to keep pushing through and hopefully the Lord will keep giving more back to Boris as he has been. And I think that's the most encouraging thing is there's never been a pause in his recovery. It's always one more thing, one more thing. And while it seems maybe slow, it hasn't stopped. And I think that's the beauty of God's redemption through it all, is he's like, "I'm just going to give you back a little bit at a time. And just keep depending on me. You still need me." Because I think sometimes maybe when we have it all and God gives it all back, then we're like, "All right, Lord."
Julie Ross Yeah, I'm good now. Thanks.
Ella Savchuk Sometimes our relationship goes on pause. Right? And so he doesn't want us to pause our relationship with him. He wants us to always depend on him and to keep needing him. And as hard as it is and it doesn't make sense— and that's when reading a lot of Christian biographies, you seem to notice that like the more you seek God, sometimes the more trials and troubles you have in your life. And it's interesting. You read different missionary books and biographies and the Lord— the ones that he would just really draw near closer to him, they would have all the pains and the sufferings more and more in their life. And I'm reading through some really good books right now by Elisabeth Elliot, and she just has so much encouraging—
Julie Ross Yep. I read a lot of her stuff as well. She went through a lot.
Ella Savchuk Yes. Isn't that amazing? And you're like, I'm so glad that, God, you have allowed people before me to experience this, to write it down just to encourage. I think about like Rees Howells a lot. He was an individual that lived in Wales and England and he went through so much with the Lord where he had to give up everything to surrender, to allow God to do the great things that God did in His life. And God would never have done those great things if Rees just didn't trust him and fully surrender his finances, his life, his job, his everything. And so I'm grateful for those writers, for those books that also have been vulnerable and shared their lives with others to encourage us. And, of course, the Bible. I mean, of course, there's so many encouraging— I recently was even reading through Daniel and you don't even think about things like this, but reading through the story of Nebuchadnezzar and how the Lord took his mind away and he was not a godly man, and God allowed him to be like in this really horrific animal like state, right? And then God brought it all back and restored him and restored his kingdom. And we're talking about an individual that was not even God's servant. I guess God did have him serve a purpose.
Julie Ross Right.
Ella Savchuk But you see all these things in the Bible and you're like, "You're the same. God, you haven't changed. You have allowed so many different situations to happen in other people's lives, back in biblical times, shall we say, and you're still the same today, and you can still do the same things. You can take away and you can give back." And so stories like that just really encourage me and just— for the word to just always say, "Just keep asking, keep praying, keep seeking. Don't give up. Don't stop. Everything is for a time and a season."
Julie Ross Yeah. I would love it if you wouldn't mind sharing some of the books maybe that have encouraged you. I can put them into the show notes as well. And that's kind of a consistent theme through all of this, is just the importance of taking care of yourself and your mental health through kind of these very taxing times that can be very draining if you're not continually filling your own cup. And it sounds like Christian biographies and the hymns and the worship songs and the Bible just really kind of was that blessing for you. Was there any other practical things that really helped you or that other people did that helped? That might be something people want to think through.
Ella Savchuk Yeah, I think finding also time to have conversations with those that you know will encourage and support you has always also been an important part of this recovery. And maybe not even some people that you really think of. I had some really good conversations with therapists and things like that that have really uplifted me. But like you mentioned, like I said, hymns, Bible, books, relationships with people. Going back to hymns just for one moment— this is why I feel like hymns hold so much power, because when we— really a lot of those hymns were written out of pain and suffering.
Julie Ross Oh my gosh, yes.
Ella Savchuk Like Then Sings My Soul— I think that's the name of the book that I'm thinking of where it's the hymn book where you've got the story behind has been so encouraging just to be like, wow, this man that wrote this hymn lost his wife and four daughters in a drowning incident, and he wrote this beautiful hymn and so on, you know. And so I think hymns have just been such a huge blessing to me during this time. And then, of course, making that time to read God's word because sometimes you're so tired. There's been so many sleepless nights because it's like a never ending list of things because you're the only parent in a way. But getting up and making time for God might feel so exhausting at times, but then when you do it, you're like, wow, why don't I— this is so important. And then I think also just allowing people to help. There's been so many people. And yes, that's overwhelming in itself. Everyone's reaching out and saying, "How can I help? How can I help?".
