These are strange time we live in. However, let me say that this is not the first time there has been strange times. And, I will go out on a limb and venture to say that it may not be the last. That being said, I know none of us, including myself, believed just a week ago that the United States would be 100% homeschooling! Yet, here we are. The following tips are things we as a family have implemented and learned over a period of ten years of homeschooling.
I think given the current circumstances, the two sections that will apply to most everyone are MINDSET and ADMINISTRATION. While RESOURCES and CREATIVE LEARNING may be more age-specific, family-specific, and dependent upon how much support each school system is offering, it’s your opportunity to be the teacher and the principal. How will you run your school?
1. You are your children’s first educator.
You may not think of it in those terms, but you’ve already taught your children A LOT! You taught them to talk, to eat, to walk, relate to others, to put on their clothes… and those are just the basics. Parents model (teach) things to their children every day, often without realizing it. Now, as a parent, it is the time to be super aware and tune in to what you are teaching. In this situation, what you can teach them far surpasses academics. You can teach them to stay calm, patience, compassion, and self-sacrifice. They will be watching, rest assured.
2. Give your children and yourself some GRACE.
Grace-giving does flow freely when we feel overextended and under the gun, so to speak. But, isn’t that the time we need it most?? Being a homeschooling parent gives us an opportunity to realize, although we feel like we should, we don’t know it all. And that is OKAY! I hope you heard that; it is okay to not know the answer. It is okay to tell your child you do not know the answer. It gives you the chance to say to them, “let’s learn/figure it out together!” Over the last ten years, I’ve learned humility and homeschooling are closely related.
3. Embrace the slower pace.
As an attorney, type A, Enneagram 3 person, I had a very difficult time with this when we began our homeschooling journey. Now, I cannot imagine going back. I get more rest. I am not overcommitted. I live with margin in my life. Those are all good things. Recognize those and embrace them for yourself and your children.
4. Getting the grade does not always equal learning.
This one took awhile for me to understand. I am results-driven, so results equal mastery. However, that isn’t always accurate. We want our children to be lifelong learners not lifelong grade achievers/test takers. The depth of learning goes much deeper than just getting a good grade on a test. Often the grade on the test doesn’t really correlate at all to actual understanding. So, in this time, strive to foster learning, understanding and mastery of a concept rather than straight As. It is possible that in so doing the outcome will be a perfect score anyway.
5. You DON’T have to be an expert.
Often, we feel as though we cannot do a task unless we are THE expert. Not true. Naturally, if your children are younger, then you will, mostly likely, know all the answers. However, as we have found, as they become teenagers, the work gets more challenging. Either it’s been so long since we have done that work, or now they do it another way, or we never learned it to begin with. Don’t panic— now is a great time to show your child that you have the humility to say, “I don’t know everything; let’s figure this out together.”
6. Every homeschool set up looks a little different.
Every homeschooling situation is different because no two households run the same way. So, what works for us, may not work for the dynamics of your family or your schedule. That’s okay. If you understand and know this at the outset, you will not look at your neighbor and try to do exactly what they are doing. Rather, you can take maybe one tip and adapt to your specific circumstances. Remember, flexibility and customization ARE your friends in a homeschooling environment.
1. Divide and conquer your children.
In our home, we have a separate space where each of our children do their schoolwork. Most of the time they each are in their rooms. Sometimes, one will want to change where they do their work, so they will go to the sunroom or to the theatre room to work. Fine by us. That just means the other two work somewhere else. For us, we have found that this cuts down on the distraction, procrastination and the ever-annoying sibling bickering!
If you are in a situation where each child being in a different room is not an option, separate them out where their backs are to one another. If they cannot make eye contact, or see what the other is doing, they will have to focus on their work.
2. Timing is everything.
One of the ways we get overwhelmed is because each child is coming to us at the same time with a different set of questions or problems. Although as moms (and dads) we are pretty good at multitasking, we are not super-human. That means we can only deal with one set of questions at a time. For us, we work with the child that requires the most attention or emotional/physical energy or has the shortest attention span/fuse first. In our home, that means we do school with the 6-year-old first. While he is doing school, the other two are doing schoolwork that is self-directed. Once he is finished, then we have an activity for him to do, so that if questions need to be answered for the other two, he is not interrupting. It takes a bit of time to set these boundaries. If this seems like something that will work for you, stick with it. Once the boundaries are set, life gets a lot easier because both parent and child know what to expect.
