It is the goal of many of us is to prepare not only for the collapse of society as we know it, but to prepare to rebuild and move on after that collapse has run its course.
We have ensured we have enough tools, food, and weaponry to make it through the worst of the collapse and we have built skills and made plans to see us through to our new way of life.
However, there is one thing that is often overlooked when planning for a new era of human existence – the education of our children and grandchildren.
What we have to remember is that although the world as we know it might change drastically, we still have a responsibility as parents and as a community to raise the next generation of people who will take over for us when we get old.
There are many questions that pop up when we think about this monumental task. Who will teach them? What will we teach them? How will we teach them? Now is the time to prepare for this aspect of survival.
Schooling? In a Post-SHTF Scenario?
To some the question of homeschooling in a post-SHTF scenario no doubt seems mildly ridiculous. Or even properly ridiculous.
After all, in the aftermath of a major event that has seen society topple or at the very least grind to a halt and “the way things were” being nothing more than a quickly vanishing memory there are probably much more pressing, more serious and more consequential problems than making sure the children get in their daily lessons.
Problems like keeping them fed, keeping them hydrated, keeping them sheltered and keeping them safe from both existential and predatory human threats, for starters.
Everything that you anticipate going through and the aftermath of an SHTF scenario will also be events that your children, of any age, must also go through.
This might escape the minds of those without children of their own, but it will be first and foremost among the thoughts of every parent. But even preppers without kids of their own have nieces, nephews, young cousins and so forth.
If you and your children, or your entire family, are forced to bug-out on foot do you really think there will be time for formalized education even in an at-home setting? Is the mere notion of proper classroom format teaching a pipedream or something that will surely occur once again someday?
Immediate Survival Concerns Preclude Schooling
Of course, neither I nor anyone else that I know have claimed that you should be busting out your ABC’s, arithmetic and U.S. history in the immediate aftermath of an SHTF event.
All of the adults and the vast majority of the children are going to be too stressed-out to be concerned with such a thing even if their immediate safety is not in question. Spoiler warning: chances are good that their safety will be in question, but never mind that for now.
What I’m referring to is the intermediate-term future after an SHTF event; the time when the seas have stopped roaring and the mountains no longer give up their dead. “The Event” has passed, and now we are properly in the aftermath phase.
The assumption is that things have settled down to a degree where life will more or less start to fall into the new “normal”, and most people make the assumption that the new normal is simply a more austere version of the old normal; more rubble, fewer utilities, damaged infrastructure but more or less recognizable life with all of the familial and societal roles that that entails.
Unless you are very fortunate or very far from the event in question, this is unlikely to be the case. The continued and ongoing survival of you and your family will mandate in all likelihood an all-hands-on-deck approach to the rude business of survival, whatever that looks like in your specific situation.
There will be an awful lot to do and surely not enough hands to do it. Pretty much every able-bodied adult will be busily working on any one of numerous tasks all competing for a limited time in the day and limited energy.
Put another way, this is a matter of logistics: if you need people to watch the perimeter, work in the garden, fetch and purify water, prepare food, preserve food, hunt, gather, scavenge, repair, scout, barter and so on, who is available to sit down and actually teach the children?
Make no mistake, an adult or, at the very least, a near-adult older teenager will have to watch the younger kids at pretty much all times to ensure their safety in such a trying situation.
This is not to say the children will not be engaging in any activity or even be helping with small, menial tasks and learning that way, but the notion that any able-bodied adult or older child will be taking time off a post or job to engage in semi-formal homeschool sessions is improbable under the circumstances.
Schooling is Still an Important Consideration
It sounds like I have been pretty hard on the idea of homeschooling in the greater context of a survival situation. This is not entirely true, as I only hope to dispel the idea that it is possible to get right back to business as usual in anything resembling a timely fashion after a serious SHTF event.
That being said, in all but the most dire and austere of conditions, schooling of children remains an important and necessary facet of life and indeed civilization.
