Now, more than ever, families are looking at home learning as a viable option for their child(ren). Are you considering joining the ranks of homeschooling families this year? Several families who have reached out to me are still on the fence about their decision and questioning how they are going to make it all work with their busy schedules.
“Thanks for the info. This homeschool adventure is a bit overwhelming! I feel like I’m about to add way more to my plate than I can manage, but I also feel like sending my unvaccinated kids to school right now is like throwing them to the wolves.”Stephanie
No matter how long you end up homeschooling—be it a month, a semester, a year, or longer—here is my take on ways to make your journey easier.
Homeschooling During The Pandemic – What You Need to Know
1. Understand You CanNot (and probably don’t want to) replicate the classroom at home
Are you a certified teacher? Chances are you’re not but, even if you are, your approach to learning in a home environment is, by nature, going to be different than what you’ve been used to in your classroom setting.
One of the biggest setbacks I see new homeschooling families making (including my own) is trying to copy the system they are familiar with. There is a big difference between a room full of 20+ kids with a structured set of rules for what must and must not be taught, and a considerably smaller group (sometimes even being just one kid) in an environment where your imagination, creativity, and availability are the limits.
This is an important time to let go of some of the societal “have tos” and lean into the strength and informality of the home environment.
If you focus on putting your relationship and your child’s well being first over academics, you’ll find everything flows easier.
2. Go slow
My #1 piece of advice to anxious homeschool parents: Start slow and do what works, for you. Document your days and celebrate the wins! The best gift you can give your kids is to show up.
In other words, observe, learn, celebrate!
3. Know you are not going to fail your child(ren)
Homeschooling has been around for decades and thousands of families before you have succeeded at educating their children. In fact, the first and often most important things a child learns in life are in the home.
Homeschoolers are often more creative, more innovative, and more passionate than traditionally schooled children and many universities are intentionally recruiting homeschoolers.
4. Develop your big picture vision and goals
Your journey is your journey. Not your neighbor’s, not another homeschool family’s, and not your school district’s.
What works for one home learning family might not be what works for another so, it’s up to you to map out your path.
Creating Your Home Learning Road Map will give you your visions, your values, your goals, and your learning. Even if your learners eventually return to a traditional education model, Your Home Learning Road Map with benefit you as a family creating more balance and fun in your everyday.
5. DOn’t prioritize academics: emotional well-being and relationships are far more important
So many new home learning families I know start off worrying about all the academics they need to “fit in” in fear of letting their children down. The truth is, focusing too much on academics will probably let your children down even more.
Maintaining a loving, close emotional connection with kids during this time is of utmost importance. They will learn so much: resilience, love, how to deal with difficulty. This will teach them far more about how to be in the world than trying to cobble together lessons.
6. Establish a Homeschool Rhythm and forget about scheduling
Rhythms and schedules are two different things. I suggest taking time to find your groove rather than planning by the clock. Schedules can feel too confined for many, especially those dealing with ADHDers. Rhythms create the consistency important to minimize upset and arguments.
Two Examples of Rhythms:
- The Flexible Divide
Consider dividing up your day into 3 sections: morning, afternoon, and evening and jotting down your routine with checkmark squares next to each. This helps keep your days flexible and low-key while still keeping you focused.
Your routine could include “time outside”, “read aloud”, “lunch”, “quite time”, “play with mom/dad”, or “your daily chore”.
With intentionality, all of these can have an academic focus. You can also schedule in more intentional academic time as needed and appropriate.
- The 3-Hour Homeschool Rhythm
1. Pick any 3 hour block of time that works for your family.
It could be 9am-noon. Or, if you have later risers, 11am-2pm or even later.
If you need to split the hours up throughout the day, doing one here and another there, that could work too.
It might be best if this time range is the same each day, but if that’s not possible, that’s okay.
2. Define what is and isn’t allowed during this time.
Your goal is that these three hours will be dedicated to learning in some way on the days you decide are “school days.” (e.g. educational apps and websites, books, audiobooks, traditional lessons and workbooks, music practice, artistic pursuits etc.)
Younger kids might benefit from creative activities such as baking and cooking, and imaginative toys (e.g. Lego)
Have a family meeting to explain what’s allowed, so everyone has clearly defined expectations.
3. Divide up the hours:
Hour 1 – Any essential academics (language arts/math/etc)
Hour 2 – Books in all forms: Read-alouds, individual reading, audiobooks
Hour 3 – Games, Documentaries, Podcasts, Online learning
As always, do what works for you.
Switch the hours around in any order based on your needs!
Take more or less than an hour for each “hour” depending on your kids attention span or interest in the activity. Younger kids may need less than 30 minutes of essential academics.
4. Decide the rest of the day:
The 3 “hours” will keep you focused on academics but don’t forget to also incorporate the following somewhere in your day: personal time, physical activity,
7. BLok Out Free Time
Free time is incredibly beneficial and valuable for humans, especially kids who are being told what they can and can’t do a lot of the day. Remember to be clear on the free time expectations. What are they allowed to do without your supervision? Do they need extra support getting into the hang of “free time”? Is free time the same as quiet time in your house or are those different?
In additional to free time, make sure you are also creating dedicated time for physical activity, 15-20 minutes of 1-on-1 time with each of your kids (playing on their terms), chores (this may or may not be daily), socializing (perhaps this is post-pandemic?), and any other regularly scheduled activities.
These are all things that you have most likely already been incorporating into your days, as a public school parent.
8. Make the learning relevant: don’t force it!
It is okay (and sometimes vital!) to take breaks or adjust your learning. Don’t try to push through when your child (or even you) is having an off day or feeling particularly frustrated. If the learning is not working either stop or come up with new ways to introduce the concepts so that they are relevant to your child.
Don’t be afraid to make judgement calls based upon your family situation. Each kid is unique and as much as possible be able to respond to what’s coming out of each of them. Use this as a chance for your kids to explore their interests. If the work is driving them nuts, allow them to find what they love and give them time each day to explore that.
9. Find your BaseLine then, go “off script”
If you’re anticipating returning to school, chances are you’re want to follow the public school curriculum. Although I don’t recommend this to longer-term home learning families, it’s may be important in your circumstances.
Despite attempting to teach the same material, remember, your learning environment cannot be a replica of the classroom. I am a big advocate of using curriculum loosely, as a guide and bringing your own personality and fun into the learning. Use the concepts being taught to incorporate learning into your every day. Don’t be afraid to “go off script.”
The more you explore, expand, improvise, and get creative, the more your children will start to see learning as fun and useful rather than annoying and pointless.
10. Note: Homeschooling during the pandemic won’t take as long as traditional schooling.
Classroom time is often eaten up by the logistics of herding 20+ kids and keeping them all occupied with the same “task”. Some teachers estimate that the actual learning time in a typical school day is around 2.5 hours. Not only is the learning time short, it’s not super tailored so, just imagine how much you can accomplish in a short period of dedicated, focused time at home!
This probably comes a big relief to those of you that are wondering how to fit all this in around your work responsibilities.
What are you most nervous about this year? Are you feeling excited?
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