Homeschooling Through Difficult Circumstances: When Life Happens and School Doesn’t

homeschooling through difficult life circumstances

Perhaps it’s because of illness. Perhaps it’s because of grief. Perhaps it’s because of a happier event like a new baby or a vacation or a big renovation. Whatever the case, there are times when school just doesn’t happen. And you know what?

That’s okay.

Sometimes, life happens and school doesn’t. Sometimes, there are more important things than math, spelling and grammar lessons. Sometimes, you just need to spend some time snuggling up together. Loving on each other. Being together.

As homeschoolers, we have the flexibility to work around life circumstances without feeling the pressure of falling behind.

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Recently, we missed a week of school. As we eased back into lessons, however, I wasn’t the least bit worried. There was no extra homework to do. There were no assignments to catch up on unless we felt like it.

There was just room to breathe.

What a gift.

If you’re wondering how you can ensure that your family has room to breathe when unexpected circumstances arise, here are some things that we’ve found helpful:

Build A Cushion into Your Schedule

Do you remember that post I wrote a while back about easily planning your homeschool year?

“At the beginning of the school year, I take the number of pages/units in each book and divide by the number of weeks that we will be sitting down and doing school work (less a couple of weeks because it’s so important to give yourself a buffer!).”

That right there. At the very beginning of the year, if you give yourself a buffer, you alleviate pressure on those weeks when the fish hits the tan and you’re left gasping for breath, unable to wrap your head around life.

If you don’t end up needing the extra time? Great! Start summer break early or take some relaxing time off elsewhere during the year. But if you do need it? Take advantage of it. Whatever the case, give yourself a cushion from the get-go.

Read Good Books


We’ve spent hours escaping into Johanna Spyri’s Heidi during the time we were off. There’s so much beauty, loveliness and nuggets of faith-building truth in that story. As my seven-year old put it, “This is a beautiful book! It makes me imagine such beautiful things!”

Beautiful books provide an escape from reality. Truly beautiful books help you work through your emotions in the process. For some suggestions that help children work through difficult emotions, check out 7 Children’s Books to Help Your Little Ones Navigate Big Emotions.

Reading aloud has many other benefits too. It can be extremely educational; it encourages bonding; and a whole lot more. For an overview of the research, I recommend reading Sarah MacKenzie’s book, The Read-Aloud Family.

Reading together matters. A whole lot.

Look for Natural Learning Opportunities


During our week off, my daughter baked muffins (with help) for some family members. My other daughter made a scented mason jar candle (also with help). Why does this matter? Because learning happens when you don’t even realize it. As I reflected on the week, I realized that we had covered math (fractions and measurements) while baking and science (liquids, solids and the effects of heat) while candlemaking.

Since the kids were hit with a nasty virus in the middle of it all, we also learned about the signs and symptoms of illness and how the body fights it off.

Other things the girls learned? That we can look to Jesus during hard times, pray for people we love, and show that love in practical little ways. These lessons are more important than anything you can find in a textbook.

STEAM For the Win


STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. If you’ve invested in art supplies and STEM toys, your children will easily still be learning even as they play. Lego and K’nex are some of our favourite STEM toys. In between building and designing, my girls spent hours drawing and colouring. Both are “crucial to educate and prepare the next generation of the American, and global workforce, and to allow this generation to create jobs and grow the economy”, according to this article in the Huffington Post.

Don’t Sweat It

Even if you haven’t built in a cushion, haven’t had time to read good books, haven’t been able to take advantage of natural learning opportunities and haven’t incorporated STEM, don’t sweat it. In the public school system, students spend about 180 days of the year in school. As a homeschooler, you have your children with you for 365 days of the year. There is plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time, if not this year than in future.

The beauty of homeschooling lies in making it work for you.

Homeschooling Through Difficult Circumstances: When Life Happens and School Doesn't



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