So when should schooling be reinstituted post-SHTF? You are correct to assume that formal, institutional schooling is probably going to be a little farther out near the horizon.
What is more likely to occur is legitimate homeschooling, or at the very best “single room” schoolhouse teaching handed over to one of the adults best suited for the task.
This will probably occur during the nascent “rebirth” of a recognizable community, even if the community is something closer to a hamlet comprised of several families in your immediate survival orbit.
This is most likely to occur when an equilibrium of existence, of life, has been reached in the aftermath.
When the people who were going to die have died, when the existential and the predatory threats have been neutralized or driven away, when a more or less reliable source of food, water and shelter has been sorted out, and when the borders of your burgeoning community have been established and are guarded, then schooling is likely to resume so long as there is a surplus of manpower to enable it.
So why would schooling be important now, and not previously if children are so important?
Simply stated, though school was out learning was always occurring with the children prior to this point, only it occurred through observation and engaging in activities among themselves and with adults.
Think of it as on-the-job learning for kids. Institutionalized learning is a bit different, more akin to a structured offline saving of information deemed vital, and necessary for turning out productive citizens of any civilization.
I am not dogging the idea, not necessarily, as kids grow quickly and an education in society-specific information and situational skills is paramount if they are to develop into capable, useful adults for their communities.
But I do assert that you and your group/tribe will be well along the road to “new normal” before formal schooling of any sort is once again an agenda.
That being said, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure, and you should assume that you and yours will survive to pave the way for new society to rise from the ashes of the one that lies brick beside smoldering brick at your feet.
With that assumption in mind, what is the best way to go about this business?
Plan Now to Educate Later
Make the education of your children part of your preps. Period. Plan it out now and set aside the supplies, books, and information you will need when it matters, just in case there is no school to send them to later.
Many prepping families already homeschool their kids, which probably makes them more prepared than other prepping families. Am I saying you should all pull your kids out of school and start homeschooling them? Not at all!
What I am saying is that if you haven’t already given education some thought, now’s the time to do it. Once the SHTF, chaos will reign supreme.
Family vs. Community
While it is important to think of educating your children post-SHTF in a homeschool setting, it is important to also consider it in terms of the broader community.
It all depends on the magnitude of the SHTF event and you should be ready for anything.
If the event is something that will be short-term or will not drastically change living conditions or a community over a long period of time (such as a severe weather event), then you will probably still be very connected to your local community.
If it’s more catastrophic, such as a massive economic collapse, nuclear war, or pandemic, you might rely more on yourselves and any other preppers with whom you have formed a connection.
But if you still have a community after the SHTF, make use of it!
Here is an example. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, one community built their own school.
They had learned that it would be as much as six months before the government would be able to get schools up and running again in the area and some people, including the local school superintendent, took it upon themselves to create their own community school.
Their primary goal was to keep their first responders in the area so the community would continue to have their help. The end result was hundreds of children coming to the school from nearby neighborhoods.
The reason for this was that it re-established a sense of normalcy for the children and adults of the area.
This is a lesson to us all. When the world falls apart, we need to re-establish that sense of normalcy and a community school is a good way to do that. It becomes a rallying point for the community.
Whether it is your prepper community or the community in which you live, if you have other people to work with, you can create an alternative school for the community kids.
In any SHTF situation it is ideal to be part of a larger group or community. The information I cover below is relevant to post-SHTF education, whether you are on your own or part of a group of community.
Who Will Teach?
Not a teacher? Not a problem. Sure, if you aren’t a teacher and you don’t have someone in your family or prepper group who is, then you will need to do a little more work to prepare for it. The point is you can.
I really think people get freaked out about teaching young kids, but I don’t know why. Sure, high school stuff is a bit more advanced, but elementary subjects are basic. Besides, you have been teaching your kids and nurturing their need to learn since the day they were born.
If you belong to a survival group or a MAG (mutual assistance group), then you might already have one or two teachers in the mix. Or you might have family members or close friends who are teachers.