Julie Ross Right.
Ella Savchuk If I could just give a piece of advice—and I will take this myself, too, when I have to help people in hardships—is instead of asking, "How can I help?" Sometimes it's better to say, "I'd like to take your children for the day. What is a good day for you?".
Julie Ross Yep.
Ella Savchuk Or "I would like to bring you a meal. What date works for you?" Or it's maybe, "I'm at the store right now. I'm at Costco. I'd like to pick up some things for you. Can you send me a list?" Because then it's easier to respond to that and say, "Yes, my children are free on Wednesday. Please pick them up." Versus when someone is saying, "How can I help you?" You feel I don't want to burden anybody? I don't want to— so then you're just like, "No, I'm okay. Everything's going okay. Just pray for us." And being very specific with the things that you can help. And the other huge blessing that has also been is just the financial help that people have provided. That's been super hard to accept. My husband and I have always been able to provide for ourselves, but not having six months of income and not being in a position to go back to work just because I need to care for him and the children and trying to navigate how to do that. There's just— I don't know. Like I said, God has just come through in so many different ways that were something that I just could have never even expected.
Julie Ross Yeah.
Ella Savchuk And then also for me, I had to let go of a lot of things like I mentioned this before elsewhere, but being okay with people doing things for you like your laundry. I know it sound silly.
Julie Ross Nope.
Ella Savchuk I'm a very particular way how I do my laundry. I do my lights, my darks, my zippers. My kitchen towels don't mix with my other— I don't know, I'm kind of picky about my laundry. But I had to let go of that and allow my mother to do my laundry the way she saw fit, which sometimes meant putting everything together into one load. And I had to be like, "That's okay. This is just for a season." But yeah, when you see someone in a hardship, be very specific with a way that you could help them and just literally saying, "This is how I would like to help you. When is a good time for me to come and do this?"
Julie Ross Yeah. No, I love that part about being specific. That's huge. That was really key for me as well because I think when you're going through something really traumatic, you actually can't think clearly to say what I need help with. Everything is overwhelming. So, come do everything. I can't actually think through what needs to be done today to tell you what I need help with. So having someone who can clearly see into you go, "Now I need this." Or just like you're saying, volunteering to pick stuff up. That's so huge because I couldn't even see what needed help. It's all too overwhelming. But yeah, that's very great advice. And I think sometimes people don't know what you specifically need, and that's more of the general, "How can I help?" You know? But I think being creative, talking to you, talking to other people, seeing what your specific needs might be, and then trying to offer something. And then that gives you the ability to, like you said, look at your calendar, look at your needs, say yes or no and make a decision is super helpful as well. So yeah, that's really great advice, and I think that's great for all of us as we've lived through it, but then to help other people as well. So what does school and life look like for you all now? You just moved into a new house.
Ella Savchuk Yeah. Well, right now it's going to consist of unpacking.
Julie Ross Yeah. It's a very important life skill. Trust me. I've moved, like, 11 times. It's very important.
Ella Savchuk Oh, man. But for the summer, once that happens, honestly, it's going to be just— I don't know. I feel like it's going to consist of continuing with math because we really need to finish that at some point. And aside from that, I'm really okay with letting them have the summer helping me do things around the home. We have close to 28 acres which is kind of a lot for me as a mom, as a wife to handle. That was going to be my husband's responsibility. I'm like, man, if we foresaw this coming, we would have never bought, you know? But that was my husband's dream to be out on acreage. Anyways. So the children are just really going to have to help me do a lot of outside things, and we're just going to make trails in the woods and mow a lot of grass and do a lot of landscaping and plant a lot of grass. And so I'm going to look at it as a summer of life skills with math lessons sprinkled in. And I know they will read. They always will read. I'm so grateful that they have a love for that. Now, I do have to say, my middle child, my my third boy is not a reader. So I will probably have to maybe strike a deal with him where he's got to do it for at least half an hour a day because he's not one that will just pick up a book.
Julie Ross I have one of those, too.
