Educating Kids When School is Closed Long Term

Although we home schooled for 23 years, I’ll be the first to say that homeschooling is not for everyone.  Parents who choose this option do so for a plethora of reasons. But consider a scenario where the schools are closed indefinitely or at least for several months. You might find yourself becoming an “accidental homeschooler”. It might be due to a grid-down, a pandemic with or without quarantine, social unrest and violence, terrorists attacks or economic collapse to name a few reasons.

You may not think this is an important topic but it is something I think you’ll be glad you have prepared for as the challenges and dangers in our society become greater and more profound. As Backdoor Survival’s mantra says, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” That just might be the best advice to follow.

Consistency and maintenance of routine in a crisis are important to the well-being of everyone but to a child it may be even more profound as it affects their calmness and peace of mind, now and perhaps for a lifetime. You must assess if a homeschooling situation would be beneficial at this point. We are not talking an all-out, full-bore school program.

The idea is to simplify and pare down to basics until the extent and longevity of a disruption can be assessed. After the assessment you will be in a better place to determine the scope of the learning program that might be needed.

This article will hopefully provide some basic preparedness planning you can make now to insure a more peaceful family situation, and a continuation of learning should you ever find yourself in the circumstance where you need to supply an education for your children or grandchildren.

There does not have to be a lot of cost involved. In fact, all of the materials you may choose to keep on hand will not be wasted as they can be used during the summer months to catch up should schools reopen.

As you read, please keep in mind that every situation will be different. If you are sheltering-in-place this option is more likely to be successful, but even in other scenarios these preps can provide a diversion and focus.

Key Considerations

Before you begin, there is a list of considerations to ponder about each child’s needs. I have found that the best way to accomplish a goal is to get a notebook or clipboard with paper. Make a separate plan for each child in your family, preschool through high school. The main thing is to take it slow and easy. Consider these questions.

  • What are the ages and grade levels to be taught?
  • How do I determine what materials are needed?
  • Do I need any special equipment?
  • What does this child enjoy learning about?
  • Where do I obtain the right materials and no or low cost?
  • Where do I store these materials?
  • Are there any special needs considerations and how do I meet those needs?

This may seem a bit complicated but let me assure you, to me, it is the easiest way to cover every base the first time. You know your children well, so this will take less time that you think and hopefully this article will make it easier by providing links and hints for your consideration and will help you get a head start. As you do this you will most likely come up with ideas and resources of your own to add to the ones I am suggesting. This is not an exhaustive list.

Ages and Grade Levels: Generally this is divided into three levels.

  • Preschool – 5th Grade
  • 6th Grade – 8th Grade
  • 9th Grade – 12th Grade

How to determine what materials are needed for the grade level I need?

Happily this will be determined for you by the sites I’ll include later.

Do I need any special equipment?

Because we are planning for basic grid down there will be no dependence upon technology. So think back to BC, before computers. What did your grandparents need? To start you off I’ll provide a short list as a place to begin. For most grade levels you will need pencils, pencil sharpener and erasers…. notebook paper, ruler, pens, colored pencils, markers. For preschool through 5th grade perhaps add crayons, construction paper, stickers, glue sticks, small magnifying glass and water based tempera paints and brushes.

If your older kids have a microscope already, one that doesn’t need electricity and the reflector light source is the sun, then that can become a useful tool as well. Consider the interests of each child.

Does your 4th grader love lego’s?

Find an extra set at a yard sale and hide it away. These can be used as math manipulatives for several grade levels and will usually occupy their creative minds for an extended time. You can have preschoolers group legos into color groups or even number groups. They make wonderful tools for addition and subtraction problems. Using a tool that they like increases the chance that they will stick to problem solving.

What Does This Child Enjoy Learning About?

As adults we really don’t enjoy learning about something in which we have no current interest. With a child, that doesn’t mean that “she hates math so just don’t do it”. It does mean that if she loves animals we can simply use them to set up math problems. In a home school situation the teacher/parent is free to be as creative as possible. You know your children better than anyone so use what interests them in order to engage them in the process of loving to learn.

If a child loves being outdoors, and being outside is possible, then by all means use the outdoors as your classroom occasionally. Biology, botany, ecology can all easily be hands-on, outdoor experiences …and the whole family can be included. Often older siblings are willing to become teacher or mentor.

Although you may not be able to use this exact situation below during a crisis it is an example of creative thinking and the idea can be applied to any area where your child expresses an interest.

Our first daughter loved to grocery shop with me when she was very young. At the age of 4 ½, she wanted to learn to read. So we made a shopping list together by looking through the cupboards and refrigerator to discover what needed to be replenished. Milk, M-I-L-K was written and the letters were sounded out phonetically. The same with APPLE, BANANA,… you get the idea. We practiced and because she found this an exciting exercise, she learned quickly.

