If you’ve never thought you would use the word home-schooler to describe yourself and you might’ve even thought it was only for radicals of some sort, this blog post is for you. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives, even the homeschoolers, believe it or not, because, unlike what the word might sound like, we, as a general rule, are rarely home. We are out socializing at park days, group classes, field trips to interesting places, or just hanging out with friends.
So… it’s a whole new world for all of us. The only difference is that you’re probably not used to having your kids around all day and maybe you prefer it that way, but now that has changed, at least short-term. So, what to do about it all and how to proceed? I would love to give some input from my 20+ years of homeschooling my 4 children and also running a learning center for homeschoolers.
First of all, you will be asked to do some school at home from your local school. That is not what most homeschooling normally looks like, but it is one form of homeschooling.
There are many different approaches in homeschooling and now that you have the time and freedom to do some of the schooling in more engaging and fun ways, feel free to explore the many other philosophies. I have a recorded homeschool information meeting if you would like more details without researching it too much on your own and it covers approaches from Charlotte Mason to Project-based Unit Studies, Classical Education, Thomas Jefferson Education, Unschooling, and Eclectic Homeschooling.
Many of us homeschool through a homeschool virtual charter school, which provides a lot of freedom in picking curriculum, but still gives the structure of meeting with a credentialed teacher about once a month, getting some guidance and of course some educational funds to pay for educational classes, tutoring, music lessons, or materials and often those funds are spent at hybrid learning centers such as Learn Beyond The Book, where students attend classes once or twice a week and get a lot of learning done. Others choose to enroll in classes and pay out of pocket and file their own private school affidavit. There are many other ways of doing things than doing it all online or all on your own. There are great support systems, field trips, and social events for those who choose to homeschool, even prom, and graduations!
Since some of you might only be doing this for a short time, I would recommend spending the time reconnecting with your kids and enjoying being with them. This is a difficult time for all of us and your children are no exception. Don’t expect them to learn a ton when they’re stressed out and not feeling particularly safe. Those are key ingredients for successful learning to occur.
In the meantime, consider that a lot of things that aren’t considered ‘educational’ could still be part of learning. Pull out the Lego bin, a few puzzles, or some board games. Think about how to make the games more cooperative so there is less potential for someone getting too competitive and others getting upset. Many games can also be turned educational, for example, a simple game of cards can be turned into Math War instead or you can play scrabble with some vocabulary words. The possibilities are endless. Let the kids watch some Discovery Education or Our Planet on Netflix or something similar on a different platform. There are great documentaries on all platforms and there are even movies that you could watch that might portray a certain time period that they are studying or interested in. Make sure to consult your kids as you come up with things for them to do, especially if they’re a little older because once they have a say in the matter, attitudes often change for the better. Be open to their ideas, because they will have some great ones and teach them some research skills by helping them research and sift through what is a reliable source of information and what is not. This is the time where they can just explore a ton of interests. Initially, they might look directionless and it might look like they’re just poking around, but give them time and space and something really great might emerge. How about cooking or baking together, if they’re interested? You can do a lot of math as part of cooking and baking as well as some kitchen chemistry. If you were bad at Chemistry in school and feel like you don’t know anything about kitchen chemistry, why not research it together? If you’re willing to become a student with your children, they will learn a lot just from that. This is a great time to read up on some topics that you’ve always been curious about and learn something new, maybe even an instrument that has been lying around the house! Or alternatively, teach them something that is a hobby of yours that they might be interested in. You could also try out a virtual class in something they might find interesting to see how they enjoy that.
For some a rough schedule for the day is helpful, others don’t do too well with strict schedules so find your rhythm, there is no huge rush and you don’t have to worry about the kids doing well on the state tests this year, although with a lot of one-on-one help they might all actually perform better than usual on the tests, if they were being given, which they aren’t. If you feel the need, you can hire a great tutor for certain subjects as well. There is no right or wrong way to homeschool because each child is different and they have their own learning styles and modalities, personalities, and brain functions. Keep that in mind. They might learn differently than you do and that is great, but sometimes harder to teach, but you can learn how.
Home-schooling is a journey, not an event. If you remember one thing, please remember that. You will have a lot of trial and error, just like you did when you first became a parent and probably still somewhat every day, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your children, especially in this time, enjoy each other, see them for who they are, find the beauty and strengths in their personality, try to understand why they do the things they do (what needs are they trying to meet and what feelings are they experiencing as a result), focus on having a growth mindset (I don’t know now, but I can learn how) and learn with them. You will be surprised at what bond might grow out of it for the years to come.
Welcome to the world of home-schooling, the way of schooling that existed before the 1800s and produced our founding fathers and many other amazing and fascinating people in history. You can do it!