12 Ways to Keep Teaching When Life Gets in the Way

This week, we had a death in the family, I’m attempting to make our basement habitable for houseguests, and both shower heads broke. We’ve got end-of-the-year stuff, I am vigorously trying to keep up with my commitments and tutoring, friends need support, and I have a ministry and next year’s co-op to schedule. I keep having to drop everything and run to the John Deere place, the garden is overgrown and I at least better keep ahead of the poison ivy, and while we’re on the subject, I’d really prefer more plant life in the flowerpots and less on the dirty dishes. My husband has three people’s worth of to-do lists and has travel coming up and the family wants to eat dinner every night. It’s ridiculous. They want to wear clean clothes, too.

Personally, I want to ditch everything and go shopping[1] all day and eat out for dinner and then sew delightful things all evening, either that or build a fabulous container garden for the back deck and string up twinkly lights above it, but those don’t seem to be viable options.

We haven’t done a lick of formal schoolwork all week.

I’m not the only one. Everybody I know is super busy this time of year. You, reading this, probably have more going on than I do. But I talked to my mom today, and we talked about how one of the beauties of homeschooling is its flexibility. When life happens like this, your academics are not tied to someone else’s schedule.

I do have some strategies to keep things from devolving into a total wasteland of ignorance:

1. Seize what’s there. Most likely, if there’s something important happening, it has educational value. Do you have to drop everything and run to Home Depot? Bring the kids. It’s a valuable skill, learning how to navigate home improvement stores. Did you know Anna Leonowens, of The King and I, didn’t buy so much as a hair ribbon herself before she moved to India as a teenager? There, your kid has learned something Anna didn’t.

2. Use travel time. We spend a lot of time in the car, which is not a bad thing because I kind of love having a captive audience for memorizing poems and Bible verses. Meg particularly likes it when she holds the paper and gets to correct my recitation.

3. Listen to the audio version. Audio books aren’t my first reflex because I’m an intensely visual reader, but my girls get a lot of good from them, and they are portable.

4. Take the book. Take the workbook. I remember doing many, many math pages in library study rooms, in the car, and at the food court of Sam’s Club.

5. Practice observingWhat do you notice? What features does it have? How is it different at other times of the year? Have your kids sketch what they see (and then you have proof you did something, ha).

6. Count something. Add up Volkswagen bug points. Tally roadkill. Then you can discuss theology when they ask if animals go to heaven. Very educational.

7. Embrace semi-educational entertainment. They probably really are learning from Super Why. Also, when they’re watching TV, YOU CAN GET STUFF DONE.

8. Accept the rhythm. Not all times are equally conducive to spending quiet, productive hours around the kitchen table, and that’s okay. I once read Down the Garden Path, and for most of the book the author ran around building a winter-blooming garden because he couldn’t stand having a barren season. I get why he felt that way, especially after this last winter, but gardens and homeschools both need fallow time.

9. Priorities. The most useful blog post I ever read pointed out that when you cannot keep up, your family needs food and clothes. It doesn’t have to be fancy food, either. Isn’t that encouraging?

10. Prioritize what schoolwork you can do. If you only get one subject done today, is your kid weaker in capitalizing sentences or in long division?

11. Ask for help. Call your mom. Talk to an older homeschool mom – they can sympathize, and look! They survived! Can somebody from your church give you a hand? Can you borrow a teen as a mother’s helper? It’s okay to have a season when you can’t manage by yourself. It’s okay to have a life when you can’t manage everything, for that matter. We’ll still love you.

12. Don’t give up … my top strategy, for those days when homeschooling is a total fail. Did any of you see the new Avengers movie? I loved how every character saw their spectacular past failures, and every one had a choice whether they would stand up and do what they could, now, today, even the ones who accidentally sorta kinda enabled a murderbot yesterday. You, too, can be like Iron Man.[2] I found that really encouraging.

Carolyn signature Montez font

Photo Credit: Photos taken by Carol Bales, edits and graphic design by Charity Klicka; Captions: second photo: Carolyn’s daughters throwing helicopter seeds off the porch; third photo: 1 of 2 finally fixed shower heads.


[1] Shopping at the mall, not the John Deere place.

[2] “You too can be like the Scarlet Witch” doesn’t have the same ring to it. I try not to be a witch, personally. BUT THE POINT STANDS.

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