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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

50 Survival School Life Hacks Keep Kids Busy and Moms Happy


Mary Ellen has practical tips and a house full of fun activities to keep you and the kids on top when circumstances threaten to turn your world upside down.

One of the most often asked questions of both counselors and on social media is “how to catch up” when something derails the homeschooling for any length of time.


It worries mothers to no end that each day a math lesson is missed that they fall further and further “behind” and that their child will suffer because of the delay in getting the work done.

It always makes us feel bad that moms, going through bouts of illness or family situations, place the added burden of worrying about long division or sentence diagramming lessons on themselves.

“To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose” Eccles. 3:1

Your purpose in a particularly challenging time may not be to worry about these things, (as Martha did). Such matters will always be with us but our responsibility is to ask God what He needs of us at this time. What He requires might very well be to shelve the books and minister to the needs of those around us.

Each year there is a new strain of flu virus, a new stomach ailment, a grandparent that needs more help and maybe a pregnancy, which is certainly the most joyful of situations but still very taxing. This year the challenge is more far-reaching and frightening.

We are faced with the potential for grave illness, unemployment, and food shortages. Perhaps you are already experiencing these situations, I know I am.

The Secret About Control

Homeschool families usually have a lot of control in their days, but now, each day brings a different set of circumstances, so, like the rest of the world, we are faced with uncertainty.

You may not be at all in control of the circumstances you are placed in, but you can control the way you respond. That phrase, “when mom isn’t happy, nobody is happy,” is true. We set the tone, and the tone can be stressed and panicky or peaceful and accommodating.

Since the restrictions following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, you may have a lot more people in the house, working from home, temporarily unemployed, or just anxious. This can make it extremely difficult to have a productive school day.


When going through a difficult season, there are some practical things you can do to ease the burden and help keep you feeling in control.

The first one is, of course, to pray and ask God to guide your day. You will find that He really does respond in a very concrete way to these requests, and suddenly you will be in no doubt about what your priority should be for that day.

The next thing is to call Seton and speak to a counselor.

Let them know what is going on and ask for what you need. Do you need an extension for the year? Suggestions about organizing your workload? Are there assignments that you can prioritize over others? Ask all the questions.

You can also ask for a call back from myself or Ginny Seufrett. Both of us have been at this a while and would be happy to advise you.

Another thing is to just keep up with the three R’s. Reading, Religion, and aRithmatic. Those are the subjects that most people find difficult to catch up with once they take some time off. Even fifteen minutes a day will make returning to a normal schedule less difficult.

Make use of the older people in the house who might find themselves at a loose end right now. They can take over teaching history or science for you. Reading aloud or cooking lunch would help. Let them pitch in in all the ways that feel like too much for you right now.

Think outside of the box when situating people. I have four extra people working in the house right now, all needing space and wifi. We invested in a wifi extender, set up a few folding tables, and started a second coffee pot.

If you have people with not much to do or who are missing their friends and activities, and there is only so much reading a person can do, then here are a few ideas to keep busy.

50 Survival School Life Hacks

  1. Spring clean-up of the yard.
  2. Organize photo albums, both digital and book type.
  3. Clean closets.
  4. Do some research and pick a patron saint for your family.
  5. Use up all those craft supplies you never have time to use is a great resource.
  6. Learn a new skill. is a great resource for this.
  7. Pull out some exercise videos and challenge yourself.
  8. Make a spiritual communion while watching daily Mass. Here is a link to the Chapel of Apparitions at Fatima
  9. Set up an obstacle course in the backyard.
  10. Set up camp in the yard and camp out.
  11. Make your own ice cream in a bag
  12. Measure each room in the house and figure out the area and perimeter.
  13. Make a bird feeder and then chart how many different birds come to visit.
  14. Start some seeds and plan out a garden.
  15. Take a walk.
  16. Write letters to the friends you are missing.
  17. Make paper airplanes and have a distance contest
  18. Tour Yellowstone National Park, virtually
  19. Visit the San Diego Zoo
  20. Take a tour of Mars
  21. Here is a link to museum tours of twelve museums around the world
  22. Learn three new jokes
  23. Learn to yodel
  24. Learn a magic trick
  25. Research your family tree. Call your relatives to find out all about their ancestors.
  26. Copy the pictures in your favorite picture book.
  27. Make a timeline of your family’s history.
  28. Make a timeline of one century in history that interests you. Illustrate it beautifully.
  29. Learn to cook a dish from a country you are unfamiliar with.
  30. Learn to roast a chicken properly.
  31. Learn Morse code.
  32. Create your own secret code and write notes to each other.
  33. Write letters and make cards for people in nursing homes who can’t have visitors.
  34. Pick ten different leaves and flowers from your neighborhood. Look them up to classify them and make drawings. Start a nature journal.
  35. Begin a commonplace book.
  36. Learn ten phrases in a foreign language.
  37. Learn two prayers in Latin.
  38. Learn to bake bread.
  39. Make a sourdough starter.
  40. Pull out all of the Legos and build a new world.
  41. Watch Rick Steves videos and plan a dream vacation.
  42. Draw a map of your neighborhood. Color it fancifully.
  43. Draw a map of a fictional place from a book you love. Be imaginative.
  44. Act out a scene from a Shakespeare play.
  45. Memorize a funny poem. Have a poetry reading.
  46. Play board games.
  47. Invest in a 1000 piece puzzle. No screens until it is complete.
  48. Play charades.
  49. Have a dress-up night. Everyone comes to the dinner table dressed as their favorite character.
  50. Learn origami

Please let us know how you are doing in these trying times, share on our Facebook page your tips for keeping life steady, and please let us know if we can be of any assistance.

Note: When linking to another website, it is in no way an endorsement of that website. Please use your own judgment when clicking through.

About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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