She was given the list, which she had printed and then off to the small, local grocery we went, with her child-sized cart and list in hand. I could see the whole store from my bench near the checkout area. She accomplished her objective with no further assistance from me and was a very thrilled little girl. As she checked out (alone but under my glancing eye) the checker looked down and asked if she had money to pay for the things in her cart. She looked directly at the checker and said, “Of course I do.”

Over the next 2 years, this scenario expanded into spelling words, math and money management and all of the checkers wanted her in their checkout line.

If a child enjoys art have them dissect a flower and draw the parts.  Do a leaf rubbing with a crayon or pencil onto a plain piece of paper. Later in the day perhaps that child can do a show and tell for the whole family, sharing what they have learned and having older children or parents flesh out  details that are new and fun.

Where Do I Obtain the Right Materials at No or Low Cost?

Consider the public library. Usually three or four time a year our local library culls older or worn books. Sometimes a book is pulled because a newer edition has arrived. The cost is most often about 25-50 cents. Use this resource to add to your child’s reading and study materials. Buy reading material a grade above what the younger children are now using as well.

  • Often thrift stores are a rich source of learning materials.
  • Yard sales are a wonderful place for children’s books, puzzles and games.
  • Storage Units.

I once came across a full set of new high school literature books, complete with study and teacher guides. The storage unit owner was a sales rep for a school book publishing company and wanted to get rid of them…all new! I was given the set and then asked if I wanted more than one set. I ended up with about 6 complete sets which I packed into the car and brought back from Tennessee to Maryland and gave away to home school friends. Just last year I gave my set to my daughter who is now home schooling.

  • Try sales tables at larger bookstores like Barnes and Noble, (are they still around?) Amazon often has sales.

In a larger town near us there is a teacher swap store. You don’t have to be a public school teacher to “shop” there, nor do you have to have a swap item. The purpose is to share and recycle school supplies of all varieties that might otherwise be discarded.

  • Christmas is coming so giving fun educational games that the whole family can play together is something to consider.
  • Ask home schoolers the best places in your area to find low cost or free materials. They may even give you books or other items they no longer use. Over the years I have given away several whole curricula series.

Online resources are huge and they are FREE! Below I’ve made a list of some websites that offer free printable worksheets for various grade levels. These are most available in kindergarten through 5th grade however I have included a few sites that go up to 12th grade and include world and US history and geography.

Many are colorful and bright and cover a number of basic learning skills from telling time, identifying colors and shapes to printing, math, science, history, matching games and dot-to-dots. There are even debates subjects offered for older students. There are emergency services role play cards if you think that would fit your family dynamic. These role play cards are designed for elementary to pre-intermediate learners.

There are 6 different scenarios split between the police, ambulance and fire service. Students work in pairs to prepare and then act out a role play. This is a good game to play at the end of a lesson on emergency services to recap and practice using emergency-related vocabulary and how to respond in an emergency.

All of these resources are usually organized by grade and subject.

I am aware that computer services will most likely not be available in a crisis. That is why these worksheets should be copied and stored right now for possible future use. Keep each grade level and subject in separate color coded folders for each of your children. These folders cost about 15 cents at Walmart or Staples during the back to school sales.

This may seem overwhelming at first but it is something that can be accumulated over a few weeks or a few months. I know there are many benefits to having these educational preparedness folders completed and ready to go. Additionally, these worksheets and ideas are fun to have on hand in case of an large ice or snowstorm and boredom sets in.

Here is a start list below. I hope you’ll find it helpful.

There are literally hundred’s of free printable worksheets available. You are sure to find a few sites that are your favorites and that apply to your child’s age and grade level.

Where Do I Store These Materials?

Ideally each of your children will have a plastic lidded under-the-bed tote box with all of their learning supplies tucked inside. Another cheaper option might be a cardboard box that the child decorates. If this is not an option for you then make a drawstring bag in the size needed. Do what works for you. These are to be kept for special use only so when the time comes to use them there is an excitement and anticipation.

Are There any Special Needs Considerations and How Do I Meet Those Needs?

Consider your children’s needs. If there are learning challenges, chances are you already are aware of them and they have been addressed at his or her school.

Sometimes special needs require different learning styles. Some kids are audio learners, others visual or kinesthetic learners who use a tactile learning style which requires that they manipulate or touch material to learn.

As you set about collecting the materials, you need always keep in mind these learning styles. Even if you are never in a situation where you need the material you’ve collected, if your child has special needs and you are aware of their learning needs you will be in a much better place to assist them with homework or projects along their educational path even if no crisis comes along.

One More Thing

Let me share with you the very best and safest play dough recipe we’ve ever used. It’s so soft and pliable and, when covered, lasts a long time. This tactile substance leans itself to creativity and can occupy the attention of all ages. We’ve used this recipe for over 30 years and I use it now with our grandchildren. You can use it to sculpt letters and numbers. Make it into little balls and use for counting or addition and subtraction.

