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Homeschooling Through Grief

The one downside to homeschooling is that when you’re up against challenging circumstances, you still need to pull things together and teach your children.

Last year, when our beloved friend and colleague, David Finkelman died, I couldn’t send my daughter to school and mourn while she was there; I had to continue to teach her in the midst of my grief. I’m so thankful we already finished school when my grandma died last year. I don’t know how I would have managed.

However these losses made me consider the strategies I can use when homeschooling through grief.

Take some time off

If taking some time off is an option, then do it. However, sometimes there may be reporting/monitoring processes and or timelines which can’t be postponed. Hopefully the following tips will help if you’re ever in such a situation.

Make a lesson of it

Real life experiences have great meaning. Perhaps take this opportunity to teach your children about death and grief.

Lighten the load

If there’s any time to go light on the curriculum, now is the time. Do the bare minimum to keep your children on track with their learning.

Pull out the educational videos

Now is the time to watch all those Bill Nye videos, educational YouTube channels, and documentaries.

Audio books

This is also the time to pull out your audio books. While your children are listening to a recorded book, you can steal a few moments for yourself.

Take frequent breaks

Be gentle on yourself and your children. Make sure to take lots of breaks. Let your children know you need a break, set them up with an activity or give them a break too. Make sure to cry when you need to cry… it’s such an important part of the healing process.

Get out of the house

Take the learning outside. Nature is such a healing force. Breathe in the fresh air, soak up the sunshine, and move your body. It’s good for you and your children.

Ask for help

Call on a fellow homeschooling friend or a family member. Perhaps they can supervise your children while you take a break.

Proactive strategies

There are also some things that we can do in advance to lessen the challenge of homeschooling through grief.

Teach self-discipline

If your children can handle it, teach them self-discipline at a young age. When they have self-discipline, they work through their tasks with much more ease. Sanz over at From the Mrs. shared this lovely strategy a couple of years ago and I often use it with my daughter.

Teach self-discipline at a young age. Place tasks on clothespins. As the child completes the task, they place it in the can. http://thedeliberatemom.com

We have all of her “work” written on clothespins. At the beginning of the day, I put the clothespins on the side of a bucket. As she completes a clothespin task, the pin is placed in the bucket. Once all of the clothespins are in the bucket, she’s done for the day.

Build in buffer times for your homeschool schedule

As I mentioned last week, we’re switching to year-round homeschooling. One of the reasons for this is that we’ll have more flexibility to take time off when we need it. Hence, if we need time off for mourning, we can take it off without the pressure of feeling like we’re falling behind on our learning.

Do you have any suggestions on how to cope while homeschooling through grief?


Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care.

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55 thoughts on “Homeschooling Through Grief

  • Katie | The Surly Housewife

    These are all amazing tips. I haven’t gone through the grieving process while homeschooling, but I have experienced it. We did, however, need to put our family dog down about a month ago. It was heartbreaking, but I found school to be a welcome distraction. It’s important to have those moments where life feels “normal” again. Another great post Jennifer!

  • Janine Huldie

    What great tips and I couldn’t even imagine. I mean I have had losses, but never had to teach my own kids through them. I had to teach other people’s kids (as a teacher myself) when we lost my grandmother, but still wasn’t my own if that makes sense. Hugs and thank you for sharing!! :) xoxo!!

  • Echo

    I am sorry that you had to homeschool through grief. I haven’t experienced that, but I have homeschool through pain and illness. Your advice and tips are spot on! Thank you for posting this!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

      Homeschooling through grief was one of the toughest things I had to do. I lacked vision, inspiration, or any desire to do anything at all. My patience was low… it was awful.

      However, from it, I stumbled upon some great coping mechanisms. I just had to share them in case anyone has the misfortune of having to homeschool through grief as well.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Echo.

  • Ceil

    Hi Jennifer! These are certainly issues that I would have never thought of for homeschooling moms. I remember both times you suffered with the death of your friend and Grandmother.
    Getting help is a great thing, if you have resources for that. If not, nothing like a video. My grandchildren are riveted to them. I call them ‘kid crack’. I would definitely use them.
    Very practical advice, and needed to!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

      It’s odd how I stumble into things and think… this would be a “non-issue” if she was in school. As hard as it is though, I love homeschooling.

      Getting help is HUGE and something I need to do more of (even when I’m not grieving).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Ceil.

  • Rebecca

    This is a great post. Grief can strike at anytime and it’s never a good time. I love the clothes pins idea from that other blogger, but my favorite suggestions were be easy on yourself, lighten the load, and step outside. You’re such a treasure!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

      I never consider grief to “interfere” with homeschooling until I was faced with it. I’m happy to share my survival tools with anyone who has the misfortune of having to deal with something similar.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on homeschooling through grief.

  • Ifeoma Samuel

    I am sorry about your loss. I am glad you some how managed to get by. It is well. Grieving is a topic many of us choose to be silent about but it is a very real emotional issue.
    The Lord strengthen you and thanks for sharing these tips.

