Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine homeschooling would become wildly popular because of a pandemic. We’ve been homeschooling for years and years and years and, as much as I didn’t think I knew what I was doing, people are asking me all kinds of questions and I have answers! Maybe I do know what I’m doing after all.
Here’s the quick(ish) version of what you need to know about homeschooling life in order to make things work for your own family.
- Patience is like your ab muscles– Right now you’re in, let’s say, your first post C-section workout. You’ve got zero strength, everything is burning and you can maybe do half a crunch before your eyes start watering. But when you start working those abs every day you get more and more strength. You might even be out of maternity clothes some day! I promise with a lot of reps/time with your kids your patience will grow and a week from now you’ll be like, “Look at me! Last week this fruit snack stuck to the bottom of my sock would have made me lose my $#%^ but this week I’m just like, ‘Oh good, we still have snacks.'”
- Your school day will not be as long as a traditional school day. There is a great calculation floating around somewhere that takes the seven hours our kids normally spend in school and subtracts, lunch, walking to classes, listening to announcements, assemblies, group instruction, etc. and arrives at a very low amount of time spent in direct instruction. When your kids are homeschooling they are receiving concentrated direct instruction (every other minute you aren’t helping another sibling). You only need a few hours of your day to accomplish the learning they normally complete in a full day. Also, desperate times call for desperate measures. Feel free to use this to your advantage and remind your students that the faster they finish A, B and C the more time they will have to do all the D-Z they want.
- You are the teacher, principal and PTA. You get to call the shots here. Are your kids most productive in the morning? Less whiney in the evenings? Are they done sitting still after ten minutes? Will they read better in a fort on the porch? Can they recite the presidents while jumping on the trampoline? Working on school work does not have to mean sitting at a desk with both feet on the floor and their paper tilted just so. Do what works for you and them.
- You will never regret working on life skills. Remember all those social media posts about how today’s kids are graduating from high school not knowing how to use the washer, dryer and stove? This is a great time to make sure your kids know how to do all the things you don’t normally have time to slow down and show them. Guess who’s making scrambling eggs for breakfast tomorrow? Not you! That sweet child of yours who has no idea that he should spray a pan to prevent sticking is all signed up for Butter 101 at 8 am. His sister is taking Dish Detergent and Dish Soap Are NOT the Same Thing at 8:30.
- Making things easier is 100% okay. (See #3.) Is it “recommended” that your child write each spelling word 15 times yet they already know how to spell and write half the list? Now that you’re in charge of their learning they can just work on the half of the list they still need to master. Homeschooling allows you to discern between what is busy work for some and necessary for others. Do your kids have reading-heavy work? My FAVORITE thing to do with my kids is read to them while they draw, shape clay, build LEGO, whatever activity they choose that allows them to still listen to the material I’m reading. We’ve read many a history lesson while painting, drawing and discussing the text.
- Interest based learning is so good. It can take more prep work but if your kids are majorly dreading their usual work and you have some flexibility use their interests to your advantage. Use what they love and give them this time to explore and explore and explore. You know how they can spend two hours telling you about Minecraft? Put that to good use and give them time to learn coding and do Minecraft math and Minecraft reading and Minecraft science. My son loves theater but does not love math. Over the years we’ve designed our own costume patterns, created stages to scale and he’s learned an insane amount about light and sound with zero direction from me. If you’re stuck on how to support your child in interest-based learning try making a Mind Map. Write your child’s interest in the middle then start branching out with different aspects of their interest. The more branches you have the more ways you’ll have to provide some interest-based options for them to explore. There are some neat options for making Mind Maps on Canva and MindMup.
- It’s okay to call it a day. Repeat this to yourself often. If you have no patience and your kid didn’t get enough sleep or you really just need a few days to decompress from all that is going on in the world right now, take it. It’s not often that you have the chance to call the shots when it comes to your schedule. Use it while you can. You will be surprised how much learning happens when you’re not pushing any learning at all. We read the most books, have the best talks and find the coolest educational shows when I’ve given up on a day because none of us can get our act together long enough to get work done.
- Your kids are going to get along better. In the same way that your patience will increase, your kids’ ability to breathe on each other without annoyance is also going to increase. People often ask me why my kids get along so well. I promise if you were on the long car ride we just took you would NOT ask that but for the most part, I have seen that homeschooled kids get along better with their siblings than other traditionally-schooled kids. My super unscientific theory is that learning at home as a family is a team building sort of exercise in its own right. We’re all working together towards the same goal. Are they going to steal each others pencils and do this weird side-wrestling thing to fight over a chair? Yep! But I promise you are going to catch glimpses of your kids spending time together and encouraging each other in new ways as the days go on.
- Schedules are overrated. I have seen SO many parents posting color-coded schedules, filling their kids’ days with activity after activity. This may make you feel like you need to do the same but LOOK AWAY. If your child needs every moment scheduled then, by all means, copy someone’s color-coded pages and make it work for your house but if they do not, LOOK AWAY. When transitioning to homeschooling there is actually a recommended time called de-schooling. Parents are encouraged to carve out time to help their child decompress from the schedule they are used to and acclimate to a new type of learning/learning environment. It’s totally okay to give your kids some time to do their own thing while you figure out how you’re going to do this new thing. If your schedule looks like Math on Tuesday and Science at 6pm when your husband gets home because you don’t remember what an exoskeleton is YOU ARE FINE. As long as everyone is healthy and happy-ish it’s all going to be okay. Everyone is going to remember Spring of 2020 as the time they were at home because of COVID-19 not the time they didn’t finish Chapter 23 in their history books.
- If you are trying you are doing okay. Right now is a crazy-stressful time for our whole world. If your mental health or your child’s mental health is not great right now then take this time to take care of you and your family. If you are reading this in an attempt to figure out homeschooling, if you are staying up at night worrying about whether you’ve done enough, if you are looking at other people’s posts and feeling inadequate, if you are worried that switching to the audiobook is going to stunt reading growth, if you are trying, really trying to make your kids’ days the best they can be then you are doing enough. You’re worried and you care and you love them and that is enough right now. That is more than enough. Snuggle up and buckle down and hang onto your family during this unpredictable time. All they need right now is you. You are more than enough.
Here are a few of my favorite sites and resources, feel free to share more in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. There are SO many learning sites offering free access right now so check around and see what else you can find.
Overdrive- online library app where you can take out digital and audio books using your local library card
Outschool- tons of online classes
Adventure Academy– like ABCMouse but for older kids
Teachers Pay Teachers– every worksheet, project, anything you can imagine to aide in learning made by teachers and easily downloaded for home use
Obe Fitness– gym time at home, I love this site for me but they are including kids’ workouts right now and we’re loving it. If you like it after the free trial you can sign up for 30% off with my promo code: JESSICAW30
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