For all you suddenly Homeschooling parents, I wanted to share some nuggets of wisdom I learned while homeschooling my two kiddos over a time span of 14 years. First and foremost, what ever your circumstances are, everyone needs grace and patience right now – especially you and your kids!
Note from the NQM Founder, Elizabeth Curtiss: Today’s Guest Contributor Julie Horner is an experienced, successful homeschooling mom of 2 girls. She’s a Speech Language Pathologist living in the Monterey, CA area. I’ve known her for many years, and Julie is one of the brightest, most compassionate women I know! We’re so lucky to have her helping us out during this challenging time!
The good news is the school will be probably providing you with a curriculum to follow, although some schools are more prepared than others. Realize schools will need some time to adjust.
It is very hard to switch from group-based learning to virtual or individualized learning. Please be patient with educators in the next few weeks as they are grappling with a paradigm shift, their own childcare or elder care issues and possible economic hardships.Julie Horner, 14 Year Veteran Homeschooler
When I was homeschooling two kids, I spent hours preparing lessons and learning opportunities. You don’t have that luxury and that’s OK. Lean on experienced homeschoolers. I’d caution about blindly following Pinterest ‘must do’s’ because it is overwhelming, and frankly, much of the advise isn’t great or is guiding you to buy things you don’t need. I plan to write another article soon on best bang for your buck ideas so at this point just do the basics and if you need a supplement opt for learning oriented audio books.
Be patient. Teachers have to revamp a month+ worth of lesson plans and activities so you will likely need to fill out their school work – at least in the beginning.
My personal fear is America’s school children will now to burdened with hours and hours of busy work/ worksheets so stressed school administrator and teachers will feel like the kiddos are “getting work done.“ My hope is that educators realize that many students will be unsupervised during the day while their parent is still working either in the home (virtually) or out of the home in healthcare (like myself ) and that they won’t pile on work for works sake.
With that though in mind, I believe you need to do what’s best for your child and decide on what assigned work needs to be done and what can be overlooked if indeed they’re being overloaded.
Before I take you through my top tips, please remember that if (or should I say when?) things go wrong occasionally with school work, or if you/your kids have a bad day, it’s not a huge deal!
We’re not doing critical brain surgery here so keep calm, keep perspective and remember your kids are sponges and soak up your stress and emotions!
Here are 11 key points to keep in mind:
- Let your kiddos wear their jammies all day and sleep in a bit, but having a start time to their day (make it reasonable). Most of America’s children and their parents are used to running at high speed and are in chronic need of sleep and decompression. Most people right now are not sleeping well due to stress so it may take time to adjust to the new normal.
- DO NOT forget an end time! Homeschooling doesn’t mean school work from 8 – 5! My kids loved swim team because school was over when we left for practice at 2:30 PM. With no place to go during this time, having an end time will help with family harmony.
- Enforce electronic restrictions during school hours like you did during homework times. It will make life easier for everyone but the catch is, it includes the parent or supervising adult in terms of social media. Most work at home parents will need to be using a laptop but we can stay away from the TV and social media during school time. We need to be role models here and walk the talk..
- Please don’t expect your kiddos to sit down and do their “schoolwork” alone in their room. Instead, work on your own work quietly next to them and model attention and concentration. Be available for questions and engage a bit with what they are learning.
- TURN THE TV OFF unless you are using it as a specific tool or for a limited learning experience. If you have a TV on with the news, sports, etc on, they get the message that what they are doing is not important.
- It’s ideal to have breaks built into your day’s schedule so they know when to work and when they can relax. Remember that they’re all used to recess and lunch breaks and for older kids, talking with friends between classes.
- Know that during “school time” when attention wanes, let them have a break. It may seem counterproductive and “against rules” to break outside of your set break times, yet it does no one any good to insist on finishing something right then and there if they can’t concentrate. Use a timer for a break. Also, you should take a break during this time too. They allowed me to throw in a load of laundry or make a few phone calls while the kids were jumping on the trampoline.
- Embrace the freedom to adjust things as needed! It took me forever to realize that attention varies per subject and even each day. Sometimes we would be engaged in math for several hours and sometimes in 15-minute increments. You have the ability to build in some flexibility, don’t fear it.
- Consider different ways to learn like watching a historical movie together or engaging your little one in a math lesson while helping you cook or bake. Cooking is fractions and chemistry all rolled into one plus, life skills are very important.
Photo by Monkey Business Pics
- Use the opportunity of your child being in the home during this time period to really engage in some useful purposeful chores. It allows the entire house to become overall more efficient. This works best if you start out taking 15-30 minutes to do some of those chores together and then having them devise a way of keeping themselves accountable. I found the best success with this when I would sit down with the kids and ask them how they wanted to help our family. 9 times out of 10, they came up with more tasks than I had in mind.
- Don’t forget the outdoors. With everyone stuck at home, people get stir crazy. This is an opportunity for the kids to be outside in the yard more. If you have a table outside, don’t forget schoolwork can be done outdoors. A quick walk around the block can help everyone refocus. Hikes in unpopulated areas, bike local trails or whatever appeals. Just don’t go near playgrounds or other areas that they won’t be able to safely play at.
I realize most of these suggestions are for families that at least one family member who will be home with a school aged child. This process will be much harder for those kiddos that don’t have learning support during the day.
For the home alone kids, I recommend a creating a mutually agreed upon list that includes specific academic tasks, chores and plenty of free time for reading, art or music. You’ll find the most buy in will with be the child who is asked to craft their own ideal schedule. You will be surprised at their creativity. Make sure to remind the child to build in fun time, breaks, active play and even computer time. Most importantly, the child needs a responsible and engaged adult (like grandma or grandpa or an aunt or neighbor ) to call and check in on the child frequently.
This is not to harp or nag the kiddo but to ask about what they learning and to help the child be accountable. It’s important to remember that there is a lot of time at school that does not involve direct instruction… washing hands, walking to the playground, standing in line.
Schooling at home can be way more efficient so the entire time that the child would have been in school is not necessary to be involved in academic pursuits. Often my girls would read for an entire afternoon if they finished their main lessons in the mornings.
Closing advice is to stay flexible folks! I’ll reiterate to be easy on yourselves and your kiddos. It takes a time to adjust!
Remember each day you can start fresh!
Feature photo by Jack F/Adobe Stock