Homeschooling in a Pandemic: 14 Approaches to Address Overwhelm

Even before homeschooling in a pandemic, homeschool moms were overwhelmed.

So many reasons to feel overwhelmed when you’re a homeschool mom.

But add a pandemic and we have a whole lot more reasons to feel that overwhelm.

What are the 14 approaches to overcoming overwhelm while you’re homeschooling in a pandemic?

Besides the fact that real family life is still happening during the pandemic.

  • A family move + homeschool + a pandemic.
  • A baby was born + homeschool + a pandemic.
  • A family member is ill + homeschool + a pandemic.
  • A death in the family + homeschool + a pandemic.
  • Or you fill in the blank…

We have each had very unique experiences in this pandemic…

  • You joined the homeschooling world, but don’t know anyone else doing it.
  • You experience underlying anxiety that someone might get sick.
  • You experience conflict with friends or family over masks, vaccines, racism discussions, and political discussions.
  • Or you fill in the blank…

Let’s talk about homeschooling in a pandemic.

14 ways to overcome homeschool overwhelm in a pandemic

Are these reasons you might feel overwhelmed in the pandemic?

Um, yeah. might feel overwhelmed.

But then add the general overwhelm of homeschooling your kids (cause it’s normal on a regular year) then the above are definitely recipes for homeschool overwhelm.

Here are a couple of common reasons homeschoolers typically feel overwhelmed even when they’re not homeschooling during a pandemic:
  • You’re trying to keep a clean house.
  • You’re trying to keep a private school in your home.
  • You’re trying to finish all the curriculum.
  • You’re trying to do everything that the neighbour’s kids are doing at their school.
  • You’re trying to do everything other homeschool families are doing with their kids.
  • You believe there really is one right way to homeschool.
  • You’re trying to do your homeschool just like Charlotte Mason, John Holt, Maria Montessori, or Julie Bogart might.
  • You’re trying to keep your kids happy all the time.
  • You’re trying to make three square meals every day of the week.
  • You love your kids and are glad to live and learn with them, but you don’t feel supported by a community outside your home.
  • You have one child that has extra needs and you don’t know if you’re doing right by them.
  • You have neurotypical kids, but you still don’t know if you’re doing right by them.
  • You feel like you could do a great job with just one or two kids, but you’ve got five.
  • You feel like you never quite get the right curriculum because homeschooling is never quite always working for you (or the kids).
  • Your kids are complaining, bickering, whining, or just plain annoying you.
  • You are trying to do things to check off boxes so other people won’t worry about your child’s homeschool education.
  • You are feeling not good enough.

Strategies for Homeschooling in our 2020 Reality

So how are you going to continue homeschooling during a pandemic?

1. Adopt unschool practices, or at least, learn from them temporarily.

No, I didn’t say don’t care about your child’s education and do nothing to enable an education. (Turns out, that’s not how unschooling works anyway.)

But what unschooling can teach every homeschooler is that kids are always learning, with or without formal instruction.

So even when you’re not intentional about engaging your kids in learning opportunities, they’re still learning.

How do I know? Well, as you know, I don’t know your kids, but if you spend the next week watching your kids, guess what you’ll find?

They do stuff when they don’t have their time prescribed.

  • Are they building paper airplanes and trying to determine which airplane is drifting fastest toward the garage roof?
  • Are they studying lyrics to the most recent Taylor Swift album?
  • Are they drawing baby Yodas for the refrigerator decor?
  • Are they trying to win every Guess Who game with their sibling?
  • Are they creating Barbie shopping malls in the basement?

They might not be learning what you think they should be learning, but they’re still learning.

2. Plan ahead of time but plan a whole lot less.

If you have a heads up, like you know that a baby will be delivering around or about the end of December or you’ve expected the adoption papers to be signed in May, then you can anticipate when a baby or new child arrives in your home that you’ll need to shift gears in your homeschool.

These moments in your family life can give you enough time to plan ahead. So, prep to have an educational basket of activities designed for these special periods in your family’s life.

You could include:

ps Whether you’re homeschooling in a pandemic or not, games are a whole lotta fun in every homeschool.

3. Expect you won’t find a community that is identical to you.

It isn’t just when we move to another community that we find it difficult to connect with like-minded families. Sometimes we just don’t feel like there’s another family that is like ours.

