Who would have thought? Millions of families are now doing school at home. It’s amazing how a viral pandemic has forced so much change in our day-to-day realities over the last few weeks. I was in the world of homeschooling for thirty years (yes, you read that right), teaching my 5 children (with an 18-year span from the oldest to the youngest!) at home. The advantage I had over the situation parents are in today, is that we were able to take field trips and be involved in weekly educational co-ops, allowing classroom experiences and friendship building. In other words, we could get out of the house more than this time of quarantine is allowing. I truly loved homeschooling, but I also remember the many days when I wasn’t sure I could take another day of being responsible for my children’s academics, in addition to keeping their stomachs full and somehow “building character” into their young lives on top of everything else. I’m not planning on sharing with you how to teach the three Rs in this post. Most parents are using the school system’s curriculum so the ideas I could offer on how to help your child memorize the fifty state capitols or the preamble to the Constitution would not be something you could apply at this time.
I do think that there are some tips I could offer to help your family transition into this new “school at home” adventure that might make things go more smoothly as parents and children are trying to figure out this new dynamic of parents being teachers to their children and children being their parents’ students. It’s likely I will write four posts on this topic. This one will be about establishing a routine. The second will offer a few organizational ideas. In a third post, we will focus on building character and relationships under pressure. Lastly, I will give some tips on teaching life skills (apart from academics).
In order to keep this fairly short (which feels impossible), I want to just offer a few tidbits that helped me through the years as I endeavored to keep a routine and to have some semblance of order so that our family could succeed in homeschooling. Each family is different so take these as only suggestions. They may work for you and they may not.
- Before meeting with the children, parents should have private planning time to figure out how much time their kids will spend in e-learning, what time of day it will happen, how much parental supervision will be required, etc. At the same time, think about what other activities are priorities in your and your child’s day. Do you want to have family devotions? How much screen time are you going to allow? Will you require your children to have a chore time and an outside playtime every day? Will they be required to take turns helping to cook dinner? Mom and Dad, take this time to brainstorm what you believe is realistic. Consider your own energy levels and time that you can devote to the children. Some parents will be more hands-on and others will be able to loosen the reins and allow their kids to make some decisions on when and how they complete what is required of them.
- Have a family meeting. Take time to listen to your kids’ preferences and ideas. If they are invested in their educational plan and are allowed to have some say in how their days are going to look, they will likely take ownership and won’t have to be nagged and cajoled nearly as much to get things done. Consider little rewards throughout the day or at the end of the day to encourage their efforts.
- A tight schedule may not be the answer. I always preferred to aim for a routine. We would try to do academic subjects or activities in the same order in segments of time such as morning, afternoon, and evening. We would have a goal for a start time, but if there were interruptions or delays, we could pick up where we left off without stressing that we were “off schedule”. If we try to keep too tight a schedule, we will also feel stressed and frustrated because things aren’t going as planned. I promise that things will NOT go as planned. Trust me on this. This is where you will learn flexibility and patience. Life happens! Disagreements, spills, phone calls (although I recommend controlling this one), and unexpected opportunities (like a deer walking in the yard or a myriad of other beautiful interruptions) will keep you from sticking to your plan 100%. That’s perfectly okay. Roll with it!
Having a plan is really foundational to feeling successful during this unexpected journey of home education. Print out the planned routine and post it on your refrigerator so that all in the house can see it. Work your plan and see if it still makes sense in a week or two. If you can see that it needs to be tweaked, then tweak it! Next time, I’ll talk about some simple ways to keep you and your kids organized so that learning is unhindered. If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me at . Until then, be patient with yourselves and with your kids. It’s really going to be okay!