How to homeschool when life gets kind of messy.


One day we were at Legoland and my son was telling anyone who would listen, “today is the best day of my life.”

Twenty-four hours later, we were in the ER. The kids were being shuttled home by my mom, who fed them pizza and tried to comfort them.

My poor son is cursed with a brain like mine that picks up on obscure medical facts and holds on to them like song lyrics. He was worried. I was too.

Excessive thirst, blurry vision — I knew before we knew, but then we really knew and crap — diabetes in no freaking Legoland, I’ll tell you that much.

And so we’re learning, every day, how to take care of this guy we love so much.

We’re homeschooling diabetes management. My daughter is a carb-counting savant. My son averages blood sugar numbers to find comfort.

Weekend food prep.

All is OK now. It is.

But for almost two weeks, we’ve just been doing the best we can, and I’ve been learning a lot too.

I’ve learned that we have an amazing support system in our friends. So many people have stepped up with offers of help and support. Our baby-sitter offered to watch the kids for free.

I didn’t feel right taking her up on that, but it did reaffirm what I already knew — that she is just the best and deserves more fancy coffee right away.

And my kids, who have had their world rocked a bit — who last week spent more time with friends than at home — have shown me again that learning happens no matter what I do. I literally can’t stop these kids from acquiring new skills and information like spongey little knowledge ninjas.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned about homeschooling when life gets a little messy:

 You’ve got to prioritize.

Some things need to get done — eating, laundry, showers, pet care. Other things really aren’t that big of a deal if you have to skip them for a few days, even making beds and getting the mail. Stuff can wait.

People come first.

Always, but especially in a crisis. Focus on feelings and not on getting things done. Kids need comfort in situations like these, not curriculum.

leverage your resources.

My mom can’t cook. There’s no point in asking her to bring a casserole. But she’s an awesome nurse, with tons of experience to draw from.

Our library has recently been switching to a lot of electronic books. I’m not always crazy about that, but during the past few weeks, we have downloaded our fair share to get the kids new reading material without having to drive to the library.

You’ve got to let some stuff go.

It used to be that in worrisome moments, I would become hyper-vigilant, trying to control what I could.

But this time, I knew that trying to control everything was going to leave me more stressed. So I gave people jobs and assigned tasks and tried not to worry too much.

And guess what — it all worked out.

One thing at a time.

Usually, even when things are kind of bad, you don’t have to figure everything out at once.

Most things can be broken up into smaller pieces, and there’s plenty that can wait. Really.

Food update: 18 hours later. The good thing is we are eating well. The bad news is I am raising fruit bats.
Make some compromises.

Paper plates. Take-out. Right now, a lot of my time is being spent figuring out how to feed us in the long-term. So in the short term, three of us are having frozen pizza for lunch.

I think in a mess you can be perfect or sane. Not both.

Take care of yourself.

It seems super counterintuitive, but it’s important. Vent to your girls and your sister. Say the things you need to say.

Make yourself a haircut or pedicure appointment for a distant date in the future as a reminder to yourself that whatever is going on isn’t forever.


Give people specific, manageable tasks.

The kids have been doing more around the house, which was actually a goal I had for summer, teaching them some more life skills — it all just came a little sooner.

My deal with them has been that I won’t ask them to do anything beyond what any other 7- and 10-year-old would be asked to do.

I asked my dad to bring dinner for the kids one night. Time, date, place.

“Is pizza OK?” he asked, and I actually said no — they had had pizza the night before. “How about pasta and a salad from the Italian deli?” I suggested, and I think he appreciated me just being straight-forward and not getting too hung up on social niceties.

Stick to the basics.

Give the kids books and audiobooks and have them read together and try not to worry. Two weeks is a traditional school’s Christmas Break, not a Summer Break.

Everything is getting back on track already here. No knowledge was lost, but I am in catch-up mode, ordering butterfly larvae and helping with pen pal letters.

Don’t worry about being impressive.

