I just want to say: Welcome to the circus! You have been suddenly forced into a strange, new world, haven’t you? If you’ve just found yourself trying to teach your kids at home, I’d like to offer some friendly help.
First, I’m sorry your sneak-peak into the homeschool world has to look like this. Because this is not really how it has to be. In true homeschooling, YOU the parent get to choose your curriculum. You get to set your schedule. You get to decide almost everything (depending on your state’s laws). Normally, you’d get to go out and do fun things, like co-op classes, sports, field trips, park days, homeschool band, and all those other social events. You’d go to the library when you wanted, do math at Chick-Fil-A, or hike the state park trails for P.E.
But what you’ve been thrown into is more of a “school-at-home” model, and it’s very different from “homeschooling.” And to top it off, cities and states are mandating quarantines, so even casual outings are out of the question.
Focus on What’s Important
If you’ve been given an “extended spring break” or actual schoolwork to oversee, there are several ways to handle your new normal.
- Take a deep breath and remember you’re not a public school teacher. The good new is: you don’t have to be! You don’t need special training. You only need to begin with a desire to nurture and train your children, and a willingness to find the right resources.
- On that same note, don’t try to recreate the school classroom in your kitchen. Give your kids a real “spring break!” Let them pick their seats — living room floor, their bed, the back porch, or a fort in the dining room. You may not have a whiteboard. That’s ok. If you need to demonstrate something, use pencil and paper.
- Start your day with something fun. What would shock your kids and set a happy tone? Singing songs? Art projects? A movie and a snack? A game of tag in the backyard? A veteran homeschool mom shared once how her family would wake up, watch an episode of The Waltons, eat breakfast, and then start the day. Be creative and set the mood.
- Establish order. Every house needs some order. A few things to consider adding to your schedule: chores, free time, cooking, free reading, movie or screen time, exercise, and of course – school lessons. From that point, it’s really up to you what will work in your house. Make sure the kids see that the whole day isn’t going to be tough. Stagger your schedule for breaks and fun. Let their bodies and brains have some relief. And if the first schedule you create doesn’t work, erase it and make a new one.
- If you’ve got a stack of work sent home from school, do your best. This can be tough without any prep. Be patient with your kids and be honest with them; give each other grace and remind them that this is new to both of you. Reach out to the teacher or district for help.
- If you haven’t been given any direction, I highly recommend a Unit Study for a great combination of learning and fun. A unit study is a great way to get your feet wet in homeschooling; it takes one topic and provides education in math, writing, research, history, science, and hands-on projects. Check out UnitStudy.com for some inexpensive and creative topics for all ages and interests.
- Check out the gazillion free resources available for homeschoolers. If you’re new to this world, let me just tell ya: we have it all! This is what makes it do-able and fun. You’ve probably seen some great lists floating around social media. Check them all out. Save the links. Try a few. Let learning be fun!
- Finally, remember that this could be a transition to full-time homeschooling. If you’ve always been curious, or wanted to try but were a little afraid, consider this your free trial. Depending on the length of your school closure, you may have quite a bit of time to really test the waters. If this is you, I would like to direct you to my HOMESCHOOLING page. I’ve been homechooling my own kids for 20 years, and blogging about it for 11. Sit back, read up, and consider a permanent change. You’ll read all about the WHY and the HOW, choosing curriculum, and different ages and stages.
It’s about home, not school
What I hope you will see through this experience is the incredible family life changes that happen when parents and children are all together. Homeschoolers know that homeschooling isn’t so much about school as it is about family. The bonds created are deep and strong. Sibling relationships are closer, because they are not separated into age groups all day. Parent-child relationships strengthen because children get smiles and hugs and snuggle time with parents that are normally reserved for mornings and evenings.
Children learn so many life skills by doing them, instead of by reading about them and then filling out a worksheet. Cooking, chores, working as a group, sharing…all of these things are part of the package when families are together all day.
Parents have time to tell their children stories, or read their favorite books aloud, or include the family in hobbies or home-businesses. Children get to observe, ask questions, and learn in the most natural environment created for them: the home.
Physical and emotional needs
If your child has experienced bullying or other emotional issues that stem from their school, now is the time for healing. If your child is forced to take medication to comply with strict school structure, now is the time for a possible change. In both of these situations, I suggest de-schooling. (Actually, I recommend this to everyone starting out.) This means letting go of the classroom mindset, and starting to see yourself as a family unit. Parents are in charge, outside influences are chosen carefully, and the health of your child comes before state mandates.
De-schooling encompasses everything I listed above, and a whole lot of grace for your child. Pay attention to their moods, their behaviors, the messages they send without words. Be flexible and creative with them. Let them answer worksheet questions verbally. Let them do jumping jacks while practicing math drills. Give them grapes or marshmallows to eat for each math problem or spelling word they write. Read aloud to them every day. Let them sleep in. Make sure they run around outside.
See what a complete change in their daily routine could do for them.
I believe that home education is the best possible world for a kid to grow up in. I speak from my experience as a homeschool kid in the 1980s, as well as the years raising my five children. And I want to encourage you to give it a good look while you have the freedom and time to do so.
If you have questions, any questions, please reach out to me. You can comment below, message me on my Facebook page, or email me at email@example.com. I’d love to help!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.