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 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Math, Science, Computing, Test Prep and more: Khan Academy
- Science: The Happy Scientist
- Writing: Young Writer’s Program, The Inspired Scholar (writing & literature classes that can be taken online)
- Spelling and Vocabulary: Spelling City
- Current Events: Student News Daily
- History: Have Fun with History
- Art: Mark Kistler Art Lessons
- Multiple Topics: BrainPop
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.
Besides “pleasure reading” books, what kind of books should you buy?
A workbook that covers broad topics for the entire grade. You buy and use them throughout the year, save them for use during the summer before buying the next grade’s workbook, or not use them at all and save them for younger children or to sell or donate to others.
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 covers math, literature, history, and science.
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, that’s 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:
- 8000 Awesome Things You Should Know
- DK Encyclopedia of Science
- National Geographic Answer Book
- Time for Kids Big Book of How
- The New Way Things Work
You can also find sets of encyclopedias for sale on eBay, Craigslist, in used bookstores and 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.