How to Homeschool in the Hard Times: 7 Top Tips

In the Worst of Times

Jenny Bales 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”1

And through it all, we still homeschooled…

Even in the best of times, homeschooling is hard work. What happens when we face a particularly tough time? Should we still homeschool?
Maybe you’re dealing with a chronic illness or an unexpected surgery. Maybe it’s a difficult pregnancy or medically fragile newborn. Maybe your husband works nights or is traveling a lot. Maybe an elderly relative needs extra care. I have personally known families who have not only survived homeschooling in these situations … but thrived.
It’s difficult… but possible.
In our 13 years of homeschooling, my family has faced two particularly challenging pregnancies and one difficult postpartum recovery, three years of my husband attending law school (where we barely saw Dad), moving across the country three times, and a year-long overseas deployment, complete with selling a house, moving twice, and buying a house—all while my husband was overseas (plus the challenges of several years of the rocky reintegration, once he arrived home).
Needless to say, homeschooling during these sometimes-tough times has been hard.
Here are some keys to survival I’ve learned through my own experiences—and by watching the courageous families around me.
Thrive Tip 1: Simplify Schooling!
The key to thriving in times of stress is to survive! And the way to survive is to simplify.
For any student in the grades prior to high school, homeschooling can be reduced to reading, writing, math, and religion. Tweaking the curriculum to add more workbooks can make schoolwork much easier on Mom. You can also use audio books—or it might be a season for outsourcing to online classes or local classes’ co-ops.
Changing up the methods and modes of learning can lighten the load.
And if your state laws allow it, please don’t be afraid to stop formal schooling. I’ve watched families complete little to no book or “formal” schooling for huge lengths of time, and their children caught up surprisingly quickly. If putting aside formality for a time, provide books to explore and educational shows, both through video and “live” presentations. Encourage playtime and natural curiosity. A relaxed schooling experience gives our students unique opportunities to think, explore, and learn.


kids eating pizza


Thrive Tip 2: Simplify Home Life, Too!

Everyday activities and living can be simplified, too.
Use paper plates for meals. Eat snacks for dinner at least once a week. Teach children to make very simple meals and to serve each other. Take advantage of a grocery delivery service, and put into place a limited rotation of meals and snacks. Accept help with meals, and ask friends to set up a meal calendar for your family. Getting help with even one meal a week can be a huge relief.

And definitely say no to as much outside of the home as you can. This is the time to take a break from volunteering at church, skip a soccer season, and miss the field trips. The children will be fine. They will become closer to one another and probably more creative in how to occupy themselves. Pick up those activities again when the storm has passed, even if that takes a long time.

women smiling


Thrive Tip 3: Embrace Life Lessons!

A life without difficulties generally gives us fewer opportunities to practice virtue. The good news is this: We can embrace challenging seasons because they’re full of the lessons most difficult to teach with a book or curriculum.
When a new baby arrives or an elderly family member needs extra care, consider it an opportunity for pro-life lessons! We all know that the way we spend our time teaches our children priorities. When our children are blessed by spending time with people in need, they often become less selfish, become more compassionate, and realize the truth that people are the priority.

If you have to move from your home to a new one, focus on your child’s resilience. Teach your child how to make new friends. When your husband works long hours or travels, demonstrate gratitude. Encourage your children’s understanding of his heroic sacrifices to provide for his family.

a woman reading her book


Thrive Tip 4: Go to the Scriptures!

As Philippians 4 verse 8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”
The Bible is full of wisdom to guide us through life. Meditating on Scripture and clinging to God’s Word when the going gets tough is the lifeline God provides for us. Spend time in the Word every day, whether that means listening to the daily Mass readings, using a Bible study, or simply searching for verses that speak of perseverance, hope, and faith (which is easily accomplished with a Bible app or online)!

With Scripture as our guide, we can find truths to apply to our struggles. We can learn how to grow through life’s challenges by discussing and sharing Biblical virtues with our families.

kids praying


Thrive Tip 5: Focus on Character Building!

Coping with stress and suffering are key life skills that God builds into our lives through each and every challenge. The difficult days are opportunities to share our faith, including the struggles, with our children. Tough times are the moments for consistent (not necessarily extra) prayers as a family.
Verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and “count it all joy” (James 1) can become the solid rock our families cling to when the storms of life come crashing in around us. Virtues like fortitude, faith, and hope can develop, as we turn to God in tough times. Finding the fruits of joy and patience are lessons for our children more valuable than math and phonics.
I firmly believe that if my children watch me walk my faith journey with all of its ups and downs, then as adults, my children will be better prepared for their own Christian walks.


mom reading a book for her kid


Thrive Tip 6: Rest!

These days, most of us run the hamster wheel of life at top speed! But when life gets tricky, rest is essential. We all need time to breathe and lower our blood pressure. And, perhaps most importantly, we need time to connect with the Lord.
We can teach our kids the importance of rest during stressful times by scheduling down time. Plan extra snuggles and stories, preserve naps and quiet times, and take time off from schooling. Even a slow stroll around the neighborhood can be a refreshing way to rest while respecting that little bodies need to move! Or make your one goal for the day to spend a couple of minutes in front of the tabernacle on your way to or from somewhere.
Planning specific down time might mean asking for help from family and friends. Find a mother’s helper to play with your children while you nap with the baby. Ask a friend to do a kid swap—where you each take the other’s kids for a few hours. Or if your kids are old enough to occupy themselves safely and watch each other, tell them that everyone will clean the house when you wake up, so they let you sleep as long as possible!
Taking the time to physically rest isn’t a luxury. It’s essential for your health and your family’s health.


a family


Thrive Tip 7: Trust Yourself!

In your own life, deep down, you know what you need. Sometimes we simply need to give ourselves permission to do what we know is best.

Consider what’s going on with wisdom and intentionality. Listen to the Lord. And make decisions for yourself and your family that you know are best for the long haul. Trust your God-given mother’s instincts and act on them.

Are there situations that warrant stopping homeschooling? Absolutely! Are there are times that, with a few purposeful adjustments, we can still homeschool during tough times? Absolutely!

And our kids will be just fine!

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