Homeschool 101: Homeschooling during crisis

Homeschooling can be challenging all by itself.

What do you do if, heaven-forbid, disaster strikes and suddenly there’s a loss of a job or even a spouse? What do you do when you end up moving, pregnant or even just sick (longer than a few days of cold or flu)? Difficult circumstances or sudden disasters can make many new homeschoolers give up and send their children back to school, feeling unable to cope with homeschooling and dealing with the crisis at the same time.

Homeschooling requires a lot of preparation.

There’s the research before hand, determining if and why your family is homeschooling.  Then you figure out the legal aspects of reporting and tracking info and possibly pulling your children from school.  And finally you choose all the curriculum, purchase it, and plan your days, weeks and school year. On top of all that, there’s usually a reduced income or sacrifice of potential income so that one parent can stay home with the kids, to actually teach them, plus manage the extra chores and cooking because you have a houseful all day (as opposed to making lunches, of course).

During a crisis, public school can seem a better alternative.

It’s definitely tempting.  You think of the “freedom” of not having to plan out your lessons.  You wouldn’t spend your days attempting to ensure your son learns to add and subtract and your daughter figures out how to string coherent sentences together in a paragraph. You’d be able to run an errand without having to drag the kids along. Maybe you could even have a coffee date with another friend.. without the children!  Or you may just want to have a quiet, clean home– if only for a few hours! We are quick to forget the reasons we brought them home in the first place, and in the middle of a crisis, the school building can look like an oasis.

When an emergency happens, we long for normal.

The last thing anyone should do, however, is combine an emergency with yet another drastic life upheaval. Making big decisions, including the one about whether or not to homeschool, should not be made without careful thought, planning and preparation.

If you aren’t homeschooling, don’t pull your children on a whim, without at least some kind of thought before hand (unless, of course, there is a major threat to their health or safety). If you are homeschooling, don’t just put them back into school, without doing some careful thinking about whether the reasons you started homeschooling no longer apply.

Consistency and stability are crucial, especially in an emergency.

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So a crisis has happened.

Your spouse lost their job or can’t work and now you’re suddenly without income. Or the homeschooling parent now needs to work. You’ve unexpectedly gotten pregnant (or even not unexpectedly!) and need to plan for the challenges of pregnancy and a new baby on your homeschool. Someone has been injured or is seriously ill. There’s been a death or relationship breakdown. Or maybe you’ve needed to move, for whatever reason. Life happens, and it can happen quickly.

In the 10 or so years that I’ve been homeschooling, we’ve had — 4 new babies, 1 wedding, 2 marital separations, 1 divorce, 15+ moves (no I’m not kidding!), bought a house, sold a house, dealt with flooding, trees falling, broken furnaces and no heat, a death in the family, and a couple of serious health issues on my part, that have lasted 6 weeks or more. I don’t think there’s been a life emergency that I haven’t dealt with, at one point or another.

When a crisis happens, first, don’t panic about homeschooling.

Take a few days — maybe a couple of weeks, even — off. No, this will not impact your schooling, even if you need to do some attendance reporting or you must do some kind of end-of-year assessment. Remember, schools need to take unexpected time off for weather events (snow days, anyone?), and building issues (such as plumbing malfunctions). They also give days off that homeschoolers don’t take, such as teacher professional development days.

Use the break for a breather. Deal with the immediate crisis: attend the funeral, celebrate the pregnancy and make some plans, see a doctor, call the plumber or do some research on the new area or job options you need. Take the time to deal emotionally too. Even your children will need some extra attention, so give extra hugs and grace for misbehaviour, and maybe do something as a family that’s fun (watch a movie or go to a park, for example).

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Catch your breath, then ease back to normal.

Once you’ve had a chance to catch your breath after the initial shock, ease back into your normal rhythm, as much as possible. Sometimes you can’t go back to a full schedule, and that’s ok. If you need to slow down a bit because morning sickness is kicking your butt, or because you need to spend some time preparing for the big change that’s coming, reducing your homeschool load isn’t a bad thing.

What can you change to make it easier on yourself?

Can history be taught by watching videos on YouTube or documentaries on Netflix instead of the books and hands-on activities you thought were cool earlier? Shelve the books and craft plans, and pop the popcorn. Maybe you drop the Spanish class and just plan on it for next year, after the dust has settled. If all you can do is the basics of reading, writing and ‘rhthmatic, that’s ok! If you can’t even manage that every day, don’t worry. Your kids will still learn, I promise!

Homeschooling can provide an anchor point for you during crisis.

When crisis hits, homeschooling can be a source of stability for you and your children. By being home with you, your children can have the reassurance and security they need to weather the changes. Homeschooling also naturally creates a rhythm and routine to the day that can provide you with the sense of control you need, when life itself seems out of control. It gives you something to do when you feel helpless, and the distraction you may need to keep you from feeling like you’re going to go crazy with the stress.

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There are options no matter what the crisis.

These options can let you keep homeschooling, if you want to. Even single parenting doesn’t mean you have to give up homeschooling (unless of course, legally you aren’t able to, due to custody agreements). Homeschooling can be the basis of stability for you and your family, even when everything else is changing, for good or for bad. Don’t give up homeschooling, just because disaster strikes or because circumstances are now a little more challenging than you expected. Take a break, and consider your options.

You may find that homeschooling gives you much more freedom to deal with your crisis, than you would have otherwise.

Happy homeschooling.

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