  • The other homeschool families in our community are religious.
  • The other homeschool families are not religious.
  • The other homeschool family has a very formal approach to homeschooling.
  • The other homeschooled family is unschooled.

The other homeschool family…you fill in the blank…just isn’t YOUR family!

ps Here’s a way you can get homeschool community, join a Homeschool Mama Intensive or Book Club, we’d love to meet you!

4. Explore your ideas on what an education is anyways.

The thing is, we homeschool families can decide how we’re educating our kids. That’s the point, we have kids, we decided to bring them home, and now we get to decide how we educate them.

Since I’ve been a classical homeschool mom, I taught my kids Latin (or I learned some Latin alongside them). So I happen to know that the root word for education is educato, which means “to raise up”.

To raise up what I ask? To raise up a child. (Not to raise up a school system or a classroom).

So if the child is the point of reference for the education, we’re going to have to be clear on who we’re raising up, our particular child.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they like to learn?
  • How do they like to learn?
  • What are their curiosities?
  • What are the natural strengths?
  • What are the areas they could learn from someone else?
  • What can you pursue as a learning opportunity that would benefit the specific child?

Can you see how these questions help to uncover a plan for your specific child’s education, but they wouldn’t necessarily fit within the confines of a schooled education.

Turns out you’re homeschooling and you can decide to educate your child your way.

So what is an education anyway?

5. When big stuff happens, roll with it.

…I say this as I sit here bored and grouchy in my bedroom, only one day separated from the rest of my family because I might have COVID (don’t know yet, because there aren’t enough tests until my appointment two days from now.)

The thing is, we don’t have any option but to roll with it.

Some of us might happily exist buried in a hut on the top of a mountain and be quite happy never seeing civilization and likely never seeing COVID or COVID restrictions either, though I’m not sure what they’re eating. (I live on the bottom of the mountain, I prefer seeing civilization once a week in real-time, and we can’t rightly suggest I’m living in a hut).

So when we regular folk are exposed to other folk and there happens to be a virus that threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system making some folk awfully sick (but ensuring that most people get sick eventually), we’re going to have to accept that hard stuff, the big stuff is gonna happen.

And since we have no control of it, we’re gonna have to roll with it.

When we allow the big stuff to happen, without resistance, to accept that sometimes in our lives, stuff we don’t want to happen will indeed happen, we grow, we learn, and we will ultimately benefit over the course of time.

Here are 13 Things that Mentally Strong People Don’t Do (from Amy Morin’s book).

6. You can’t do everything.

If our intention is to create a homeschool where our children will become God or Google, they will not miss an educational beat, well, we need to expand our schedule and get on with extensive private school education.

Crack the whip.

Don’t give your children solitude, because there is no time.

We must guarantee that our children know as much or more than every one of their student counterparts, the neighbour’s kids, the public schooled kids, the public school teacher’s kids, the private school kids, the twice-exceptional kids, the Asperger’s kids, just every kid.

An education isn’t complete until and unless they know everything.

They have to be competent in adding to every topic on Wikipedia. In fact, they need to begin developing a new form of an encyclopedia, because they’ve got to have the knowledge bandwidth on everything.

Say what? NO? That is not your goal in their education?

Okay, then. Quite simply, you do not have to teach them everything, they do not need to do every extracurricular, and more activities won’t mean a better homeschool.

Less is definitely more in our homeschools.

And good thing, because that is a sure way to be overwhelmed. And in a (two)year of way too many things going on in the world, you really don’t need to tell yourself you need to do more than you’re already doing.

Learn more about dealing with unrealistic expectations. (I might have learned the good old-fashioned way).

crop faceless overwhelmed black man covering face against wall

7. Time block: know how much time everything is actually taking you.

Time blocking was the source of a lot of freedom in my homeschool.

Once upon a time, I told myself that I could do way too many things in one day, which was a recipe for frustration, and always guaranteed me late to my girl’s violin lessons.

When I discovered the effort in time blocking, that all I had to do was spend a week writing down every single thing I did and how much time it took, I discovered it was a physical impossibility to do everything I wanted to do.

So I began (and I do emphasize began) to recognize that I simply was being unrealistic with my expectations. Again, read about addressing unrealistic expectations discussion above.

Learn more about how to create a pandemic homeschool routine here.