If so, then it might be best to give the task of preparing for post-SHTF education to them.
That doesn’t mean others can’t help or learn the ropes, but if you already have experts on hand, make use of them.
If you create a post-SHTF community school and there are teachers in the community that can help out, that’s ideal, but if not, then parents can organize themselves to teach the different classes.
If you’re on your own, don’t sweat it. Just pretend you are going to homeschool your kids and do what you would to prepare for that.
Research the topic thoroughly. Collect the needed materials, books, curriculum, and supplies you will need to teach them what they need to learn, which brings us to…
What Should They Learn?
This is a very good question and one that deserves a lot of consideration. There are two categories of learning that are paramount in SHTF: the normal school curriculum (reading, writing, math, history, etc.) and basic life skills.
Yes, despite the fact that it’s the TEOTWAWKI your children still need to learn how to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. They should also learn other academic basics, such as science, health, and history.
History might be particularly important because, well you know, the world just fell apart and they should have a solid understanding of why that happened.
Essentially, the basics won’t have changed. Math is the same. The basic laws of physics are the same. Language is the same. The anatomy of the human body is the same. All children need to learn these things.
As society rebuilds, older children will likely move on to learning more advanced curriculum that can help them become a contributing member of society. This includes college- or trade-level learning, but I’ll that in more detail below.
Another Take on Curriculum
While it is true that the essential fundamentals of math, science and language will remain just as important in your new society as they were in the old one, other subjects like national and world history might be of debatable usefulness (excepting near history) in your new reality.
As in the old reality, there are only so many hours in the day, and only so many useful teaching hours as children’s attention spans (as well as the attention span and stamina of the teacher) are limited.
Considering that no matter what has happened children are likely going to have to grow up faster than previously, can you justify sinking hours and hours, days upon days, into the teaching of subjects that have very little in the way of practical application?
This is a highly contentious and personal topic, but might some subjects only be relevant to a reality that no longer exists? What other essential practical or esoteric skills might children be best served to learn at the dawn of this new era?
This is something that should be considered carefully before the time comes, as one thing will be certain about your new day-to-day existence, and the day today for your children: the future will be anything but certain, or easy.
The skills they learn in their compressed adolescence by any means will be critical not just for their survival but the survival of your burgeoning society. Necessity will be the ultimate arbitrator of what is vital. Anything else is extraneous, and extraneous is a liability.
No matter how “nice” it might be for a child to learn something in this new reality, nice won’t keep them and their fellows alive.
Face the facts that your children growing up “after the End” will have to foot the bill of being less educated to help pave the way for generations that follow them to be more educated. This has always been and will likely forever be the case.
Learning life skills is where the education of children takes a radical change. Sure, in our current society kids need to know some basics. They need to learn how to cook and clean and maintain a home and yard. But these aren’t really “life” skills.
Real life skills involve staying alive, being able to meet the basic needs of survival, including the production/acquisition of water, food, clothing, shelter, and warmth.
How many people in our current society could really produce their own food? How many know how to find and purify water that doesn’t come out of the tap?
How many can create their own clothing? After the SHTF, kids need to learn this stuff (heck, so do we!). Life skills that should be part of their education after the SHTF include:
- Farming and agriculture
- Foraging (for both food and medicinal plants)
- Animal care
- Water collection and purification
- First Aid and Medical skills
- Building various types of shelters
- Starting a fire
- Bush craft
- Communication and negotiation
- Reasoning and critical thinking
Honestly, this list is just a beginning. I encourage you to add to it based on the critical life skills you feel your children need to know.
How Will They Learn?
With these two categories of learning in mind, we get to the “how” of it. There are many learning styles and many ways to accommodate those learning styles.
There are also different ways of teaching school curriculum and life skills. Feel free to mix and match as you see fit.
Traditional curriculum is definitely a good place to start when considering educating children after SHTF, regardless of whether you are on your own or part of a community.
You can easily Google the curriculum used in your kids’ school. Find it, print it off, and get to know it.
