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Survival Mode Homeschooling

Survival Mode Homeschooling

One of the things about being a military wife and a homeschool mom at the same time is that I get the opportunity to “work from Survival Mode” somewhat often. Survival Mode is when my husband is gone for long stretches of time during a deployment, work up to a deployment, or particularly busy period in his work life. Survival Mode homeschooling will probably look different for you, but we all have to face it sometimes.

Survival Mode homeschooling seasons aren’t always predictable, but for us, this time it is. So I’m planning for it in our homeschool, and that got me to thinking about how we can be more intentional about planning for these types of seasons.

For us, not only do I have to plan for deployments this year, but we have a new first grader with special needs who is officially starting school. I’ve been quietly dreading having to figure out how to fit everthing in for her: therapies, school, and the extra time every task takes.

I’m also considering the significant jump in work my oldest is going to do, beginning Ambleside Online’s Year 7. AO’s Year 7 is when things get more serious academically. The reading load is a lot heavier. This won’t be too much trouble for him, because he’s a fast and fantastic reader, but there’s only one of me, and my challenge is pre-reading his stuff and keeping up with the other kids.

I’m asking myself:

  • How the heck is it possible to work with each student individually enough to get done what we need to get done? (Man! Homeschooling was nice when I only had one or two students.)
  • What can we combine? We have a five-year gap between my first two students, so combining can be difficult if I want to aim Morning Time at my oldest. I don’t want the rest of the kids to feel totally lost. This is a perennial problem, but we often feel like we’re starting from scratch when we face it anew every Fall, with slightly older students and new and different books.
  • When am I going to be able to pre-read for my Y7 kid? He has SO much to read and I read a lot slower than he does. What can I skip pre-reading? What will we need to read aloud together?

I read one homeschooling mom’s strategy for pre-reading was to not pre-read anything. (Isn’t that an attractive idea?!) Her kids went into each narration knowing Mom hadn’t read it and was going to ask lots of questions. As nice as this idea sounds, it’s definitely not for me. We have much better narrations when I know what I’m talking about and can correct their misunderstandings of the text at the end of their narration or be able to supply proper nouns. So, I need a pre-reading plan.

Housekeeping, emotions, so many considerations!

How am I going to get food on the table, the kitchen cleaned up, laundry done, grocery bought, and bedtime handled? All this his hard enough to cover in a regular year of homeschooling, but now I have to think about doing it without my spouse around. 

Everyone will have to pull more and different weights. Routines must change because I’m blessed with a spouse who helps a lot with the kids and around the house when he’s home. That just means there’s a lot that the rest of us have to cover when he’s gone.

How am I going to build in rest and fun so the kids and I can stave off depression, tantrums, and loneliness while hubby’s at sea? We can’t eat mac & cheese for lunch & cereal for dinner everyday, but in the moment it’s pretty damned tempting.

Your Survival Mode

There is a LOT to consider when planning ANY homeschool year, but when you know you’ll be in Survival Mode, there’s even more.

Your Survival Mode may mean adding a new baby to the family, or dealing with an illness. You’ll have to answer different questions, like these:

  • How can I homeschool with a newborn? Like, can it actually be done? How do real people do this?
  • What’s the best way to schedule our homeschool around a baby? Is there such a thing? CAN I even schedule anything?
  • How do people homeschool through illness? How can I get my kids to do their work when I feel like crap?
  • What can I outsource? Can I arrange rides, social activities, or co-op while I’m undergoing treatment, dealing with baby, or working from home, etc.? Can I afford to hire some help? What tasks can the kids or spouse take on?

Survival Mode is about getting through this alive.

But you don’t want to come out of it barely hanging on and all of your people hating each other. At the end of our homeschooling journeys, I’d like to still like my kids and vice versa. I’d like them to still come visit me when they’re grown!

We have to figure out what can help us thrive during Survival Mode. How can we eat well, sleep well, learn well, and connect well even though our circumstances have drastically changed?

Over the next 3 weeks, we’ll chat about Homeschooling in Survival Mode and I’ll help you make a plan to not just survive, but thrive.

We’ll talk about keeping first things first, logistics and to-do lists, and get nitty-gritty with how to make a weekly checklist.

Photo by Samantha Garrote from Pexels

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.


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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

--the best of the homeschool blogosphere,
--current homeschool news,
--and great quotes that will refresh your homeschool mama mind.

Latest Posts


  • Happy New Year and all, but more importantly, today we got to watch our @wyo_football win the Arizona Bowl. (With a freshman QB starting for the 1st time ever, btw 😮😮😮💪🏻) Way to go Pokes! #theWorldNeedsMoreCowboys #OneWyoming #GoWyo
  • We always have so much fun doing projects from @artforkidshub #homeschool #trynewthings #watercolor
  • Morning Time Details! E. (12), S. (almost 8), and L. (6). Our Morning Time morphs as the kids grow and change. It usually includes a combination of memory work and reading aloud. We try to cover a WHOLE LOT of things: Shakespeare, Bible, poetry, catechism, hymns, timeline, art study, composer study, and Ambleside selections for nature study, tales, and church history. This term I’m adding Plutarch.
The hard part is figuring out where I want to aim, with the 5-year gap between E. and S., and then L. being a newbie to full-on school. Having moved twice in 2019, I nixed MT and just focused on individual work. That came with costs. Shakespeare, Plutarch, art study, and composer study suffered. Memory work barely happened at all. I was BUSY. We missed out on discussing things together. Now that we’re settled, it’s time to restart MT.
This term I’ve decided to aim Shakespeare and Plutarch at the oldest, while the girls listen in and do handwriting/drawing/fine motor. I won’t ask them for much narration. Our reading schedule for these is AMBITIOUS. Maybe crazy. Then we’ll do all the memory & read aloud stuff that suits everyone. These lessons are SHORT. Then E. will go do his individual work while I read aloud w/ just the girls.
Also, “Morning Time” is a misnomer, considering we break it up throughout the day. It should really be called Morning/Lunch/Nap Time. I need a new name. Circle Time? Except we don’t sit in a circle. Together school? Except we’re together doing school all day. I don’t think English has the word I’m looking for. Maybe Tertulia or Salon?
Our actual coursework is: the Scottish Play, Plutarch is Alexander the Great’s life, our artist is Gustave Courbet, composer is Paganini, Bible memory is Psalm 46, Hymn is Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, read alouds will rotate from Burgess Bird Book, Trial and Triumph, Blue Fairy Book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Vanderbeekers, & picture books. Timeline is from Classical Conversations. Poems are Charge of the Light Brigade, Winter Night by Teasdale, and The Land of Nod.
Whew! It’s gonna be a fun term! What do you guys do for Morning Time?
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  • Oh Halloween. That day when I pull costumes out of thin air at T-minus one hour ‘till trick-or-treating. Then one kid melts down in the middle of the fun, and is carried screaming to the car, with me hoping all the while that no one thinks I’m abducting a child. And, my favorite non-PC thought: one kid suggests we should have dressed as hobos, since we’re going around asking people to give us free candy. Phoned it in this year, Kutzers. 🤦🏻‍♀️🤷🏻‍♀️ #gladitsover For the record, we had a soccer player, an archer, Spider Girl, a princess, a tiny farmer, a witchy mom (Is that even a costume or just a Thursday?), and Bat Dad.
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#homeschool #charlottemasonirl #homecookedmeals #livingbooks

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