3. School is open 24/7.
Just because you do “regular school” from 8-3:30, does not mean that you must do homeschool within those same hours. Now you may, and you may decide that works best for your schedule and set up. However, if it does not, do not feel guilt or anxiety over changing it. The goal is to accomplish things done efficiently. Sometimes that means mixing it up and making some adjustments. Again, allow flexibility and customization to be your friends.
4. Work together as a couple.
If you have both parents working from home, and in the current situation, that is more the norm than not, work together. If one of you is better at language arts, that parent handles those subjects. Conversely, if one is better in science and math, that parent tackles those subjects. Working together can also work where one parent needs to get work done, so the other parent does an activity to get the kids “out of the way” for a couple of hours. Be creative. What works for you may not look like everyone else’s schedule.
5. You are not your children’s entertainment coordinator.
This one may sting a bit. However, I am going to put it out there to empower you as parent. In this fast pace world that we USED to live in, our children have grown accustom, as have we, to constant stimuli and entertainment. Let me help alleviate all guilt by stating, unequivocally, you are not your child’s entertainment. So, “I’m bored,” or “I don’t have anything to do,” are the kiss of death in our house. Direct your children to find something to do on their own, or alternatively, you will find something for them to do (in our house it’s cleaning chores). They will always find something to do on their own, I promise!
Here are a few suggestions for ways to turn regular, everyday things into opportunities for learning for your children.
1. Nature walks
These can be done looking for specific things each time. Leaves, flowers, shells, birds, butterflies, or other insects. There is no limit on this one. After you have come in, look up and learn about your discoveries.
2. Plant flowers or vegetables
Plant spring plants or vegetables. This is a great way to teach children (and yourselves) how to take care of something that takes time to grow. For children, it’s also a great way to talk about photosynthesis, climate, weather, how things grow and where they grow best.
3. Baking and Cooking
This is one of our favorites, we especially love to bake. There is always an element of creativity involved. However, this teaches time management through timing things to come out at the right time together, math through measurements, science through mixtures vs. compounds. This list goes on with this one.
4. Watching a documentary and then discussing
With the advent of streaming television, there literally is anything at your fingertips to watch. Allow your children to choose a documentary. It is okay if it’s a bit over their head, then stop and discuss as they have questions. If they ask a question you don’t know, take time to figure out the answer together.
5. Virtual Museums/National Parks/Park
Especially with the social distancing that has been implemented nationwide, these national treasures are using technology to bring these experiences to us. What a unique opportunity! Take advantage of it. I know zoos are posting a new animal feature each day. Museums are highlighting various pieces in their collections. All of these are great jumping off points to explore and go deeper on a specific subject.
6. Puzzles (with or without Music)
Puzzles hone analytical, problem-solving, and organizational skills. You can also take the opportunity to listen to music maybe you wouldn’t listen to otherwise. Explore a different genre like jazz or classical. Again, these are great jumping off points to go deeper in a certain area.
7. Board Games/Cards
When was the last time you sat down and played SORRY, Monopoly, Yahtzee, or UNO? There is a lot of strategy in each of those games as well as others that sharpens the mind while having fun.
These are some of the websites and resources we lean on most. As you probably have already found, there are thousands of resources. Most of the resources listed below have hard copies of materials as well as digital resources.
There is a lot that goes into homeschooling. I know many of you find yourselves in a situation you did not foresee happening this school year. We had never planned to homeschool either, however, during the Recession of 2008-09, we were in the throws of running a creative business, and we needed to continue running the business, so we jumped in. At that time, instead of looking ten years down the road, we just made a commitment that we would take it one day at a time. We committed to one year, and then we would evaluate. For you, you may only have to commit to several weeks or a few months. Whatever that looks like, go all in. You won’t just be learning; you will be teaching your children in a big way. Now more than ever, they are watching to see what you do.
If I can answer homeschooling questions or be a resource for you, please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angie Avard Turner is an attorney who exclusively represents clients in the creative entrepreneur industry including retailers, wholesalers, artists, and bloggers. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia, but she is a legal specialist in matters of domestic and international copyright and trademark issues. For more information regarding her practice, visit www.angieavardturnerlaw.com.