When Life Is Hard: Homeschooling through difficult seasons

This is what it’s really like homeschooling through difficult seasons. 

I have been thinking about this post for a while now.

I wanted to write it last year, after my son’s hospitalization and subsequent recovery. I wanted to write it when my oldest son’s lupus flared up this summer. I wanted to write it when my husband and I were struggling to be nice to each other earlier this year.

There’s been a lot of “hard” here these past few years. So much so, that the one constant in our lives is often our homeschooling.

It’s like a daily touchstone.

No matter what else is going on, we will learn something together today. (This has been my motto for almost a year now.)

homeschooling through difficult

The truth is, difficult circumstances tend to radically change one’s priorities.

When your son’s kidneys are beginning to fail, you tend to worry less about his reading level. When you are worried about your marriage surviving the year, you tend to care less about the math worksheet. When money is tight, a parent is ailing, a child is sick, you’re battling depression, you suffer a miscarriage – when the really hard stuff happens, it becomes so much more clear what really matters.

This clarity can be a breath of fresh air, in our lives, and in our children’s education. I have certainly found it to be a surprise blessing. The hard seasons inform my approach to our homeschooling in a way that simply wasn’t possible before.

When Life Is Hard: Homeschooling through difficult seasons

Less School, More Play

Even now that my children are older, I find that when life is difficult, we all need a little room to laugh and have fun. I am finding that less formal schooling and more “fun” learning actually helps us on tough days more than no learning at all. (Think – Instead of handwriting practice at the table, let’s write on the windows!) Again, my new motto is, “No matter what else is going on, we will learn something together today.” Sometimes this happens on YouTube. Sometimes, it’s on a nature walk. Sometimes, it’s listening to an audiobook in the car on the way to the doctor’s office.

Expectations vs. Reality

What I think learning should look like, and what it actually does, is a source of concern for me – even in the best seasons. My expectations vs. my reality very rarely match-up. Add in a little stress and a whole lotta chaos, and I become my absolute worst homeschooling critic. The only way I have found to combat this, is to imagine my friend in the same circumstances. What would I expect from her? What would I consider to be a job well done if she were facing the same? The truth is, if I would think my friend was doing a great job then maybe, just maybe, I am too.

Just Do It

Lately, the easiest way for me to accomplish anything around here, especially in our homeschool, is to treat it like it’s my job. Sometimes, less choice and less flexibility helps create a little peace. I share all about this new approach in this post HERE.  Suffice to say, it’s been a relief to treat our school like a job instead of an all-encompassing lifestyle for a bit.

Other Moms

No matter how difficult the season, it never hurts to have other moms by your side. 

Real life advice, experience and perspective is invaluable when I am feeling at my lowest. 

I am so grateful to call Kara and Cait true friends and I am honored to share the most recent episode of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast with you. They invited me to join them and answer questions about the really hard stuff and how we deal with it in the midst of this homeschool life. 

You can find the podcast episode HERE.



Life happens. One of the things I love most about being able to homeschool, is being able to flex our learning to meet the demands of one season vs. another.

And, even in the most difficult times, I am grateful that my boys are learning and progressing at home.


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  1. Treating it like my job is the one thing keeping me consistent! I keep facing the same battle of wondering if I’m doing enough. I like your idea about imagining switching places. Lately I’ve been thinking, what good is a rockstar education if my boys don’t have their hearts in the right place. We’re spending more time on that and sometimes I feel guilty about letting some academics slide a bit. Love the encouragement!

    1. Thanks Jill! Something about the job perspective makes it so much easier on me. It sounds like it should be the opposite, but I have found it to be freeing. I’m glad I’m not the only one! 🙂

      1. I know it does seem counter intuitive… I think, for me, it keeps me on track, which also keeps me from spiraling into guilt and self-shaming over dropping the ball. Treating it like a 9-5 in that one respect sets up some good boundaries on the ways you can get extreme with homeschooling and all the shoulds. Does that make sense? ? I’m rambling….

  2. HI Shawna,

    This was such an insightful post. I homeschooled my daughter for only one year, when she was diagnosed with thyroid disease, and it is so true that when you are worried about health concerns, reading levels and math worksheets aren’t that important. I think that is the wonderful thing about homeschooling a child with health challenges or other special needs…you can take the time to be flexible and modify and adjust. I’m a special education teacher, but I’ve always told my students’ parents, “You are the one who knows your child the best, and you are his first and most influential teacher.” I hope that life is less hard for you soon and that happier days are ahead. Blessings, Jan

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