4 Steps to Recovering Your Homeschool Day After A Crisis

A death in the family, a job loss, a cross-country move–a crisis hitting your family is almost inevitable. Several years ago, after a few months of debilitating morning sickness (I had seriously never felt so sick for so long in my life!) followed by a late miscarriage that carried extended physical trials, our homeschool days had really gotten out of control. Have you ever been there? The actual crisis had passed, but we were living in the debris left by it. I managed to honor my commitments as a homeschool coach, but that was all I was able to do. We ate out all the time (the folks at our local Chick-fil-a were recognizing us when we came in and saying things like, “Didn’t I just see you yesterday?”). 

I spent a lot of time half asleep on my couch, and my kids watch TV or play games on the Kindle Fire for far more hours than I’d admit publicly. When my health finally seemed to round a corner and my energy picked up again, it felt like everything went clear after being fuzzy headed for months—and everything was a mess! 

If you have ever tried to reestablish order after a break, you know what it’s like: your kids whine every time you encourage something that smells like work or feels like routine. As you recover, you might find you’re still lacking the energy to do the things you’re used to: meal planning and grocery shopping fall to the wayside during a crisis. At this time, in my life, he kids were struggling with orderliness at bedtime and one of them was waking frequently in the night, and the other cried whenever it was time to turn off the screen or to sit with me to read a book. 

It was truly a frustrating mess. I was lamenting about my situation to some friends—how every part of our life was in disarray and needed rebuilding—when one of them reminded me: I’m human, and we’ve had a rough season (duh, right?). And my kids have been through a messy few months, too, and it just doesn’t make sense to expect things to instantly go back to what they were before we started down this path. Thank goodness for grace, and for friends who speak it! 

Grace provided the foundation for rebuilding. 

Crisis Recovery Formula

  1. Show yourself and the members of your household grace.
  2. Fix the easy stuff, the no-brainers, the things that you know need to be done and how to do them.
  3. Target the points in your day that cause the most stress.
  4. Take it slow.

In my case, the “easy stuff” was dishes and laundry. Now that I had energy, I knew what I needed to do and could do it. I began running and emptying the dishwasher each day and reinstituted a laundry day. After a day’s focused attention, I was caught up in both dishes and laundry. Just getting rid of those large piles caused a weight to lift from my shoulders and allowed me to view the rest of the home. The tasks were easy, not because they didn’t take energy or purpose, but because I could do them without much mental effort. Succeeding in these two areas boosted my confidence and helped me prepare for the harder task of targeting our day’s stress points. In my case, the two areas that provided the most stress were dinner time and a lack of well-developed expectations around our daily routine, especially surrounding homeschool. This was much, much harder than the easy stuff–this required more brain power. As you tackle your own challenging areas, give yourself grace! Take small, manageable steps and let things slide as needed. You didn’t end up in this mess after one bad day–it’ll take time to rebuild the habits and skills needed. You are in recovery mode; it’s not the time for expecting perfection from yourself or your family, but you CAN start regaining ground and rebuilding rhythms. Growth is gradual! 

Repairing My Specific Stress Points

The first thing I did was take inventory of what I had and began to replenish my pantry.  I pulled a few pre-prepped dinners out of the freezer (Thank you, leftovers and MyFreezEasy!). Having a stockpile of freezer meals gave me an extra week or two to sort through my options for meals and to come up with a plan, again. I also realized that having a menu queue, rather than a detailed list of meals assigned to days, offered me the mix of flexibility and structure that I needed. Once I had a list of 10 dinners and 5 or so breakfasts and lunches, I could really begin using what I had and filling in the gaps with my weekly shopping.  Next, it was time to face the kids’ routine. This was a bigger problem that required more patience and steadier growth, but it followed the same steps as recoverying our meal times. 

These steps are the same steps you can apply to target your own stress points.

  • Take Inventory.
  • Use what you have.
  • Develop a rough plan.
  • Fill in the gaps. 

The bedtime routine we developed as we recovered from this particular crisis has served us well through two additional kids. We learned that, as parents, we didn’t do well with group bedtimes, and that the kids would pick up on our tension. We began staggering bedtimes and spending a few minutes of one on one time with each child before they go to bed. We still use those same concepts! 

We took inventory: We looked closely at our personalities and the struggles we were facing.

We used what we had: the kids did have some skills around bedtime, and we continued to encourage growth in those areas.

We came up with a plan: deciding what to do before we got to bedtime helped get me and my husband on the same page and greatly reduced our stress.

What About Homeschooling?

Before getting into the details about our homeschool routine, I first tackled the easy household fixes. Then I moved on to my stress points. 

Only then did I begin to refine my homeschool day. 

Developing some family habits and removing some chaos was MORE IMPORTANT that accomplishing academic goals and had to be addressed first.

Following the same approach I took with the house—start with the easy before moving on to the biggest areas of stress—we started with turning screens off at breakfast. For a few days, we practiced just that change, and I kept us busy with physical or out of the house activities all morning. I also began reminding the kids to clear the table after meals—perhaps unsurprisingly, starting with a clear table makes our school day go much more smoothly. 

These things were easy, and we felt immediately successful and more calm. As I looked for the stress points, I realized I had a lot of chaos figuring out how to spend our days. I want our days to be rich and lively and active and full of good learning, and I had not done well at encouraging that during this crisis season. I revisited my own thoughts on Daily Rhythm, and thought through my ideal school day. I revisited my favorite homeschool philosophies and spent some time in For the Children’s Sake (aff link). 

To get started, I jotted down the things I wanted to do every single day (Math, Skill Work, Literature, Bible, Poetry and Memory Work) and some subjects I want to be sure get looked at occasionally (Science, History, Nature Study, Art, and Music). I looked at the materials and thought through how long how much we could accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. That big-picture view is important to me—but because I am rebuilding from a place of overwhelm, I wasn’t doing all of these things quite yet.

Do you need more help walking through a Homeschool Refresh (and Repair)?

We’ve got you covered.

 Take it one small step at a time.

Just like reinstituting homemade meals, I began with what we had: a memory of a habit of daily math and table time. As those pieces became once again normal, I slowly added in additional pieces. I used the build up time to do my own preparations: to pre-read school books, build music playlists, and so on. Simplifying and prioritizing helps us know where to invest your energy. Write it down so you don’t have to make the same decisions each day (just like it’s helpful to have a meal list). Make your materials extremely easy to grab and put back (just like you want it to be easy to grab your spices while cooking!). 

You’ll follow the same steps to repair and refresh your homeschool as you do the rest of your home life:

  1. Show yourself and the members of your household grace.
  2. Fix the easy stuff.
  3. Target the stress points.
  4. Take it slow. 

As you tend the stress points, you’re more likely to have success if you start with these mini-steps: 

  • Take Inventory.
  • Use what you have right away.
  • Develop a rough plan.
  • Fill in the gaps.

You can do this, friend! 

Please reach out if you think we can help you.

If you need more help, our Homeschool Refresh Workbook takes you through many of the steps listed here, in more detail. When you work your way through it, you’ll take a good inventory of your kids, curriculum and values and finish with a solid plan for a revised homeschool daily rhythm.

We are rooting for you, mama! You’ve got this!