The number of homeschoolers skyrocketed this month as schools across the country have shut down to facilitate COVID-19 social distancing. So, if you’re an unexpected homeschooling parent, welcome to our world!
First off, please know that homeschool parents homeschool like this in our normal lives. Usually we are it in our communities, involved with activities, and our kids are meeting up with their friends. Now we’re stuck at home, and that is a cause for stress for us, too. But one thing is true, we are used to spending lots of time with our kids, so we’ve got this part of the quarantine lifestyle down pat.
There are lots of different types of homeschooling parents — some who have homeschooled since the beginning (that’s me) and others who have pulled their kids from the school system in response to some other life issue like bullying, a health concern, a student who is falling behind or frustration with a teacher.
At the beginning of every single homeschooling journey, parents want to “get it right” because as parents all of us want the very best for our children.
So where do you start if you’re a brand new homeschooler?
I’m your very own huckleberry, and here’s my best advice.
When I started homeschooling a little guy, I had no clue, no answers, nothing when it came to how to teach algebra or geometry. But that was okay, because as a five or six year old, our biggest concerns about math were unknowns like “how many train cars do you think might be under your bed?” or understanding that the shape with three sides was a triangle, the round one was a circle, and so on.
So most importantly — slow down and let today’s problems be enough for today.
Likewise, there’s no crisis in reading, math, or social studies that needs to be solved today. There’s no “My daughter needs to learn how to read chapter books by 3:30pm!”
But there is plenty of time to develop a plan that works for you and your family.
The thing homeschoolers realize as we go along, is that everyone’s homeschool looks and works differently…and that’s okay. In fact, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Show yourself a little grace and mercy. Slow down and give yourself time to figure out what your homeschool life looks like.
DEVELOP A ROUTINE
In a world where all our carefully laid plans have been tossed out on their ear, developing a sense of routine is critical. Routines help you create a “new normal,” and people (especially kids!) thrive on knowing what to expect from day to day. This is true for our kids these days, too, as our regular routines have been thrown for a loop.
Think about what you’d like your family’s homeschool days to look like. Do you have early birds or night owls? Get their input because things go more smoothly when kids have ownership in their schedules.
Because my son is in high school now, his school schedule is decidedly different than it was when he was in the elementary grades. But, when he was younger he wanted to get up and “do school” in order to be finished with any “lesson-y” type activities before lunch. After lunch he wanted a big span of free time to play, read, build with LEGOs, draw, watch birds, take a walk, or whatever. We always keep the television off during the day, but we watched things each evening, and this routine continues.
Whatever the case, make your routine your routine.
EMBRACE THE FREEDOM
If you ask almost any homeschool family what they enjoy most about homeschooling, you’ll find the word “freedom” entering into the conversation. In general homeschoolers are out and about most days, which means this world of social distancing and staying home has made things difficult for homeschoolers because our freedom has been curtailed.
We’re accustomed to visiting the library, volunteering here or there, taking art or music classes, participating in group sports activities, meeting for group co-op classes, rehearsing for theatrical events, enjoying church activities, etc.
And just like everyone else, those activities have all been postponed or cancelled entirely. So we’re figuring this out for ourselves, too.
All that being said, embrace the freedom of homeschooling that’s always there.
There’s no reason to recreate the “schoolroom” in your home. If you realize there’s a family of bluebirds nesting in your back yard and you spend the morning watching them — really watching them. If you’re working on math and it’s not going well, just take a break. If you’re reading a book and everybody in the house thinks its boring — just ditch it! Life’s too short to read bad, boring books.
You have the freedom to do what you want with your homeschool…so use that freedom to your advantage.
CHANGE YOUR THINKING
Mark Twain often said, don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education, and somewhere along the way in our homeschooling journey, I realized that there was “school” and there was “education.”
The most magical question in homeschooling is “Is s/he learning something?” If the answer to that question is “yes” then you’re fine — even if it doesn’t look like (or maybe especially if it doesn’t look like) “schooling.”
My son has always been fascinated by trains, and through that love of trains he’s learned about a whole host of things. When he was little it’s how we learned about colors (red, yellow, green, white, silver train cars), it’s how we learned counting (1,2,3,4 train cars zooming by Rotary park), and it’s how we learned reading (The Little Engine that Could). As he got older trains became an entry into history, economics, geography, algebra (slope intercept), and a whole host of other subjects.
If you’re jumping into the world of homeschooling, remember the whole world is your classroom (even if you’re sticking close to home). And kids are sponges soaking up every bit of information when they’re passionate about something (trains, dinosaurs, Egyptian mummies, you name it!).
DOUBT IS NORMAL
Get a bunch of homeschool moms together and you’ll inevitably hear someone say, “I don’t know what to do about ________.” I have never in my entire homeschool career met another homeschool parent who never felt doubt about what they were doing. It’s part and parcel of the experience. Even homeschool parents with lots of kids and parenting experience will tell you each of their children was different and what worked for one child didn’t necessarily work for another one.
It’s entirely normal to feel doubt or uncertainty, but forge ahead. You figured out how to teach your child to walk and talk, to use a spoon and fork, to ride a bike or make buzzing noises when you played with toy cars. You will figure this out, too.
Are there problems today? For sure, but every single problem also comes with a gift in its hands. So instead of just looking at the problems, be on the lookout for the gifts, too.
The more obstacles you encounter, the more obstacles you will learn how to overcome…or bypass completely! And as you’re teaching your child, you’ll learn even more yourself.
If you’d like help starting your homeschool journey click the Get Help button at the top — I’m your huckleberry.
For more on homeschooling, join me and my friend Christyn Edwards for The Only Schoolers Podcast. It’s new!