5 back to school sanity savers

Written by Cait Curley of My Little Poppies

When it comes to homeschooling, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

No matter how much time you put into homeschool planning and organization, things will pop up.

  • Sick days
  • Car trouble
  • Leaky ceilings
  • Awful weather
  • Broken dishwashers
  • Orthodontist appointments
  • Toddlers underfoot
  • Unexpected work deadlines

You get the idea.

I don’t know about you guys, but I always feel better when I have a few go-to resources tucked in my back pocket.

5 Back to School Sanity Savers | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

Photo by David Pennington

Today, I am sharing five of my favorite tried-and-true sanity savers. When you are finished reading, I’d love to hear your family’s go-to resources for those harder homeschool seasons.

When I am looking for a back pocket homeschool resource, I consider the following:

  • Educational value 
  • Fun factor
  • Ease of use (When you are in a tough season, you want to keep it simple and easy!)
  • Cost

Without further ado, here are my top five go-to homeschool sanity savers…

1. Awesome audiobooks

An amazing audiobook has the power to transport your entire family to another time and place.

5 Back to School Sanity Savers | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

This series captivated us all summer!

Audiobooks can erase cares, distract sick kiddos, assist with bedtime, and make long road trips painless!

This summer, our family devoured The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, is one of the best narrators we have ever heard.

Here are other audiobooks we have enjoyed recently:

2. Incredible documentaries

I love a good documentary, you guys!

Documentaries are one of my go-to resources for unit studies, cruddy weather days, sick days, quiet time, and delight-driven learning opportunities. 

5 Back to School Sanity Savers | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

There are lots of options on the market today, but I am a huge fan of CuriosityStream. Unlike other resources, CuriosityStream only offers documentaries so kids aren’t peeking over your shoulder asking to watch Tinkerbell and the Neverbeast.

(Not that there is anything wrong with a movie night- there isn’t! It’s just that when I am muddling through a difficult homeschool season, I like to increase our educational programming!)

Here are some of our family’s favorite documentary resources:

3. Podcasts for the whole family

Podcasts are a wonderful way to sneak in learning during an otherwise chaotic day. I’ll often pop on a podcast while the kids are eating lunch or while we are driving around crossing off errands.

There are some incredible podcasts for children out there!

Here are a few podcasts we have enjoyed over the years:

4. Virtual field trips

We are so lucky to be homeschooling in the digital age!

Virtual Field Trips are a wonderful way to learn about the world around you without leaving your kitchen. They are great for multi-age families, large families, sick days, lousy weather days, and for those in rural areas.

5 Back to School Sanity Savers | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

Several years ago, our family stumbled upon a service called FieldTripZoom (there are other options on the market today, too!).

A FTZ membership offered our family unlimited access to virtual field trips across the country. We have visited the Alaska SeaLife Center, Baseball Hall of Fame, Cleveland Museum of Art, Country Music Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Aquarium, Holocaust Memorial, The National D-Day Memorial, and many, many others. (At the time we signed up, a family membership cost $49.95, which is less than we’d pay for one field trip in the Boston area!)

Here are some of our family’s favorite virtual field trip resources:

5. Educational games

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the power of an educational game. Whenever we are struggling in our homeschool, I pull out a game. Play has the power to transform the homeschool dynamic, spread smiles, and make memories.

Plus, games offer countless stealth learning opportunities! Gameschooling adds a special spark to the homeschool routine.

5 Back to School Sanity Savers | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

If you need help getting started with gameschooling, these articles might help:

You can’t plan for everything, but you can keep something in your back pocket to make those unexpected homeschool situations less stressful!

Tell us in the comments- what is your favorite back-to-homeschool resource?

If you found this post helpful, subscribe via email here to receive Jamie’s FREE ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission for purchases made through them.

About Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. You can also find her hanging out with Kara at The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.


  1. Aileen humphries says:

    Nice suggestions. I am looking for technology free ideas.. games might be it for my youngest with ASD who gets too addicted to electronics very easily. For my oldest we are looking for a unit study or several she can do independant. We will take a reading day sometimes when life gets in the way, but my youngest can’t read yet so it ends in crying for computer games all day…

  2. Yes visual electronics are not a good option in our house. But I’ve found that audio books are a nice in between. No visual but I’m not on the spot. I suspect podcasts will work the same… no visual. And I’ve started working on collecting several one person type games since my oldest is oldest by 5 yrs. And when life us hard I’m not necessarily up for a game myself

  3. Cait!!!
    These are wonderful suggestions and exactly what I needed this week. 🙂

  4. Wonderful helps. Unfortunately, as we come out of a partial summer break these are the things I want to use everyday.

  5. Thank you so much! I’m actually gonna bookmark this.

  6. We love podcasts too! Sparkle Stories is one of our favorites.

  7. A couple things we do or have done (7th, 5th, 2nd grades this year):
    1) When *I* am the one lethargic and unmotivated, I have learned, as you mentioned, to pick up a book that *I* love and just sit and read it to the kids. The first time I really discovered this my kids were probably 4, 7, 9. I picked up Anne of Green Gables, of all things! I LOVE the imagery and the story. And of course there was PLENTY of vocab to explain! I knew stopping after chapter 1 might leave them saying it was boring, so I pushed ahead into ch 2. By then they, too, were in love. We had hot chocolate and loved just having fun with the book. That may have been a Friday and we read more on Sat. So then, come Monday, we were all eager to hear more — and the pump had been primed for the rest of our schooling.
    2) When Mom is *sick*, like with the flu, and Dad has to teach, sometimes it is hard for the kids to explain where they are at in the curriculum. (Or I was so unorganized that no one but me could figure out the system, lol!) On days like that, we found it helpful to have one of those books that are 2 inches thick and have worksheets for all subjects in a grade level. Then the kids or dad could pick out something fun to work on (fun because we didn’t use those workbooks often) and dad could help them learn something that day without needing to bother me as I slept.
    3)One year plagued me with health issues. I don’t think I ended up 1/3 of the way through our curriculum that year. My husband started to wonder if I was actually (physically) able to teach them, or if, to comply with the law, we should enroll them in public school until I healed up (I was really quite ill). I knew we were learning, but found it hard to explain what. I had been learning about “unschooling” here on Simple Homeschool and found that concept so freeing during my illness. So I began documenting on my wall calendar, what we DID accomplish school-wise that day. We soon realized that our kids were most certainly learning, just not in a traditional manner. Today we are not so loose, but then my kids are older and I am healthier. But that year, my day might read something like: Read Mr. Popper’s Penguins/ch 3; handwriting worksheet, played “store”, watched Mr. Rogers “crayon factory”, baked cookies, math worksheet, created a Lego piano, watched Travel with Kids.” At home, without the calendar, it looked like we read a little, did 2 worksheets, and played all day. But when I slowed down and wrote what we actually *learned*, it was really quite a successful day! This also motivated me to intentionally look for more interest-led learning opportunities — so I could write more down. It helped me both see what we WERE learning and be intentional for MORE learning — in non-traditional ways.
    4) After reading to the kids a biography of George Mueller, there was a phrase which stood out to me during one particular incident at the orphanage. He had to have workers for the furnace and the furnace was off 2 days –in the winter! . So at the start, he prayed, “Lord, give them a mind to work.” (And God did!) A phrase which has become a prayer of mine — for both my kids and myself as well. Sometimes plugging away with a happy heart is difficult and I simply do not WANT to put the effort into teaching today. And my kids are the same way. Lord, give ME a mind to work! Lord. Give US a mind to work.

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