School’s Out: What Will You Do if Disaster Strikes and You are Forced to Homeschool?

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School's Out What Will You Do if Disaster Strikes and You are Forced to Homeschool via The Survival Mom


A new school year is almost here. If your children attend school outside your home, have you ever thought about what would happen if their school was closed for an extended period of time?

The most likely to occur disastrous events don’t have a long duration before order begins to be restored. Natural disasters can be devastating, but most are relatively localized and the response and recovery time is a couple of weeks to a month at the longest.

Your children might miss some school, but the time is usually made up at the end of the year or possibly by extending the school day.

Think Katrina

But every now and then a major event happens, like Hurricane Katrina, that disrupts entire geographic areas and devastates schools.

Katrina completely destroyed 110 of 126 New Orleans public schools, displacing more than 60,000 students. A year later, the school system was only able to accommodate the return of half the students. It is estimated that more than 400,000 students in the Katrina ravaged regions had to move to other cities to attend school.

Another issue is pandemic. Experts believe that it could take at least 4 to 6 months to prepare a vaccine for distribution during a flu pandemic.

Schools have varying response plans for outbreaks. Some close as soon as an outbreak has been identified. Others will not close until the school itself has a certain percentage of confirmed illnesses. Either way, schools could be closed for months to help reduce transmission rates.

Depending on the time of year and how long schools are closed, recommendations could be made to hold all students back until work is made up or promote them all as if they completed the current grade. Neither is a good option.

Homeschooling Your Public School Children

If you find yourself post-disaster with school-aged children at home for an extended period of time, you will likely need a way to keep them occupied. You may also want to continue their education so they don’t fall behind.

If they have their school books with them, you can simply progress through each subject as if they were attending school. Have your children read the text, work in workbooks, and take chapter quizzes and tests. If there are no tests, create them by reading through the text yourself.

Consider taking advantage of the opportunity to incorporate survival skills into their learning.

AVR Forced to Homeschool

Maintain good notes on what the student accomplishes each day and keep a copy of all finished work. This will provide proof that your child has successfully completed missed curriculum and could prevent him from being held back a year.

If the students are promoted to the next grade automatically, you will be confident that there won’t be any learning gaps because they did the work.

Online Resources

There are other study options whether your children have their school textbooks or not. Assuming you have power and an internet connection (for example, in a pandemic scenario), there are no limits to the education that can be provided to your kids.

You can enroll your children into full-time online schools like Freedom Project Education, K12 Online Public Schools or Connections Academy, Time4Learning, or Easy Peasy.

If you’re looking for specific courses, here are some of our family favorites:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to teach your children at home using a computer, it will be easy to find the curriculum you need. (These are also great resources for your children to use ANY day!)

Let’s assume though that for whatever reason you won’t have your children’s textbooks at home, you don’t have internet access, and you are looking at weeks to months of educating your child yourself.

What should you have in your home to prepare for such a time?

Books, Books, Books!

It’s ideal if every home has a large library anyway, but if you don’t, consider picking up a few books that you know your children will enjoy and keep them stashed away until needed.

Like clothes and food storage, these may need to be “rotated” as your children get older. Most books are fairly inexpensive and easy to pick up here and there as the budget allows. Others can be found at garage sales, library sales, and used book stores for pennies on the dollar.

Ebook readers, such as the Kindle, can store hundreds of books and all it takes to keep them charged is a small solar battery charger. Load up on the classics, of which nearly all are free.

Go through reading lists for your child’s age and grade, and begin adding those books as well. One good source of book recommendations for both fiction and non-fiction is Ambleside Online.

Related Content: 3 Questions to Ask Your Childs School about Their Safety Plan.

Besides “pleasure reading” books, what kind of books should you buy?

Find a workbook that covers broad topics for the entire grade. You have several options:

  • buy and use them throughout the year,
  • save them for use during the summer before buying the next grade’s workbook,
  • use them, but don’t write in the books and save them for younger children
  • if they are no longer needed, they can be sold or donated to others.

Choose textbooks that cover an entire year of information like the “What your Kindergartner Needs to Know” series. There’s a book for each grade up through sixth and each covers math, literature, history, and science.

Physical encyclopedias have mostly gone by the wayside with the advent of the internet, but nothing beats a full set for concise information on so many topics. One could use nothing but encyclopedias to get a great education.