8. Don’t do things your kids hate to do.

Focus on what they love to do instead:

  • follow their curiosities,
  • expand on their aptitudes,
  • acknowledge their interests first in your homeschool approach.

It’ll just be easier. And it will work for you AND your homeschooled child.

And if you’re saying to yourself, but how am I going to teach them to read, write, and do arithmetic? I can give you a few ideas outside the educational box (just make those activities work for your level of emotional wherewithal).

And if it ain’t working for you, don’t do it!

Ideas for doing the typical conventional school subject areas:

Or if you do something your kids don’t want to do (because of course you’re going to at times), just factor in how much emotional energy will be required to deal with that kid’s pushback.

a pandemic baby and homeschooling in a pandemic with other kids too

9. Decide to love people, don’t need to agree with people.

In this year of divisiveness, many of us have been surprised that those we care about don’t see the world the same way we do.

We all have stories like these.

Sometimes we need to accept that certain people might really see the world differently. And when we discover this, it might influence how we see them and how we want to show up in a relationship with them.

And sometimes we discover that though we genuinely see the world differently than them, we also love them deeply and want to continue being connected to them.

So we have to set aside discussions on divisive things and love each other anyway.

10. Factor in a separate time for you.

If you haven’t learned to do this in your homeschool journey already, you’ll definitely need to do it now.

Being separate helps you get perspective.

Being separate (more likely) ensures that you will address your own needs.

Naturally, sometimes we just need to think our own thoughts.

Sometimes we don’t know what we need because we give no effort or thought to it.

Sometimes we allow all the stuff happening around us to dominate (and we need to change that).

Whether you need to…

  • take a carafe of tea or coffee to the parking lot of your favourite cafe, turn on the cheesy coffeehouse music, and just sit…
  • ask grandparents to “babysit via zoom” by reading them a story or playing a game while you head for a walk around the block
  • invest in noise-cancellation earphones for a limited time period in the day
  • ask a friend or partner to look after your kids while you leave to your home (to pretty much anywhere, a walk on a local trail, a run around the block, or sitting in a park or greenspace with a journal and pen)–go somewhere and do something just for you.

Find some time alone each week.

Here are a bunch of other ways you can find quiet in your homeschool.

11. Expect not to handle everything graciously all the time.

You are growing and learning along with the rest of humanity.

We have all sorts of things we need to learn. All of us.

Our goal? Just commit to learning and observing.

ps when you become more gracious with yourself, you’ll become more gracious with others too.

Learn self-compassion techniques that help you address your own needs.

12. Schedule a daily mindful moment check-in, with yourself.

Every day I am reminded to breathe. At 11 am PST.

I set the alarm on my iPod so I can do a quick check-in with myself.

  • How am I feeling?
  • Am I intentionally breathing from my gut?
  • What are the thoughts behind my feelings?
  • What is the story I’m telling myself as I think and feel?

Understanding our emotional climate is the single biggest self-care strategy that will address our big emotions when dealing with pandemics, homeschooling, or any other major life event.

The more we know about ourselves, the more we are able to honestly address our needs and continue to grow up.

How to positively influence my homeschool mama’s thoughts so I can enjoy my homeschool? Learn ideas here.

Homeschooling in a pandemic can be overwhelming

13. Make your goal to enjoy your homeschool days.

Is how you’re homeschooled right now working for you (& your homeschool kids)?

That is the most important question, isn’t it?

We can attempt to hold ourselves to a homeschool philosophy that we like.

We can attempt to hold our kids to an idealized homeschool routine that appears to be ideal.

And I believe we can do all sorts of things, have all sorts of expectations, and discover that even though those things appear great on paper, they appear good, but they aren’t working for us.

14. Accept yourself as a human being having a human experience.

If I’m the only one telling you this, I’m gonna say this to you straight: you’re not a supermom. I’m not a supermom. No one is a supermom. (Notice how no Marvel movie was ever made casting a supermom, cause they knew it wasn’t a thing and there would be sooo much pushback if they ever tried.)

You are, though, a human being having a human experience.

We can, though, work on showing up on purpose in our homeschools, with a whole lotta effort.

So girlfriend, though homeschooling, on a regular year, can be filled with opportunities for overwhelm, you can do this when you implement overcoming strategies. Been there, done that. So if I can do it, you can too.

People often ask…

Teresa Wiedrick

I help overwhelmed homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.

Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod