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How to Homeschool Your Kids Right Now (Hint: There’s No Perfect Way to Do It)

How to Homeschool Your Kids Right Now (Hint: There’s No Perfect Way to Do It)
Photo by Colleen Eversman at 2ndtruth

We can agree that homeschool isn’t quite the right term for what parents have had to take on during this time of COVID-19 and sheltering in place. Traditionally, homeschooling is a choice made before the school year begins and is chock-full of communities and resources and time to plan. Being thrown into schooling at home, mid-year, during a global pandemic is different, to say the least. But the word still applies, right?

I’m writing to parents of youngsters, in maybe grade three and under (although most of the general guidelines I’m offering will loosely apply to parents of any school-aged children). Kids who were just starting to ride the bus, who were learning their letters and numbers, and who aren’t currently receiving any or much online instruction from their regular classroom teachers.

Before we started socially distancing, I didn’t fully appreciate the rhythm of my family’s weeks. We’d go to Blooma, we’d go to the library for storytime, we’d meet our friends on Wednesday for a standing playdate, the kids went to childcare two days per week, we’d go to Mia family day, we’d have Sunday supper at my sister’s, we’d have happy hour on our neighbor’s patio. Those outings came to a sudden halt when we began sheltering in place, and life became a shapeless blob. Suddenly, there were no bones in place to keep us busy, active, and connected to others.

After a month of sheltering in place, I’ve come to a conclusion: There is no perfect quarantine homeschool. I really wanted there to be. I wanted to win at homeschooling. Unfortunately, there’s not an ideal schedule to stick to, there’s no model curriculum out there, there’s no exemplary handcraft or baking project that will offer the feeling we’re all after, which is perhaps, normalcy. 

After a month of sheltering in place, I’ve come to a conclusion: There is no perfect quarantine homeschool. . . . There’s not an ideal schedule to stick to, there’s no model curriculum out there, there’s no exemplary handcraft or baking project that will offer the feeling we’re all after, which is perhaps, normalcy. 

Starting with the idea that it doesn’t have to be perfect gave me the opportunity to try a few different things and to fail. Now I keep in mind that even if we do all the things I wanted to do that day and the house stayed relatively clean and we ate food and drank water, no one is going to come and award me a gold star. No one is even going to come and give me a paycheck for my hard work. (Honestly, rude.) The reward I can expect is maybe a moment of satisfaction and, hopefully, the knowledge that I’ll have the energy and momentum to do it again tomorrow.

So, I’ll offer some ideas on how to provide homeschooling in these times, keeping in mind that it’s different for everyone and there’s no perfect formula to be had.

1. A little bit of a schedule is helpful.

Even if it’s shifting. Even if it only means eating breakfast around the same time each morning. Everyone’s schedule is going to look different depending on each parent’s capacity and workload. This is an example of a (very loose) schedule my family is following these days:

  1. We hang out.
  2. We eat breakfast.
  3. We get dressed.
  4. We go for a walk (rain or shine).
  5. Georgie (3 years) does letters and numbers and Willie (19 months) does a sensory or fine motor activity.
  6. We choose an activity (I provide a list that includes options like painting, yoga, writing letters to friends, and letting the kids decide).
  7. We eat lunch.
  8. We read books.
  9. We nap.
  10. We hang out.
  11. We go outside and wait for dad to come home. (My husband has been able to safely socially distance himself while working alone. It’s been great for our family to have job security and routine, but his absence during the day has made it even more important for me to schedule time off from the kids.)

It varies a bit each day, but I find it helpful not to wonder, What now, to myself. The moments of what now always induce panic (for me).

2. Any work with letters or numbers or reading is good work.

I have a Master of Education, which qualifies me to tell you that: It’s fine. I’ve talked to many parent friends who feel shy about direct teaching with their kids because they don’t feel they have the training for it. It’s all good and it’s not as magical or mysterious as you think. Go for it.

There are lots of ways to approach these subject matters. Any talking, thinking, touching, tracing, or organizing you’re doing gets a thumbs up. Maybe you’ll find a subject area you and your kids really enjoy or an activity that everyone takes to and you dig in. I try to keep prep to a minimum and have a back-up plan if something isn’t working. Keeping it low stress for all is great.

I will say this: Little kids like singing and older kids hate it. That’s really all you need to know. If you’re thinking, I don’t know if my kid is little or old, just start singing a song about animals. You’ll be able to tell instantly.

3. Take breaks.

If you’re single parenting, I salute you and I bow before you. I’m certain you know more about sneaking in breaks than anyone. I suggest utilizing kids’ podcasts or audiobooks with blocks, sticker books, or coloring pages (I find listening and doing something with their hands keeps them engaged for longer), strategic T.V. time, naps/quiet time, or throwing everyone in the stroller or releasing them to an outdoor area with good sightlines and a snack—then putting in headphones so you can hear someone else talk for a fricken minute (gosh!). 

If you’re partner parenting, I highly suggest scheduling time on and time off with kids. Maybe you also add the caveat that no one (your partner) can judge what you do in your time off. It’s yours. You can focus on work, sans distractions, or you can read a book, take a bath, go for a walk, do a guided meditation, or lock yourself in your room and eat Heavenly Hunks and watch Vanderpump Rules. All are valid options. 

4. Invest in your own interests.

It can be easy to focus on the kids. Try to make some time for your own learning, journaling, reading, or drawing—either when you can fit it in during the weekdays or on the weekends, if you’re working full-time during the week. Try doing it in tandem with your kids.

Make something you like to eat. Text a friend. If all that seems too hard or time-consuming, try to make it easier. Take a nap. Write a list of things that sound appealing so you can refer to it when you have a minute. Take some of the leg work out of taking care of yourself.

5. It’s great to reflect on the day, but don’t beat yourself up.

We’ll make mistakes. It’s part of it. If the practice is about finding fun, engagement, and fulfillment for you and your kids, you’re on the right path. 

Parenting before COVID-19 was wild. Parenting during COVID-19 is wilder. I encourage you to channel that wild energy as best you can and on days it gets away from you, text your best friend a stream of swear words and start again. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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