Unfortunately, a new, updated set can cost over $1,000. If your budget can handle that, I would encourage purchasing a set. For most families, that might be too big of an expense. An alternative is buying a variety of “encyclopedic” books for a fraction of the cost.

There are thousands of encyclopedic books like these that are available for pre-schoolers through adults (and are likely your best option for find relevant educational books for teens) and it would be impossible to list even a fraction of them here.  Just a few of our favorites include:

You can also find sets of encyclopedias for sale on eBay, Craigslist, in used bookstores, and at thrift stores.

Don’t Forget School Supplies!

Whether preparing to educate on- or offline, remember to have a stock of school supplies on hand. This would include pencils and sharpeners, erasers, crayons, lined and unlined paper, folders, a calculator, ruler and protractor, dictionary.

We keep a large stock of the consumable items at home because we know we will always need them, in good times or bad. If you are able, double up one what you would normally buy for your children when you go school supply shopping this year. Send half to school and keep the other half at home.

You’ll find these supplies at their very lowest prices in the weeks leading up to the first days of school.

Worst Case Scenarios

While some people maintain moderate levels of preparedness to protect themselves during common or expected disasters, some also prepare for “The Big One,” whether that means EMP, zombies, total economic collapse, super-volcanoes or polar shifts. 

Even if these events are extremely unlikely, there is always the potential that something catastrophic could happen which would keep kids out of school for years. For those that prepare for this possibility, there are two main schools of thought.

First, the idea is that if things got that bad, there would be little need to learn higher level math and science or to analyze literature. Everyone will be too busy trying to survive to have time for such things.

If this is your philosophy, then you should consider stocking up on survival type books. Knot making, gardening, how to repairs, trapping and hunting, identifying edible plants, and so on.

The “education” that your kids will receive will be geared directly toward their survival.

At the opposite end of that spectrum are those that believe it is imperative to maintain the higher level of learning even in survival situations. Eventually, the knowledge needs to be passed on in order to make a strong recovery.

After a TEOTWAWKI event, the world will need individuals who understand electronics and power, who have a strong grasp of mathematical and scientific principles, and even a comprehensive understanding of history and literature.

Filling your shelves with textbooks and specific topic manuals should be your goal if this is your belief.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ll fall somewhere in between and work on building a library that helps cover both ideas.

Head to your local book store or peruse Amazon for more ideas. The wider the variety of books you have available, the more options you will have when you find yourself forced into homeschooling.

Are there any subjects you specifically plan to teach your kids if you were forced to homeschool? Subjects you would set aside? Do you have resources you would like to share with others? Post your ideas in the comments. 

School's Out What Will You Do if Disaster Strikes and You are Forced to Homeschool via The Survival Mom


23 thoughts on “School’s Out: What Will You Do if Disaster Strikes and You are Forced to Homeschool?”

  1. We have tons of books, a wide range of work books, extra supplies and other stuff we can use if needed to home school. We currently use them to supplement what they learn in school

  2. Here in British Columbia the possibiiltiy for a lengthy interuption of school is a reality. Our teachers are on strike for the unforseeable future. I homeschooled 4 of our 7 children and have kept a large supply of all the things you recommended. My kids always teased me for keeping all that “junk” since they would never homeschool. Now if the strike isn’t resolved by August 25 there is more than likely not going to be much schooling left for atleast September. The kids are looking at me with slightly less roling eyes.

  3. Practical Parsimony

    Turning to the internet might not be possible. So, waiting and keeping websites to visit might not be a good idea.

    Here is where I might be useful. I have two BAs and MA in Ed. I can write curricula is necessary. I certainly cannot chop wood!

  4. I home school already, but have picked up tons of classic reading books from Amazon on my Kindle. Since the Kindle holds a charge for more than 30 days (it’s a first Gen model), in the short term, I can continue to teach my children (they are totally bummed about that, lol), plus the Kindle uses hardly any space for carrying around.

