If you’re like many parents and caregivers right now whose children are suddenly home all day instead of at school, and you are now facing the prospect of a crash course in homeschooling, you may have said once (or a hundred times), I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING!?!? You are not alone, I promise!
I have been homeschooling for years, yet this pandemic has turned my family’s entire world upside down. We’ve been missing our library dates, ballet classes, afternoons at the playground, chess club, but most of all: our friends. My usually-somewhat-agreeable child has been downright combative and emotionally on edge these past few days, poor thing. This quarantine is so hard on everyone, but especially our most vulnerable . . . which includes our children.
The Whys and Hows of Homeschooling
Everyone I’ve met along this homeschooling journey has a different reason for doing it. Some want to travel full-time, some want to focus on their religion or culture, some want to allow their kids to be wild and free while they’re young, some want to teach their kids a family trade, some were unhappy with their own public school education, some want to avoid bullying/cliques/social media . . . the list is endless.
Families worldwide partake in dozens of different homeschooling styles as well. There are traditional secular, traditional religious, eclectic, unschooling, wildschooling, worldschooling, roadschooling, classical, Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, etc. Each has its pros and cons, and it’s just a matter of finding the right fit for your family.
In our home, we take bits and pieces from whichever styles suit us best at the time, so: eclectic. My primary focus is on opening as many doors as possible for my child to explore and contextualize the information she discovers along the way.
You Will Feel Overwhelmed. It’s Okay.
I would be shocked if you didn’t.
You know the title of that very popular song sung by a Disney ice princess? Just let it go! Whatever is frustrating you, whatever seems too daunting, whatever is stressing you out, whatever is triggering you to be short with or yell at your kids: we have to remind ourselves to let it go and that it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
If your kids do nothing but play video games until September, they will be fine. If they eat too many sweets and not enough veggies for the next six months, they will not die. We will eventually find a new normal and pick ourselves back up and forge ahead. Eventually. And eventually does not have to be this week, this month, or even the rest of the year, if that’s what it takes.
A Lazy Summer Never Hurt Anyone
When I was 10 and my sister was 6, our parents worked full-time for the first time during the summer. Left to our own devices, we woke up every morning and ate sugary cereal in recliners while watching The Smurfs. After hours of cartoons, we would swim in the backyard pool (it was a different era, y’all). We’d return inside and prepare a bologna and cheese sandwich with Cheetos (in the sandwich) and fruit punch. We’d then watch Animaniacs and play Nintendo until dinnertime. And you know what? Those memories are some of the best from my entire childhood: being free, existing, no expectations, and simply enjoying life and time with my family.
It is important to note that my “summer of sloth” had no life-long negative impact on my future. I graduated high school with honors in the top 10% of my class, was accepted to college on Priority Admission, had a varied career, including being the Director of Operations for a multi-million dollar brokering company, and also started several of my own businesses both before and since becoming a mom.
So give yourself and your children a break for as long as it makes sense for your family and your situation. Take the pressure off of them . . . and off of you.
Ready to Give Homeschooling a Real Shot?
Once you’re all feeling emotionally and mentally prepared to forge ahead, you might find that you and your children prefer homeschooling! Or you may find that, once the schools reopen, you and they will be overjoyed to return to public schooling. Whatever the case, you have time to figure out what works best for your family. Use this time to help your kids discover new ways of learning while you decide what’s best for everyone in the long run.
If you ultimately decide to continue homeschooling after the schools reopen, research your state’s homeschool laws (HSLDA.org is a good starting place). Some states, like Texas, are very homeschool-friendly and simplify the process. In other states, there may be more paperwork. If you can, go ahead and withdraw your kids now and then take your time figuring out which homeschool style best suits your family. We cycled through several before crafting our own. Focus on discovering your philosophy rather than fretting about a curriculum.
If you decide that public/private/charter schooling is best for your family after all of this is said and done, here are some ways you can maximize the time you and your kids have at home while school is out:
1. Finish the school year as best you can at home.
Follow the guidelines and curriculum sent home from your child’s school. If that feels like too much, email their teachers or the principal to see if they can scale the workload way back. I imagine they’ll be very understanding and willing to work with you. Be your child’s parent first and their teacher second. And remember, there are no bells, shuffling between classes, or going to lockers at home. School at home should only take 1-4 hours per day (max), depending on age. Less is more. Call it an early summer if you didn’t receive any curriculum or assignments!
2. Feed their minds with books.
Find your kids the coolest (according to them) books/graphic novels to fill their days. Most local libraries have online ebooks, and Audible has just opened up thousands of free titles (as of this writing).
3. Ask your kids for their insights.
How do they want to spend the next 5-6 months? Maybe they want to do tons of art or build a robot. Maybe they want to mow lawns to save for a car. Perhaps they have an idea for a product they’d like to develop. Maybe they want to learn a new skill. Or perhaps they want a pen pal to send letters to. The sky’s the limit!
4. Prioritize relationships above all else.
Keep your focus on what’s most important: your relationships. If you feel your blood starting to boil, leave the room and cool down so you can approach the issue rationally and calmly. If your kids are fighting, get everybody outside (blow bubbles, sidewalk chalk, kick a soccer ball, find a creek to wade in).
5. Utilize your resources.
If they are bored, work together to list everything fun/interesting they can do at home. Then let them be responsible for their own entertainment. Or, if you enjoy crafting, there are a million activity ideas for every age and interest imaginable on sites like Pinterest.
6. Implement chores.
One of my favorite Peaceful Parenting gurus is Janet Lansbury, and she advocates referring to chores as “family contributions.” Encourage your children to participate in the business of taking care of the home you communally share. It can foster self-reliance, self-esteem, self-confidence, gratitude, community spirit, work ethic, and so much more.
7. Don’t forget about “me time.”
Find a way to refill your cup every day. Can you get up 20 minutes before everyone else and journal with a hot cup of coffee, sit on the porch and listen to the birds, or do yoga or kickboxing? Every little bit helps.
8. Stay calm and compassionate.
And finally, remember that all behavior is communication. So when your kids inevitably have meltdowns and tantrums, are uncooperative, overly hyper, whiny, or moody, they’re doing their best to communicate a need to you. Just do your best to respond to that need with empathy and love. Be the calm in their storm.
This virus-imposed test of patience and compassion has the potential to bring us all closer and make us stronger in the end. And you never know . . . you may discover you prefer homeschooling more than you expected! For now, do what you must to get through these next few months. So, buckle in and prepare to enjoy the challenge. Let’s do this!