Ella Savchuk He also has a little bit of dyslexia.
Julie Ross With that child, though, God blessed me in the past couple of months of an older child saying, "Hey, I really want to read this book to the sibling. Can I start reading this? Can we start reading it together?"
Ella Savchuk Aw.
Julie Ross Never in a million years would think that would have happened.
Ella Savchuk Wow, that's really special.
Julie Ross But again, it's one of those me stepping out of the way and God providing.
Ella Savchuk Yes, absolutely. That's really neat.
Julie Ross So now they take turns like each reading a page and stuff. And I'm like, "Hallelujah!" So maybe something unexpected like that will happen to you.
Ella Savchuk Wow. That's awesome. Maybe. And maybe these friends that are staying with us for the summer— maybe they'll read together. I don't know. We'll see what happens. But yeah, but that's primarily going to be our summer is life skills sprinkled in with math and reading and probably doing a lot of handicraft—I shall say—type of things. We have bookshelves to build. We have— my older boys wanted to make their own twin beds if I provided them the lumber. So we'll see. We'll see what happens. I'm not going to promise anything.
Julie Ross So long as they're trying it, right?
Ella Savchuk We'll see where it takes us. Right?
Julie Ross Exactly. They're going to try it. That's important.
Ella Savchuk We dream big and then we share reality.
Julie Ross Yes, exactly. Right. Yeah. Well, just too close here, do you have any encouraging words for someone who might be going through a similar emergency or some kind of similar crisis?
Ella Savchuk Yeah, I will just say that it's just important to understand and accept that God knew that you would be in this situation. And He never makes mistakes. And he knew that what he was going to bring into your life, he would carry you through it. He would help you through it. For you also to have a lot of faith that the Holy Spirit is continuing to educate your children, continuing to provide to them in ways that you might not even see or understand right now. And you might reflect back a year or two later and see how God really ministered to your child in that moment, and just not to get frustrated or anxious about maybe the lessons that you're not able to do that you had planned to do for the year. Not to be anxious that you feel like they're falling behind or that you're not going to be able to fill in the gaps later on. I just want you to know that the Lord has allowed this season to come into your life. He's allowed you to walk this journey just as he's allowed me to walk this journey, and for us to remain faithful and strong and really and truly believe and cast all our cares on him and know that the things that our children need to learn, the things that we need to learn as a family and go through, he has you in that space right now. And he will provide for all the learning, for all the missing gaps, for all the education, for everything that needs to happen. And we just have to trust and believe in him as long as we are being faithful, and as long as we're not sitting back—right?—and relaxing. We're still trying our hardest to do all the things. And that's where God meets us is when we're doing our best, and then he provides in the areas that we might not be able to provide in our own ways.
Julie Ross Yes, I love that. That is so encouraging. And if someone is walking through this, I do encourage them to go look through your Instagram account, and we'll link to that in the show notes as well. Just go back a couple of months and read through. You just have such a beautiful way of wording everything. And it's been encouraging to watch that journey. And I think it's important to see people who have gone through something similar, who are a step ahead of you in kind of the process and the journey and recovering to kind of go— that gives you a hope that, okay, this is possible. They're here. I'm back here, but there's hope that I'm going to get there someday, too. So it's been encouraging for me to find people in my life who I can kind of share part of their story. And I'm grateful that we live in a world—right?—where we can. One of the blessings, I guess, of social media is being able to find people that you might not know personally, but that you can kind of follow from afar. So I thank you for your vulnerability and your way that you've blessed so many people through sharing your story and certainly will continue to hold you and your family in our prayers. And I'm just excited to see what God has in store next. So thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Ella Savchuk Thank you. Thank you so much for having me and for praying for me.
Julie Ross Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you would like to know more about the Charlotte Mason style of education, check out AGentleFeast.com and click on the "Learn More" button for a free four-day introduction course. I would love to meet you in 2022. I will be at all five of the Great Homeschool Conventions. To find out more about attending one of those go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. If you'd like the show notes for today's episode, you can find those at Homeschooling.mom and click on The Charlotte Mason Show. Until next time, I hope your days are full of books, beauty, and biblical truths. Thanks for listening.