Suddenly homeschooling: A message from a veteran homeschool parent
This was originally published on March 10 on the blog Life with Light and Happiness.
To families who find themselves suddenly homeschooling,
I’d like to offer you the perspective of a veteran homeschooling parent.
Many of you might find yourselves in the position of having your kids home with you or with a caretaker for the entire day, for many consecutive days for the first time in many years!
That might seem overwhelming and impossible, so here are a few suggestions so you can survive and maybe even enjoy this extra time with your kids.
I’m in my eighth year of full time homeschooling, so here are my top eight tips to encourage and support the unexpected homeschoolers!
Tip 1: Don’t try to recreate school at home.
Your school is probably going to supply some curriculum, but you might be surprised by how quickly you get through it when it’s just you and your kids! Homeschooling is quite efficient and so what might take a classroom teacher an entire hour to get through, at home it might take 15 minutes.
Don’t worry! You don’t have to fill that extra time with more work. Your kids will enjoy the freedom to learn in ways that are non-traditional.
Tip 2: Get creative with your workspace.
Kids don’t have to be sitting at a desk or at a table. If they are not getting work done or don’t seem focused, ask them what kind of space would help them work best and create that. Maybe it’s a fort under a table or maybe it’s curled up in bed. Maybe it’s outside on the grass.
Tip 3: Let them explore.
Because of the efficiency of homeschooling, you’ll likely have lots of hours to fill in the day. You don’t have to be the entertainer and you don’t have to completely fill their days with exciting, educational opportunities.
You can let them create, let them wander, let them read, play video games, play board games, do a puzzle, build something, paint, cook, bake, exercise, nap, play with their siblings, pretend play or play with things they haven’t played with in years. Kids benefit from unstructured time. They might not know what to do with their extra time right away, that’s okay.
You can strew things around the house and offer suggestions, but the down time and bit of boredom can spark imagination and creativity.
Tip 4: Observe your kids.
This is a great time to see what kinds of things your kids naturally gravitate toward.
Does one tend to want more quiet, introspective time or does one lean toward physical activities, or music, or puzzles? What are they interested in? What are their strengths? How can you support those interests when things go back to your normal? Can you incorporate more of what they love to do after they are back in school?
Tip 5: Use the internet.
Homeschoolers have some favorite go to online classes and Youtube channels. Reach out to other homeschoolers you know and ask them for their favorites. Here are a few of mine:
Outschool.com: Affordable, short and often one-off classes offered throughout the day on a variety of topics. You can pretty much find anything!
Khan Academy: Free and fairly comprehensive curriculum
Curiousitystream.com and The Great Courses: Documentaries on so many topics
Duolingo is a fun app for learning foreign languages. You can dabble and babble together and learn at the same time!
Crash Course Kids
The Brain Scoop
National Geographic Kids
Tip 6: Google it.
Your kids will have so many questions especially as they are allowed to follow their own rabbit holes of interest. You are going to have to Google the answers to their questions. You’re also going to have to Google resources and “how to's.”
Definitely take advantage of Googling homeschool blogs for favorite activities, board games, boredom busters for kids your age.
Tip 7: Must-haves.
You probably already have most of the basics already in terms of art supplies, but I suggest holding on to some extra supplies that your kids might end up using during their free time: cardboard boxes, straws, popsicle sticks, fabric, magazines, toothpicks, chopsticks…
You might also look into some “all in one” kits. Kiwi Crate and Mels Science are great options. They come with all the supplies you need plus instructions. Often you can do the activity a couple of times.
There are some other homeschooling must-haves. Audio books are so fun to listen to in the background when kids are crafting or building. Any family read-alouds make for great family audio books.
And if you need some quiet time at the dinner table or just a moment without talking, pop on an audio book (or podcast) and enjoy the break.
And of course books — graphic novels, comic books, magazines, novels, activity books, non-fiction books. Let them read anything and everything that is interesting for them. Now that you have some extra time, it’s okay to let them just read anything that isn’t required reading!
And board games. A Google search for top board games for your age range will blow your mind with the amazing options available these days.
Tip 8: Let some things go.
Your stress level will likely rise, for sure. You probably have a million things on your mind and you’re probably missing work or at work worrying about your kids or worrying about how you’re going to make things work and how long will this last and will my kids get behind and will my house survive these days… all of that is valid.
You might have to let some mess accumulate especially when creativity starts to happen in the free time! If you can, have your groceries delivered, engage your kids in helping with daily tasks, but some things will slide and some things will pile up and it’ll take a bit to recover from that after the kids are back in school, but you will recover.
Who knows how long this will last and you’ll need to remember to take care of yourself. This is a big change for you and it’s a big change for your kids. The uncertainty and anxiety is real, so be sure to cut yourself and your kids some slack during this time. Practice mindfulness and stress relief.
And remember: More than any of the academic stuff, your kids need to see their parents calm and collected, so make sure you do what works for you to maintain that state of mind.
It is my hope that you and your kids will cherish this time together. There will be challenges, but perhaps by incorporating some of these ideas, you’ll make some amazing memories and look back at your homeschooling journey as a time of connection and growth.