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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


  • PSA: Don’t let curriculum publishers and internet ads scare you into thinking you NEED to buy their products to get your kids a solid education. #askamom #momsmentoringmoms
  • #Homeschooling when you didn’t choose it:
I would feel totally overwhelmed and underprepared if I were in your shoes. Homeschooling is hard even when you did choose it. We’ve changed a little, too. Every meal is a reading meal these days if the kids want that. (They do🤓.)
So, please ask me all your questions. I and other HSing mamas in your community have YEARS of experience with this atypical version of education. How can we help you and your specific kids in your specific situation? We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are happy to help make this time smoother for you.
What I desperately hope: those of you stuck in a situation you didn’t want AT ALL, might come to see education a little differently. It can be flexible. It can happen over the course of a whole day, with snacks, outside time, screen time, and play interspersed between lessons.
This type of education is more about LIFE and HOME than you might think. While your students may be doing the same work assigned by the school, the setting change from school to home will change almost everything else about their educational experience this semester.
Here are my two favorite tips to get you started:
1. Use short lessons. 
2. Alternate between types of work.
The younger the kids, the shorter the lessons. Ballpark: elementary should be 15-30min/subject max. Middle school 30-45min/subject max.
How does this look? Have your student read for 15 min, then do something physical for 15, then do handwriting for 15. That kind of a thing. “A change is as good as a rest."
Don’t expect elementary kids to complete the whole assignment in such a short lesson. Just expect focused attention for that time, no matter how far he gets in the work. That builds the habit of, “when we sit to do school, we focus on school.” If you have to do 5 or 10 minute lessons because that’s all he had the attention for, that’s totally normal. Build up to longer periods, but it’s not really reasonable developmentally to expect hour-long math sessions for very young students. Those lead to tears. Ask me how I know.
  • Some days are just “pull your big girl panties on and handle your business like a grownup” days. Cheers to all of you who handled your business today. #navywifelife #adulting
  • This is the best kind of helpful. 🥰💛☕️
  • Everybody loves bacon! Also, breakfast for dinner + wine + good tunes = a good, chill cure for a Monday. 🎶Man cannot live by bread alone🎶 @michaelbuble @thirdday @theweepies @ginnyowensofficial @norahjones #family #familydinner
  • Just in case you need this message today.  #suicideprevention #dontgiveupsigns

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