Once you have done this, you can begin to collect the necessary textbooks and supplies your kids will need and store them away. And any old textbooks and encyclopedias you have laying around are like gold. Keep them, even if they are from your college days.
If your kids don’t need any of this educational material in the end (i.e. the S doesn’t HTF for a few years), then you’ll have it on hand for your grandchildren or other children in your survival community.
Now, the question remains, what if you didn’t prepare beforehand and you don’t have any books?
If you find yourself post-SHTF and you didn’t build up a library of textbooks and a stash of school supplies, don’t sweat it! Human beings were learning long before textbooks were invented. Y
ou can teach math without a textbook. In fact, it’s better that way. Use stones to learning basic counting and grouping.
Practice skip-counting while tossing a ball back and forth. Learn measuring on the fly while building the shelters and other structures you will need for your continued survival.
Reading and writing can be taught like this, too. If you have any books at all, use them. As long as you have a pen and paper, or heck, even dirt and a stick, you can teach a child their alphabet and how to read.
What I’m trying to say here is that you don’t need textbooks to teach a child. We learn every single day just by living life! Take advantage of the curious nature of a child and you will be a great teacher.
Even in a community school setting, teachers can be creative in how they teach kids without the basics of a normal classroom.
As I mentioned above, kids will need more advanced learning as they get older (high school- and college-age). When the SHTF our kids won’t likely be going off to college to become a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant, or a computer programmer.
The things they will do when they grow up will be a lot more trade-based in most cases. Construction, farming and agriculture, engineering, teaching, and medicine are all examples of the types of things the adults of the community will need to know.
As kids get older in a post-SHTF society and as their talents, personality, and preferences show themselves, they can be given positions as apprentices in one or two specific fields of interest.
Now, this is likely to be the case after things really start settling down and it is time to really rebuild, when you are part of a larger community. What I’m talking about here is when we are truly building a new society.
In the early days after SHTF and when a family unit or a small group of people find themselves on their own for an extended period of time, everyone will have to contribute in numerous ways to ensure survival.
It will be a combination of learning-by-doing and apprenticeship and it will apply to everyone, children and adults alike.
Learning How to Teach
A lot of you might be worried about educating your children post-SHTF. I get that, but like I said above, you have been teaching your children since they were born and you continue to teach them various things even when they are in school.
In fact, many of you often help them with their schoolwork and teach them on the side!
We just have it in our heads that we can’t go beyond what we teach them in their early years, that we have to hand their education over to someone else, a qualified teacher, when they are four or five years old.
While this is a convenience in our current society so that we can maintain a career and a certain way of life, it does not mean you are incapable of teaching your children.
If you are truly concerned about learning how to teach, it wouldn’t hurt to research teaching methods online.
There is so much information out there about how to teach kids and now is the time to gather all the information you can. Just know that you can do it.
Considering the education of children after the SHTF is something that shouldn’t be shoved aside in favor of “more important things.”
Other than immediate and desperate survival needs, there is nothing more important than educating our children because that ensures our continued survival.
Now, I’ll leave you with these last three things to consider. They might be the most important things you need to know when it comes to educating children.
The first is to familiarize yourself with different learning styles and how to teach to them. Everyone learns differently, and if you focus on their learning strengths, you will come out on top.
Second, teach kids based on their individual talents and interests, rather than the way they would be taught in an institutional setting.
This way, you will raise kids who will turn into fully functional adults who can contribute to the needs of a newly developing society.
Third and most important, have fun! Teaching your kids is a rewarding experience, even if the world has fallen apart. Enjoy every moment of it and make it fun and exciting for your kids. Everyone will grow and learn together!
An urban prepper and rural wannabe, Karen has been working as a freelance writer for a decade and prepping for about half that time. She has gathered a wealth of knowledge on preparing for SHTF, but there is always more to learn and she has a passion for gathering and sharing that knowledge with other like-minded folk. Karen lives in London, Canada with her two children and plethora of cats.