    God Bless

  • Misty

    You shared some great tips, and I am sorry for you loss. I have found the key to getting through things like this is to plan ahead, because honestly LIFE happens (allow buffer room)! I also think you can never underestimate the power of a good book and educational videos. With those school can go on and we can take the time we need to heal.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

      Thank you for your condolences Misty.

      You’re right, planning ahead is critical.

      I’m excited to get my “buffer room” when I switch to year-round homeschooling this May. I think that makes a world of difference.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on homeschooling through grief.

  • Jen@JENerallyInformed

    Bravo Jennifer! I almost think your tips could be for even just dealing with grief or difficult situations when kids are at home.

    I have had 4 preschoolers/toddlers who were primarily at home over the years and I did home school preschool. I remember that there were times I just wasn’t up to my A game and then I had to remember to be kind to myself and find a way to make it work.

    The clothespin idea is brilliant!

  • Latisha

    Hi Jennifer,

    I think these are really great tips. Though, I have never homeschooled while grieving. I have homeschooled pregnant and understand about not having the option of sending your kids to school, when you are just not up to teaching, but having to pick yourself up and homeschool no matter how you feel.
    Thank you for sharing these great tips.

  • Lindsay Gallimore

    As a teacher, I can only empathize with this: I know how hard it is to teach through tough times! Of course, I could take sick days when a homeschooling parent cannot. I agree that using resources that require less energy from you (whether you’re teaching your kids or teaching students at school) can be a great crutch. (Like you mentioned, audiobooks, videos, etc.)

  • Renee

    Well, you know this post hits close to home for me! Thanks for sharing these tips to help others going through difficult times.

    Thanks for for linking up at the #shinebloghop

  • Sarah Nenni Daher

    These are great tips for us even if we’re not homeschooling yet. :) This life has trials, but how we work through them helps to instill those coping mechanisms in our children. Keep up the amazing job you’re doing with yours!

  • Lysa

    What wonderful tips Jennifer! I can’t even imagine having to continue teaching while mourning like that. I had a rough go of mourning last year and couldn’t have functioned enough to homeschool too! Thanks for sharing your story and the great tips. Wishing you a wonderful day.


  • Debbie

    Hi Jennifer, there is so much to consider when taking on the responsibility of homeschooling. It would never have occurred to me that when life strikes, homeschooling must go on!

    I love the clothes peg idea for getting things done. I may try that one day with Greg’s, we are trying to find a way of getting him to get things done without having to be nudged.

    And all year homeschooling sounds like a good idea, just so long as you remember to take a break…Or your children might just finish their schooling long before their peers!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

      I never considered the possibility of homeschooling through grief until we were faced with it. I’m glad that my experience may be able to help others who may have the misfortune of homeschooling through grief.

      The clothespin idea is a wonderfully visual idea to keep kids on task. I highly recommend it!

  • Steph @MisplacedBrit

    These are awesome practical tips for anyone in this or other thought consuming situations. Being with your kids 24/7 and going through sorrow or struggles and worries of any kind is going to require tools.
    I love the clothes pegs and the bucket… There are a lot of ways that one could be used :-) I might try it out for our morning rituals!!

  • Monica

    This past year we learned a lot about how my family deals with grief. It’s a confusing time period. If I was homeschooling directly after the tragedy we experienced, I think I would have definitely made a lesson of it. We were doing it without even officially “homeschooling”. I would also take time off to do field trip activities without any extra work but visiting. A documentary or movie wouldn’t do well with me bc when I experience grief, I need to make my mind escape.

    This is a really great idea list.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

      Oooh yes, field trips are a good idea. Although for myself, I wouldn’t have been able to do that for at least a couple weeks. I was a weepy mess on both occasions last year.

      I love the clothespin tasks… it really keeps my daughter motivated and focused.

  • Jessica Dimas

    Wow, I hadn’t even really thought of having to deal with something like this during homeschooling. Your blog is totally prepping me for the adventure ahead. I really love the idea of taking the learning outside because nature really is so healing. I also love the bucket idea and would’ve loved that as a child! Another great post as usual Jennifer, hope you have a lovely weekend!

  • Cindy Hasko

    ‘Nice & interesting read. Interesting!!! Good to know. Also, I love the idea with the clothespins!! I’m going to remember that one. I was reading all of your posts under your homeschooling section the other day. I really enjoyed them a lot and learned a few things too. I will probably re-read them. Good stuff!! :) xoxo

  • Lou Lou Girls

    What a amazing post you brought to our party! Thank you. Pinned and tweeted. We feel honored that you take the time to stop by our party. I hope to see you on tonight at 7 pm. We love to party with you! Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  • Sanz @ From The Mrs.

    These are some really great strategies, Jennifer! I’m so pleased that the clothespin tasks has been a successful method for you. It was for us for a long time as well. (Maybe we’ll even go back to that!) Nature is balm for my soul and can heal, energize, and soothe.