We began homeschooling our kids in kindergarten while working from home. The kids were little, and it was a choice we made to keep them at home with us. We had a curriculum and plans in place, yet our daily homeschool/work situation rarely looked like the pretty schedule I created and hung on the wall for all to see.
For those of you who didn’t get to make this choice and are carrying tons of fear and worry around, these days are going to feel overwhelming.
Here are things to keep in mind…
You don’t have to make it just like school
Your kids are used to a structured day at school, with teachers and other classmates. Schooling at home isn’t going to be the same and you shouldn’t even be trying to make it that way. Whether your kids are young or teenagers, don’t try to mimic the routine or environment they are used to getting at school.
Create a schedule…and then throw it away
Life is moving so quickly and we’re each forced to reassess and pivot from moment to moment, so holding yourself and your kids to a strict schedule is going to drive you crazy. That being said, I do think a schedule will help everyone know what is generally expected each day, but keep it lose and flexible giving your kids goals to achieve more than strict lessons and homework. Remember, homework keeps the kids busy only so long before you must help and then, of course, you have to grade it too.
In school, especially in the higher grades, kids switch between anywhere from 5-8 classes each day. Let me tell you from a mom who homeschooled for 14 years, trying to write lesson plans and teach that many classes each day is very difficult. I recommend picking 2 or 3 subjects to teach each day. Pick one that’s more difficult for your child, Math, English, or Science, then pick one or two easier subjects. Another option is to assign each day a theme and have each subject play off that theme.
Create Learning Stations
Set up different stations around the house and even yard for kids to move to when they are feeling bored, overwhelmed or frustrated. Having a puzzle station, art table, or even games set up in your yard will give them the freedom to move from activity to activity without you having to set up and cleanup between each.
Snack / Water Station
I can remember days that by 11:00 a.m. I had gotten a dozen glasses of water and prepared 5 meals. I started setting up a little water station in the kitchen where I had a water jar with spout full of ice water and little cups set beside it. I would add fun things to the water like orange slices and whole clove, cucumber, lemon or berries. I also would set out a basket of snacks the kids could grab from if hungry. Apples, bananas, carrots, crackers, etc.
It was mandatory in my house to have a quiet hour each day. The kids were required to find a spot and quietly read or work on any other quiet project. No phones, tablets, computers, or TV. They had to do something quietly. It seriously was my favorite thing!! Silence!
My son struggled with reading as a young boy and therefore things like spelling were torture for us both. I started letting him go outside and bounce the basketball while he practiced his spelling words out loud. It was amazing how quickly he was learning.
There are so many creative ways to teach your kids, if something isn’t working, that doesn’t make you a terrible teacher and your child a difficult student. Be willing to scrap something that’s not working and try new ideas until something does. School doesn’t have to be done sitting at a desk for 5 hours. Times tables are all about repetition, so toss a ball or bean bag back and forth while reciting them. Foreign language is about speaking, so do that on a walk or while cleaning the kitchen. Math concepts can be taught in so many ways, don’t think you have to beat your head against the table teaching it. Be creative!
Family Read Aloud
Pick a book the family reads together and read aloud to each other. Reading out loud is a very different type of reading than in your head. In our heads, we skip words or make them up so we can quickly move on. Forcing our kids to read out loud gives us a chance to see what words they are struggling with.
Arts / Music / PE
You don’t have to be artistic or crafty yourself to do arts and crafts with your kids, but I encourage you to get your kids crafting if you haven’t already. Our schools have lost so much funding over the years and sadly our arts, music and physical education classes are taking the biggest hit. You have such a wonderful opportunity to give these back to your kids. This doesn’t mean you have to be musical or artistic yourself to teach it. There are YouTube videos, Skillshare and Udemy classes and so many more options out there.
Getting your kids outside for walks, basketball in the driveway, gardening, hiking or tag in the backyard is going to burn out all the wiggles your kids have and make them more likely to sit still long enough to learn something during math lessons. Over the years I taught my kids how to knit, crochet, sew, cook, draw, paint, journal, and so much more. The options are limitless.
You do not have to teach each child individually for each subject. Put your kids together and teach one subject to them all. Yes, even if they are all different ages, you can teach one subject. You can be lecturing about astronomy to your teenagers while your middle schooler is learning about planets and your little ones are coloring a worksheet. Some of what you are teaching may be above the heads of the younger ones but being around the vocabulary will only help them later on. Another great thing to do is get the older ones involved in teaching the younger ones. They say that teaching is the best way to learn something, so let your teens teach math or science to the younger ones.
There must be something your child has dreamed of learning to do. Ask them and then make it happen! Do they dream of learning to write code or play the guitar? Are they interested in baking and wish to learn cake decorating? Are they into fashion and makeup and wish to learn to sew or apply makeup like celebrities? We’ve been given, for better or worse, TIME. Give them permission to take this time to learn something new.
On the other hand, your kids might be overachievers who normally have a very full, active schedule running from classes, to sports, to work, to college prep and probably much more. Maybe this time is for them to slow down a bit. Sleep in, read a comic book and play video games. I’m all about balance and moderation so take your child’s personality into account and find what works.
The hardest part for your kids, especially your teens, will be staying away from their friends and girlfriends/boyfriends. They are social and their days are filled with it, so losing that will create a sense of loss and even depression. For some kids their self-worth is wrapped up in their social status, so you might find that your kids are struggling with that loss. Permit your kids to find ways to stay social whether through Zoom, Snapchat or TikTok. Let me talk to their friends or even play video games online with each other. Have them set up Netflix movie marathons together and have them Skype, Zoom or Facetime while they watch their movies.
Keep a Journal
I’m a huge proponent for journaling. It offers a safe place to write about or deal with our emotions and right now we’re all running high on them. I taught my kids from a very early age to keep journals/diaries. I always had them working in journals in class and I encouraged them to keep private journals as well. There are so many ways to journal, I could write a whole post about just that, and maybe one day soon I will. Just know there are no wrong ways to journal. Here are just a few journaling options:
- Collage journal
- Art journal
- Gratitude Journal
- Diary / Journal
- Shared Journal (one you pass between two friends or family members)
- Dream Journal
- Food Journal
- Prayer Journal
- Reading Journal
- ‘Rona Journal (all about your experience during quarantine)
Just remember that any moment in the day can be a teaching moment. The kids will hear news reports and see what’s going on so use those moments to teach about Government, Science, History or Medicine. They’ll ask questions about God and humanity and why this is happening, so use those moments to teach.
Don’t be afraid of homeschooling. You are capable and you will find your way. Just take a deep breath and let go of the expectations to make it the same as school. It’s not the same and that’s perfectly awesome!