Homeschooling Through the Hard Times
Let me begin by saying that I hope you never need this information. Homeschooling through a family emergency, medical crisis, or other hardship isn’t something I’d wish on anyone. However, if you find yourself in that position, here’s how to homeschool through hard times.
Homeschooling When Life Is Tough
We all have bad days. Days when the dishwasher quits working, the toddler has a potty accident on the carpet, or no one will listen to mom. There are times in life, though, where circumstances are difficult for an extended period of time. This can range from chronic illness in the family, to job loss, or to moving across the country. Over the years, I’ve dealt with being sick in bed for months on end, my husband’s various medical emergencies, and death in the family. While it certainly wasn’t a picnic, I can say these situations have strengthened my relationship with God and family. I’ve also figured out how to (mostly) balance homeschooling with life situations. As moms, we’re called to be there for our family, but it’s not always easy. Add in homeschooling and things become even more stressful. So how do we handle taking care of our family and homeschooling when hard times hit?
Put the Big Rocks First
You may have seen the illustration with the rocks and sand before. Imagine you have a pile of big rocks and a jar of sand. Now, I ask you to fit all of that into an empty jar. If you poured in the sand first and pile some stones on top, there won’t be enough room for the larger rocks. However, if we put the big rocks in first and then fill in the gaps with sand, we can cram it all into the jar. Life is kind of the same. When we put what’s most important first (the big rocks), we can fill in the time that’s left with things of lesser importance (our sand). What are the “big rocks” in your day? The things that have to be done? For me it’s feeding my family, spending time with Jesus, and getting a few basic school subjects done. If we make it out of our pajamas for the day, that’s great but not vital.
Jesus: The Cornerstone
Speaking of rocks, it’s always important to put Jesus first as the Cornerstone and Foundation of our day. I don’t always have time for an in-depth Bible study. However, I still try to make time for daily prayer and scripture reading. When we don’t put Jesus first and walk in the path He has for us, we’re swimming against the current. Whatever situation life has thrown at us, running around all stressed trying to make everything work with our own strength isn’t the solution. God tells us that when we seek Him first, He will take care of our needs. “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Mathew 6:31-33 ESV
More Than You Can Handle
There’s a popular myth floating around that God won’t give us more than we can handle. That if a tough situation is in our life, it’s because He knows we can do it. Let me tell you something… We can’t handle it. Not on our own that is. We’re not promised the easy path in life. In fact, as Christians, it’s quite the opposite. But what we are promised is God’s faithfulness, provision, and grace. We’re told to be anxious about nothing but give our requests with praise to God. “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Practical Tips for Homeschooling Through Crisis
Once we’ve determined what our “big rocks” are, it’s time to put it into practice. That said, now is not the time to make a to-do list with 15 tasks in it. It’s also probably not the time to tackle big projects.
I like to write out everything I think I need to do that day, pray over it, and then prioritize. I then mark the most important “have to do today” things in order. Here’s an example:
- Do devotions
- Make breakfast and supper (kids can make sandwiches for lunch)
- Do math and reading
It helps to stick to just 3 things, or even just 1, if the days are really eventful. If we can do 1-3 things well, it’s better than doing 10 things poorly.
Focus on the Basics
Yes, every subject is important, but some we can get by without for a bit. For our family, we try to at least get math, history, Bible, and science done. As time and situations allow, add more subjects in as able. We can also provide independent opportunities for our children to learn.
Older children can mostly do schoolwork on their own with a little direction while younger students need more hand holding. In addition to that, I like to give them easy access to educational activities. Children can really learn a lot outside of schoolbooks and work pages! Here are some ideas of materials to provide for kids to learn on their own
- Art supplies (sketchbooks, colored pencils, paint, clay, playdough, etc.)
- Handicraft supplies (sewing, crochet, soap carving or woodcarving, origami, etc.)
- Quality reading books and poems
- Practicing an instrument
When I was eight, I had a karaoke machine. My best friend and I recorded our own “radio show” where we gave reports, conducted interviews, and told funny stories. If we give our children access to the raw materials and cultivate their imaginations, they can learn in surprising ways! And if we need to turn on an educational show for an hour, it doesn’t mean we’ve failed as a parent.
Rely on Community
We don’t have to do it all on our own! Think about what can be outsourced to other people. For example, meals are a huge time suck for many. A meal service, batch cooking, reheating freezer meals, or asking people from church to provide dinner for a time can be helpful. We can also enlist help with housework or babysitting little ones as needed. For me, taking time out of the day to schedule and go to constant doctor appointments can be draining. I have a friend or family member watch the kids for a day to give me more time during these circumstances. Think about what tasks need done, but can be done by someone else right now.
Honor the Time
Sometimes we’re at a place in life where the situation at hand is all consuming. Realize that even then, when schoolwork just isn’t happening, our kids can still learn from life. This is a golden opportunity to model things like patience, longsuffering, and leaning into God’s word and provision.