In my mind, my homeschool is a beautiful tapestry: children in their clean, pressed clothes eagerly anticipating school; lesson plans fully completed each day with no stress or distractions. Instead, home school days can seem more of a raveled mess of interruptions: there is an elderly parent to care for; a child is sick; there are financial concerns; and there are just not enough hours in the day.

When I have talked with other homeschoolers, we often act as though home education should occur in some kind of vacuum, separate from any difficulties in life. Where did we get the misconception that we learn only in the Ideal?

Rather than wishing the “interruption” away, look for the opportunities within rather than seeing it as a disruption. Whether it’s a chosen “interruption” such as welcoming elderly parents in your home or an unplanned and unwanted one such as illness, there are ways for education to be maintained and even thrive.

Remind yourself of your reasons you chose to homeschool. I like to review these periodically throughout our homeschool journey, particularly when a student transitions to middle school or the high school years. However, reviewing these reasons when your family faces challenges will also help you stay the course through tough times. Chances are, the reasons you home schooled will still hold true and perhaps be even more important in a crisis. One reason we homeschooled was the ability to influence character and religious instruction. What better time than a crisis to practice these traits in yourself and your children?

Your reasons for homeschooling will also help you discern what’s most important for your students when life activities are overwhelming. Streamline your curriculum to focus on key skills. What subjects and skills are absolutely crucial for your students to maintain? When challenges and additional responsibilities come, select what’s most important for your child and your school and focus on those. You may decide, for example that English Language Arts and Math are the most crucial for your 3rd grader and the other subjects can be combined or reinforced through supplemental activities such as kits or activity books. Can your children practice penmanship with their Bible curriculum? Could reading skills be honed by with science readers?

Stretch to make the most of a life opportunity. An unexpected situation can bring with it learning opportunities that you may not have previously considered. A family member’s sickness can initiate all kinds of curiosity about biology and how the body works. Caring for elderly family members can provide living history opportunities to even video or record their stories.

Enlist the help of your support network. There are resources in your community, family or church to assist your children in learning. Make use of the talents and gifts of those around you. While my son recovered from a knee injury, he was able to apprentice with a local luthier. This opportunity would not have presented itself if he were active and under his normal schedule. Don’t forget the resources your children provide. Can an older child work on a journal with a sibling?

Rest. Make yourself rest. Make your children rest. The demands of stressful circumstances and additional responsibilities can take a toll. Make room for rest in each day. Each family member will be stressed and may respond to the stress in a different way. I, as a mother, claimed the outdoor hammock. My son needed to spend social time with friends. My daughter needed art kits to expend creative energy.

Regardless of the difficult place you find yourself, continuing to homeschool through the situation can tremendously benefit your children and your entire family. Life viewed up close can indeed seem like a raveled mess, but a beautiful design you choose to create.