When the Unthinkable Happens

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A reader recently wrote and asked me to consider writing on a topic that, as it turns out, had already been heavily on my mind recently – what would happen with the kids and  their education if their homeschool mom were seriously injured or died.

Sadly, the reason it had been so heavy on my heart is that this just happened to a homeschool mom I know. She was only 41 years old and her death was completely unexpected. She left behind her husband and three children, ranging in age from 6-12.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a homeschool mom with whom I’m acquainted has passed away unexpectedly. Several years ago, a homeschool mom and dad and one of their three children were killed in a car accident.

So, how do you plan for the unexpected and unthinkable?

Acting on a suggestion I read somewhere several years ago, my husband and I changed our life insurance policy to cover the payoff of our home and two years of expenses if something should happen to him. That way, the kids and I would not have to make any rushed decisions regarding their education if something happened to their dad.

But, what if something happened to me?

I’ve always thought that the death of a homeschool mom was a double blow to the kids. Not only have they lost their mom, but their whole world, likely, is going to be turned upside down, without even the comfort of a familiar daytime routine to provide them with some sense of normalcy.

What are some things you should consider when planning for something that you hope never happens?

**Disclaimer: This is the part where I should point out that I haven’t taken my own advice, beyond brainstorming ideas.

Is there a close homeschool mom friend who might be willing to school your children? This would be one huge responsibility, commitment, and, in all honesty, burden to ask someone to undertake because it would involve a huge disruption to not only another family’s school day, but their lives as well since we all know that homeschooling is as much a lifestyle as it is an educational choice.

For that reason, to even consider asking this of another family is something that would require much prayer. Then, if it was decided to move forward, I would not accept their answer until they’d had some time to carefully pray over the decision.

Is there a close friend or relative who might be able to act as caregiver for your children? Kids who are a little older are often fairly independent with their schoolwork. In that case, it might be that they simply need someone to by physically responsible for and available to them during the day.

A grandparent might be able to take on the role of caregiver while Dad is working. There are a lot of computer or online programs, such as Switched-on-Schoolhouse, that would allow a child to work mostly on her own. Working with a Dad or a tutor in the evenings or on the weekend is a possibility, as well.

Could (or does) Dad work a non-traditional shift? If so, it could be that he could be available to the kids during the day and they could spend the night with grandparents or other relatives or a caregiver could spend the nights with them. Of course, Dad has to sleep sometime, too, so that would have to be taken into consideration.

Could (or does) Dad work from home? This could alleviate the caregiver issue. In this case, Dad might be able to help with schoolwork or even hire a tutor. A responsible college student might be a good option in a case like this, depending on your state’s homeschool laws.

Are you prepared for public/private school to be an option? Unfortunately, public or private school may be the only option in the event of the death or debilitating injury of a homeschool mom. This might be one of those times that standardized test records or portfolios are beneficial. These records of your child’s achievements and abilities might make the entrance to a more traditional form of education easier, from an administrative/placement standpoint.

It’s probably a good idea to discuss the options with your spouse. If there is a private school that you would prefer, finances may be a consideration, which may influence your decisions regarding your own life insurance coverage.

Nobody wants to think about such a tragedy occurring in your family, but I’d rather have a plan in place and never need it than have tragedy strike and find my family completely unprepared.

Have you ever considered what might happen in the event of your untimely death? Do you have any suggestions or considerations to add?


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  1. Funny-I have had the same concerns!  There is a wonderful Christian private school close to where we live, and if I could afford it, my kids would be there!  If I should pass away, the money would be there for that school.

  2. Yes, this is something we've discussed, for a very specific reason – my sister's husband is in the military and has deployed a few times(and is deploying again in December) to a war zone.  They homeschool, as do we. 

    The plan, should the unthinkable happen to any one of us, is for the bereaved family to move in with the other, wherever that is (we're on opposite ends of the country right now).

      The widow(er) would pursue education and employment, while the children from both families would be homeschooled by the remaining mom/aunt.  It wouldn't be easy.  Between us we'll have 11 children come January.  But it would be worth it.  Extended family would lend support, both financial and otherwise as needed.  Homeschooling our children is that important. 

    We've also discussed what would happen should BOTH parents die.  Basically it is the same scenario – the surviving aunt/uncle would raise and homeschool all the children, with grandparents/extended family helping out finiancially or otherwise as needed.

    Obviously, we pray that none of it ever happens!

  3. We've thought a lot about this too. Haven't gotten all the particulars worked out just yet and we may never completely get them worked out. I'm praying we'll never need to 🙁  One thing we do know….We are striving to stay debt free, so *if* something like this was ever to happen, hopefully, the surviving spouse could (quit work – if applicable) and stay home with the kiddos, continue to home school them, and live off of the insurance policy. We were tossing around the idea of about 2 years as well…just using that time to focus on God and each other. During this time, we would reevaluate educational choices – public-private-home school, job choices, etc… Then, go with what God was leading us to do next.  