Guess what I brought to the end of the year homeschool co-op potluck. Nothing.

Know that it will get easier.

It will. In time. It might be days, weeks or months.

But it will be better. Until then, just do the best you can.

I promise that it’s enough.

Things are already feeling a lot more normal here. We’re figuring stuff out day by day.

We’re all feeling incredibly grateful for so many things — good care, good friends, good medicine, good food …

And each other.

I like to say that homeschooling is more than a way to educate your kids — it’s a lifestyle.

And for a little while, our life here was rocky.

But we got through it, and we’re so appreciative for this adaptable, flexible, wonderful way we live and learn.

13 thoughts on “How to homeschool when life gets kind of messy.


    … Until then, just do the best you can.

    I promise that it’s enough.”

    It’s more than enough. This post is full of wonderful advice. And I’m so sorry you all had to live out the advice-figuring-out part. xo.

  2. I’ve homeschooled while working through diagnosis and management of Graves’ disease. I’ve done it while providing eldercare to an aging parent. You’re absolutely right… the kids will be fine and will keep on learning anyway. In fact, minus sometimes having to pin down a baby sitter, I think it’s easier because everything stays centered on home and connection. Take good care of yourself!

  3. We are going through a different Challenge, but a challenge just the same. I love this post, such a great reminder to me that I can let go of somethings and focus on others and its okay. Like the frozen pizza we have been living on microwave meals and I finally got the bright idea i can buy a crockpot and cook in the hotel. anyway thanks for sharing❤

  4. “I think in a mess, you can be perfect or sane!’ That line really speaks to me. We have been living through a huge mess this last few months (our disabled daughter ran away from home and ended up in a psychiatric hospital).That line really speaks to me. I pray that peace will come to your home.

  5. We are 4 months out from my 7yo daughter’s diagnosis. One day we were at our first field trip since the new baby was born and 2 days later we were in the hospital. It gets easier, mama. Soon enough the carb counting becomes second nature. I don’t cry at the drop of a hat anymore and it only feels slightly like we are in an alternate universe, not our regularly scheduled life. It’s absolutely necessary to prioritize during these times and math worksheets weren’t on that list. Hugs to you and your son!

  6. Last year my family moved up to be with my parents to help take care of my dad who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I didn’t have much time to spend with my boys and do school stuff, but like you mentioned “learning happens no matter what I do.” They kept learning about things, not necessarily the things I had planned, but they learned. I was also so grateful that we were homeschooling because it gave me the opportunity to be able to just pick up our lives and move somewhere else. My boys and I also got to spend a lot of precious time with my dad before he passed away. I really enjoyed your post and I hope that things start to get easier for you!

  7. so sorry to hear about the news, but lovely post — we’ve been there and this is great advice! hoping the best for all of you — xoxoxo

  8. My seven year old was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 2 months ago ( while on vacation far from home no less). It a lot to deal with, a lot to learn. We’ve crossed many bridges in the past two months we still have many to come no doubt. But, it’s amazing how quickly you learn a new normal- blood sugars, carb counting, insulin, highs and lows. Sounds like you are landing on your feet!

  9. Thank you everyone for the kind, thoughtful and supportive comments. I haven’t been so good about responding, or writing at all these past few weeks, but I wanted to let you know that I have read each comment and shared them with my family, and they are deeply appreciated🙂 Much love, Kara

  10. Hi, my names is Grace; my two kids were diagnosed at age 2 with T1 diabetes. It was a crazy, scary time, but after a few months the care and carb counting etc. became more normal; they still have their grumpy days about it, but overall life goes on fairly normally. We homeschool now partly because of diabetes; I love having them at home to take care of them and keep things simple when need be, if they are not feeling great etc. or they need more special monitoring; it frees us up to prioritize their health and happiness, and its been a great lifestyle for us. The strain takes a toll though, and so we do keep life as simple as possible! All the best, God Bless. Grace

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