  5. Stephanie Morris

    This is my first year homeschooling. My grandson is 13 and has autism and he was being targeted and bullied at school which was making his life miserable. His teachers all loved him and were highly complimentary of him but would not protect him. I don’t have a teaching background and I really was concerned that I would be unable to teach him but it hasn’t been too bad. In fact I found a home school that is small and has mentors as well as “hobby” classes for social skills such as pottery making, akido, pre algebra as well as a theater group, a football, basketball etc that plays other high schools for those students that want to participate. No classes are mandatory but they are encouraged. Both my grandson and I have a weekly meeting with a mentor (to help guide us in curriculum) a person to talk to Jonathon about his issues with autism and he has a “big brother” who is a young man of 18 who also has autism to a similar degree who helps Jonathon deal with social issues and just chats with him about anything. We have seen Jon become a lot more confident and much happier than before and I know that I don’t have to subject him to studying things that we don’t believe in or he is not ready for. He thinks the best part is that he doesn’t have to get up at 5 to go to a bus stop and he can go to school (the dining room table) in his pajamas….

  6. Stephanie: Your comment has made my day! I am so happy that even though you had concerns you stepped forward boldly to give your grandson what he needs. It sounds like you have a fantastic program set up. Keep at it and know that there is nothing better you could have done for him!

  7. we have tons of books in our house with a variety of books from different grades and subjects, we have extra school supplies, we have stacks of work books ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade from younger two. I do have to find more higher level ones. My kids love to read and to do work books through out the year.

  8. We are Saxon Math people. I have collected Kinder through Physics. Same method, easy to follow.
    Science will play out every day in the house and garden.
    Pencils and paper can be found on sale at the end of the “school opening” sales. We are not computer dependent.
    Last but not least…
    Books, books and more great books. After teaching years of private and public school, I find kids need the variety and depth found in a great library. Personally, I shop at my public library’s monthly book sale. I read what I purchase and return (for resale) the ones I feel are not worthwhile.
    I assure you, those who read and “do their sums” will be the leaders of the future.

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  10. Another great resource for books is library discard sales.You can sometimes get things that were only printed for libraries. For example, I picked up a set of encyclopedias about World War One that is rare because they were only printed for libraries. I got the set for $3. Some libraries have free or donation shelves.

  11. In an perfect world, what if schools used your list of resources instead of the politically correct clap-trap they buy and dish out now.

  12. Some years back, the Chicago Teachers Union went on an extended strike. Students had to stay home.
    The final settlement was not a great victory for the teachers.
    Some people said that the teachers settled in part because they realized that the parents were starting to find out how much they loved having that time with their children.

    Government schools are indoctrination centers, meant to form their young captives into compliant obedient subjects (serfs). Join the Student Exodus from this oppression.

  13. as an old timer who homeschooled two children, my focus for them at the start was reading writing and arithmetic. for reading and writing sam blumenfeld has alpha-phonics and how to tutor as a great helper. for math we used saxon math. these books are still available and are a great help. The outcome is magna cum laude college graduates…

  14. So weird reading this in 2022…

    My husband was a public school teacher during 2020, and my son started school that fall. We got the experience this from both ends, and it was definitely a trial by fire.

    I keep a stash of homeschool materials in the house just in case we’re in that position again and for whatever reason virtual school isn’t an option.

  15. Heya. I tend to give all of my elementary school youngsters writing exercises and tasks. For example the sixth grade children had to write a two page essay on life in the nineteen fifties. We used the movie Grease as our main source of inspiration. And a nineteen fifties diner was the theme of the entire homework essay too. This was a fun whole class exercise to say the least of it. I chuckled as I read their homework the following week. We run termly writing contests.
    Both of my fifth grade classes recently wrote a mini article about why teamwork is crucial to success for their weekly writing task. Again this was a entire class effort on their own part. The results now are on the classroom walls as a class display. All of this is used to extend and improve their writing ability.
    My fourth grade pupils have prepared a account of a museum trip in addition only last week. This way I can really assess their ability to recall and write down the key details as well. My kindergarten, first, second and third grade kids do a variety of tasks which are designed to improve their writing skills. One such task was to write me thank you notes too.
    My third grade kids all were given a picture and told to write a brief description or a story based on the photo. My little second grade children had a toy or a game on their desks as a stimulus. They had to invent a colourful advert that sold that toy or game with some help. I have also gotten them to rework a recipe in the recent past. Their work is kept in folders.
    My little first graders wrote their first ever book review in a literature lesson shortly after Christmas last term. I recapped the main features then left them to get on with it. They also designed a few cool bookmarks lately. We are working currently on letter writing skills and reading the story of Peter Pan. Next term the third graders will have to prepare a theme park leaflet.

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