    This actually happened to my mom, so it hits pretty close to home and is what really got us thinking about this. My mom passed away this past December. She was s stay-st-home mom and pretty much had been our entire lives. Most of the kiddos were grown, out of the house, and had families of our own.  I still had 2 brothers at home though – a 9th grader (who attended the local high school) and a 3rd grader who was homeschooled. My mom had been battling cancer pretty much the last 8 years of her life, so when she passed away, it was an *easier* transition for my little brother to join in with me and my kiddos in homeschooling. Don't get me wrong, it was still extremely difficult (especially the remainder of that school year), but the fact that she was sick for so long, we had already slowly started integrating my little brother in with us here and there in the last few weeks before my mom's death. My older brother still attends the local high school. (I did offer to homeschool him though should he ever choose to do so though 😉

    This next part is a bit of a sore subject for me…My father, however, works off-shore and continues to do so. I can't tell you how disconnected he is from his kids, especially his teenage son. He was already disconnected before, and at a time when they really needed him to be there, his job came first. My sisters and brothers and I have tried our best to fill in the gaps, but it is NOT the same as a parent. Because of what we have seen and experienced first hand, my husband and I are taking steps (Lord willing) to ensure that if one of us was to pass away, the other would be there for the kids, at least as much as one could be and still meet the basic needs (food, clothing, shelter….and most important…God and love).

    This is a tough subject to discuss, but one I feel is very needed. Thanks for posting…you have many great ideas and discussion starters.  

  4. This is actually something I was thinking about lately when I had read about (and prayed for) a homeschooling mom of 9 who recently lost her battle with cancer.  We have life insurance, but haven't really talked about or planned out what we would do.  Like you, we have enough coverage if God forbid something was to happen to my husband, to cover the mortgage payoff and several years of expenses with the understanding that I would continue to homeschool.  But, we haven't ever discussed in any detail what would happen if something were to happen to me.  Thanks for bringing up something that unfortunately needs to be brought up in every family.

  5. This is a great post.  One my sister and  I have both talked about.  We jokingly have said we can just never die.

     But seriously, my husband and I have it worked out that my sister and her husband will take care of our children and she will homeschool them if my husband and I were both to die.   But if I were to die I could see my sister staying with our family for a while(she lives out of state).  I do have a friend that homeschools her children that might take on schooling our kids too.   If at all possible I would try to keep them out of Public school, that would be a last resort. 

    These are all good questions to think about. 

  6. We have to think about what happens if our sole wage earner can no longer work. My husband has a very weak heart and what happens if he can't work and I have to? We haven't yet talked about this because the news is so fresh but we have to very soon.

  7. This is a really important thing to think about, Kris, and you get kudos for tackling an uncomfortable topic!

    I had to really think this one through when my first marriage ended.  My ex-husband was still supportive of me homeschooling our kids even though we were divorcing, and we realized that especially in light of our break-up, we needed a plan agreed upon for the kids provision.

    We had taken out extra life insurance on me when we first started homeschooling, so there was money "set aside" for private school or hiring tutors if I were to die.  We also had the active involvement of my parents and my sister's family (also homeschoolers) as possible resources for the actual schooling.

    But the biggest thing I did at that pivotal point was to start actively building a community for our homeschool.  I love your quote at the top of WUHS about having seen the village, and not wanting it to raise your child!  🙂  But I realized as I was now a single mom that I needed to selectively assemble "villagers" who could help me, especially since I was more vulnerable than I had ever been before.  Yes, financially my ex-husband was supportive of our homeschool, and he paid child support in a timely fashion (praise God for that….I know many single moms who cannot count on that), but if I even got seriously ill for a period of time, the kids education was really going to suffer.

    Homeschooling in community has been a fundamental part of our life since 2003 when my first marriage ended.  I am so thankful for the other families I gradually found to work with in co-ops, in classes, on projects, and in LIFE — helping each other through rough patches.  Building a village is a beautiful thing, and a smart homeschool mom will realize that if something tragic should happen to her, having her kids connected to aweseome villagers will help them make it through, perhaps even able to continue their education as homeschoolers.

  8. This is something that is in the back of my mind all the time.  It terrifies me.  I often pray that the Lord will allow me to live long enough to see my boys through school.  I still don't have any answers that puts my mind at ease.  I'm just trying to trust on the Lord for that entire situation.  

  9. That is incredible, Tristan. As hard as it is to think about something like that, it's something that we really need to plan for. I think it's wonderful that your family has committed to be there for each other in such a tangible way. I hope you never, ever have to put your plan into action.

  10. I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom, Pauline. It's wonderful how you and your husband have stepped up to be there for your younger brothers. Giving them the comfort that comes from a familiar routine and the love of family is a wonderful gift.