Play Dough Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 4 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons of oil
  • Food coloring

Mix first 3 ingredients in a medium sauce pan.

Stir in 2 C water with 2 T. oil. Over medium low heat continue to stir together. Add a few drops of food coloring and continue blending and cooking. The playdough will become drier. When it is the consistency you desire turn off the heat and allow to cool a little in the sauce pan. Remove from pan when cooled enough to handle and knead until smooth. Children will love to help with this. This can easily be done over a rocket stove, campfire or camping stove.

I am sure there are many more idea’s that will come to you and will apply to your family.  Share these idea’s with someone who may find them useful food for thought and action.

Let me say again, these suggestions are merely that. They’re something for you to ponder and decide if collecting and having learning materials on hand is something you need in case you do become an accidental home school Dad or Mom, Grandma or Grandpa in the face of a degrading society or crisis.

Blessings, Donna


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Being prepared to educate your kids continuously even when school may be closed long term is a great asset to your children. Find out how to go about preparing the right materials, information and resources for them in this article!

  1. I’ve spent some time thinking about this. In my estimation, the chances of my needing to suddenly homeschool my children are on the lower side (but of course not impossible). They are teenagers, so I wanted to make some simple preparations, but not go overboard. So I’ve kept my eyes open for classic books at yard sales etc (like Tom Sawyer, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird–stuff like that). I keep a healthy stock of school supplies, a box of paper (like 6 reams or so?) and a full set of computer ink on hand (except in an EMP we’d either have power or be running a generator at least at the start where I could print things off once I knew I had need). I also have two e-readers that I can load a lot of reading onto.

    So my big prep was to buy the A2 Homeschool Curriculum CD for $99 (apparently they went out of business last year). It has kindergarten through 12th on one CD–basically it’s created from free resources online and have reading, writing,basic math,History, social studies, copywork etc. I think there was also a math worksheet generator for the younger years. There is no advanced math or science. It’s VERY old fashioned, and the texts are things like McGuffy Readers. . . but I knew I wouldn’t go online and pull together a curriculum each year just in case I needed it. So it was a one and done purchase that could be used for some semblance of an education in extreme circumstances.

    A similar resource is the Robinson Cirriculum (k-12) which is $195. There is also a website called “An Old Fashioned Education” that apparently has tons of the same kind of information but for free (and you’d have to pull it all together yourself).

    1. Dear Jenn,
      You are doing just the right thing…..preparing. As I mentioned, each family’s needs are unique! You’ve got some good resources that you feel comfortable with because you did a little digging. “Simple preparations without going overboard” is the approach I would take too.

  2. I have always wondered about this and tried to research this but they act like you will have computers and pads and things and when it happens you wont. I thank you for doing an article on just what I wanted. Thank you very much

    1. Dear Jere,
      You are right. So many assume electronics will be available when that is definitely not assured. Glad you are thinking of prepping wisely and thinking things through. It makes my heart feel so good when an article I write fills as need !Happy that you can use the information. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. I absolutely love the story about your daughter shopping! May I also suggest a set of encyclopedias, I don’t recall the last year they were published, but the newest ones you can find. That and a good dictionary, and you have teaching tools at your hand. You can choose lessons at random, or let the children choose them. A good atlas would be helpful. All can be obtained at library sales as you mentioned, yard sales, and thrift stores. A good thesaurus (geez, am I a dinosaur, or does anyone use these anymore?) Roberts Rules, a Bible (Torah, or book of your religion). And what was that book we all had to use for writing reports? I can’t think of the name of it…

    1. The MLA handbook was the standard for term papers when I was in school. I also always liked “Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. It was a thin grammar book written with such panache & humor that I read it straight through like a novel!

      And the encyclopedias etc are a good idea. I bought a used set of world book- but it’s missing the S 🙁 I’ve also got my old dictionary/thesaurus set & used to make the kids use it to make the kids use it instead if looking words up online. They hated it 😉

  4. Dear Grammyprepper,
    Thanks, our daughter still remembers that time in her schooling and is now using it in a similar way while homeschooling her son. Hand- on, meaningful learning seems to last. Yes a good set of encyclopedia…..a thesaurus (love that little gem)…. and a dictionary. May I recommend Webster’s 1928 The American Dictionary of the English Language. It contains the foundation of America’s heritage and principal beliefs. It’s an investment of about $45.but worth the expense. One of my children would just “read” this book for fun! And, as you mentioned, ,most importantly, study your scriptures and religious texts . I don’t remember the writing report book either! I guess that’s because I’m a Grammy too!

  5. Very interesting article. I don’t have children or grandchildren to teach at home but have always wondered about the process. This article gave me a good idea of the benefits and challenges of homeschooling!

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