For the past 20 years or so, I’ve been an outsider, educating my children at home. Now that the corona virus has hit, I am mainstream. The difference is, I chose this path in life – and, in all likelihood, you did not.
I can only imagine how frustrating it is to suddenly find yourself in a position for which you feel neither qualified or prepared.
I’d like to help you deal with this unexpected season of confusion and uncertainty, by listing five strategies, which will help take some of the pressure off and ease your mind.
#1 – Keep a Schedule
From personal experience, I can tell you the importance of having a sound plan of action when it comes to setting specific hours for school. Your children are accustomed to rising at a certain hour, attending classes at regular intervals, and then ending the day promptly at 3:30pm.
When my boys stay up late, rise late, and begin school late, the entire day seems like a total waste! We sit back and feel as though we really got nothing done.
So, get up and get going in the mornings. Eat breakfast, do the dishes, and start a load of laundry before 9am. Create a routine that lets the kids know that school is about to begin.
When it comes to home education, no two schedules look the same. You can individualize the ebb and flow of your days to meet your specific family needs. However, here’s a look at how we have organized our days for the past 20 years.
|8:00-9:00am||Breakfast, dishes, light housework|
|9:00-10:30am||Book work: math, English, spelling, writing, reading comprehension|
|10:45-12:00pm||Science and finish any leftover morning subjects|
|1:00-3:00pm||History, Projects, Read Aloud|
|*Fridays – enrichment day: Poetry, music, art, nature walks|
DO BOOK WORK FIRST
I like to get book work out of the way first – everything which requires a child to take a seat at a table and use pen and paper.
We begin with math, because it is the most time consuming and is best tackled while wide awake and with a good attitude. After that, we do all other subjects which require sitting in a seat and writing. We get math, English, writing, and spelling done in about an hour.
After that, we do science, which involves reading the lesson and doing an experiment. Results of the experiment (including procedure, hypothesis, results, and explanation) are written down in our science notebook. We add drawings, representing the experiment or concept learned.
TAKE A LONG LUNCH
Lunch is always 45-60 minutes. Believe me, you’ll be more than ready for a break by then. This also gives you, Mom, enough time to do dishes, return phone calls, or run a load of laundry.
FINISH WITH THE FUN STUFF
The remaining two hours of school are reserved for the fun stuff: history, hands on projects, and read alouds.
I adore history and my boys do, too. History is best taught by reading lots of great books, discussing them, and then designing hands-on expressions of what you have learned. Read aloud books are selected to accompany the time period, author, or genre we are currently choosing to study.
Your schedule may not mirror that of my home (and that’s okay). However, it’s important to remember that children need to know when school starts each day.
You may even wish to make a chart, listing the hours of school so that everyone is on the same page. Just don’t be surprised when your children are enjoying a read aloud so much that they don’t want to stop at the designated time.
#2 – Provide Structure, but Be Flexible
This is the part where I tell you what works and what doesn’t when it comes to structure in home education.
One of the glories of homeschooling is the ability to avoid breaking up our day into neat, little blocks of time dedicated to studying only one subject at a time.
Structure: “A weekly list of goals, lessons, and topics, providing a framework for learning, while allowing the opportunity for students to pursue individualized research and study.”
If your teenager breaks out in unbridled enthusiasm and wants to study the structure of atoms and molecules for two hours, then let him go for it. By the same token, shirking responsibilities is never okay. But, if they want to break out of your schedule (especially if they are in jr. high or high school), then let them. As long as the work gets done, you don’t need to micromanage them. Very soon you won’t control their schedule anyway.
My children often complete multiple math lessons in one day, in order to allow themselves a clear schedule later in the week to devour book after book relating to their current field of interest.
Lessons must be completed. Tests must be taken. But, education is about loving knowledge and pursuing passions.
#3 – Ask for Help
You’ll find the homeschooling community to be very warm and welcoming when asked to share our knowledge of home education.
As much as we would like to believe that homeschooling and public education are cut from the same cloth, there are some distinctive differences.
When I speak, I tell parents, “The best part about homeschooling is that you get to be home with your kids all day – the hardest part about homeschooling is that you get to be home with your kids all day. ”
My children have always been homeschooled. Early on they learned that I was not only their mother, I was also their teacher. However, that dividing line is difficult to establish, especially when it has been suddenly thrust upon you.
If you find yourself sliding into a confusing quagmire, then please ask for help. Many dedicated public school teachers are making themselves available to answer questions and give direction and advice. The homeschool community is always delighted to share what has worked for us.
So, speak up and remember that right now, your relationship with your child really is the most important thing. They need you to be present and available through what, for them is a very distressing and confusing time.
Finding Educational Resources
Your first line of defense is to check with your local school district. The instructors there can help you with lessons and resources far better than I ever could.
However, having said that, there are several amazing websites, which you will find invaluable in helping you (and your student) over the next few weeks. Here is my hand-picked list of 20 of the best educational sites.
#4 – Avoid Distractions
It is often hard to children to focus on work with distractions, including noisy siblings, phone calls, texts, and being in a completely different learning environment.
This is not the norm for them. Providing a quiet space is sometimes helpful for students who are sensitive to excessive noise or movement. You may also find that some of your children work better if there is quiet music playing in the background. We often chose classical music to fill the void of silence.
Set ground rules, not only for your immediate family, but also for those around you.
- No electronic media during school – you too, mom and dad
- No interrupting siblings or getting in their space
- No phone calls or texts during school
- No television until the work is done
- No excuses for unfinished work
#5 – Give Your Kids Space for Emotions
Put yourself in your child’s shoes. School gives them so much more than education. It’s a source of friendship. It allows other adults to minister to your child in unique ways and become much-needed role models.
Believe me when I tell you that this will test your relationship and your ability to connect and communicate with your children. At times, you will find emotions fray as tempers rise.
Tips for Managing Family Relationships
- Schedule family meetings as needed. Be sure to check in regularly with one another to provide children with a sense of security and support.
- Allow everyone a chance to vent in a non-judgmental environment about how they are feeling.
- Remember that your children may act out because of their own frustrations and fears.
- Before you dole out punishment, consider asking them, “Are you okay?” or “Do you need to talk?”
- Be positive. Your children will pick up on your emotions and fears.
- Be careful about allowing your children too much access to media reports. As an adult, you know how to filter good information along with the bad. They don’t.
- Be patient with them as they use your computer or phone to keep in touch with friends. Those social connections are very important.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself – or your kids.