  11. Selective assembly of a village…I love that! That is a fantastic concept and I think it's great that you have thought of the things that you or your kids might face and have made plans for things that we'd all prefer not to think about.

  12. I wish I could encourage all parents to consider these things!  We are a military family and it can be painful, but these conversations are quite necessary!!  Please have a plan in place so that while you are grieving you are not also being forced to make such huge decisions!

    My hubby would move back home and send our kids to the Christian school there, my death benefits would cover that.  My husband took out a separate insurance policy so that I would not have to worrry about finances in the event of his death.

  13. This is something that my husband and I have discussed, because a few years ago, two of our friends got cancerous brain tumours.  Both were homeschooling dads whose sons were my second son's best friends.  It was shocking and such a hard time.  In both cases, the moms had to go back to work and the kids had to be put in school at what was already a stressful time in their lives.  Just a few months later, a friend of mine who was homeschooling her son died unexpectedly in her sleep and her son (who has been pulled out of school a few years earlier when he was bullied terribly) had to go to school.  It really hit home for me.  

    I don't have any good answers though.  We are well insured so that if my husband died, I would be able to continue homeschooling until the kids are grown, but if he were to get sick, we only have enough disability insurance for a few months worth.

    If I were to die, there is enough insurance that my husband wouldn't have to go back to work for a year or two, but he says that he would put the kids in school and I so wouldn't want that.  I had never thought of asking another homeschooling family to homeschool my kids, but after reading your post and some of the responses, I think I will talk with my husband again.  He had already expressed that he would prefer to return to work right away if I died, so maybe he could use the money to pay someone we trusted to homeschool the kids for at least a few years.  I'm thankful that we have so much life insurance that that could be an option.

    Thank you for posting about this.  It really has me thinking.

  14. I actually faced this myself as a homeschool mom.  Was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at 45 yrs. old, when my youngest son was beginning his freshman year and my oldest his junior year.  Somehow we continued to homeschool through that long arduous year of treatments, but throughout I was so unsure whether I was actually going to survive, as there was bad news after bad news and my survival seemed so uncertain.  My husband even lost his job the week before my surgery and we were already quite strapped financially (as we always had been from homeschooling, let alone these massive, unexpected medical bills!)  But I am glad to testify that God was with us and for us every step of the way!  We did make a plan, though.  Our plan was that the kids would go into a nearby Christian school were I to die.  And fortunately my husband had taken a life insurance policy out on me when we were younger, at the same time he had taken one out on himself.  The one for me has been inexpensive all these years (only $8/month) for about $100,000 coverage.  And we were so happy to have it, as we knew this would help pay for the rest of their schooling and free up my husband for any other decisions he might need to make in the event I was no longer here.  I think having that insurance policy on me was a good decision back then and would recommend it to anyone who is still young enough to make it financially feasible to do so.  Knowing there was a plan and provision for my kids brought me such peace of mind during this most incredibly difficult and frightening time in my life!  I would like to also mention that both my boys are now graduated from Christian colleges, and the first in now in grad school on a full scholarship.  God not only let me live, but He quite miraculously provided for their higher educations with scholarships and grants so there was very minimal debt involved.  I am here to say that if the unthinkable happens, you can trust God to be there.  He will be with you.  It may not be easy, but He will be with you and provide for everything He knows you — and your kids! — most need!  

  15. Thank you so much for posting this and opening up the conversation!  Your post & the comments below it brought up so many key points that I hadn't even thought of!  I need to absolutely discuss this further with my husband and see what we can put into place.

    My prayer would be that the life insurance we have would be enough to cover my mom or sister to quit working for a year or two & take my kids (1st grade & 2 years old) during the day so my husband could work.  But there is so much involved in that.  Homeschooling, the fact that my husband travels for weeks at a time, etc. etc. etc.  

    It's a lot to consider and while I pray we never find ourselves facing those decisions I would rather make them now then when it's too late.

  16. In an event like that, there's nothing better than having a sister…. I do know that you love nieces and nephews in a way you don't love other kids, and the bond can be really strong from the very beginning.
    Good for you for having discussed this. I think about this so often, but hubby and I never have any clear direction.
    We just pray God would leave me (and him) until the kids are old enough…
    Anne x

  17. Hi Kris,
    I hadn't even seen this earlier post in my feed reader when I commented on your Cristina post earlier today.  But, of course, I've been thinking about this too.  As a single mom, who thankfully is able to continue to homeschool with the support of ex-husband,  I hope to get a plan together for the just in case.  One idea that is top of my list is a 12 year (or in my case 10 year) curriculum plan.  It need not be perfect, but will give the basic info and how and where, etc.  I should probably post on this too, given my circumstances.  Anyway, thanks again for sharing.


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