I hear your house just turned into a school.
First of all, let’s just acknowledge that this is a difficult thing to do and a difficult time to do it. It is stressful to wade through homeschool waters in the best of circumstances, but, especially if you are also managing work responsibilities and a social/economic/health/world crisis on top of it!
Whenever people ask me about homeschooling, my #1 advice is not to do it alone. Admittedly, COVID-19 is making it difficult not to do homeschool alone. Our weeks typically consist of community day with other homeschoolers, soccer practices/games, youth group, music lessons, science club, YMCA visits, and church. Isolating from our groups will be difficult because, contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers enjoy socializing. 😉
I assume your kids’ amazing teachers have supplied you with all the academic curriculum you need. This is what many homeschool teachers spend hours, weeks, months deliberating. You don’t have to do that. Thank your teachers. They are incredible. You already are supplied with the what of your homeschool.
The truth is, there are as many ways to homeschool as there are stars in the sky, and so every homeschool is different. That said, I thought I might share a few hows of our homeschool day. This is my 5th year homeschooling, and here are 6 six things that have made all the difference for us.
- Space: You don’t need a formal, fancy homeschool room. They are fun, but unnecessary. Choose a table. Clear it. Begin. The children are as likely as a lit firecracker to stay in one spot. Our entire home is our school: to include the bathroom and backyard. Josiah listened to the entire saga of the Neverending Story upside down on our staircase.
- Morning Meeting: Begin together. My kids come to our couch having finished morning chores by 9a.m. (YOU CHOOSE THE START TIME AT YOUR HOMESCHOOL!!!!). Morning Meeting usually takes an hour and it’s the best part of the day. It’s easy. It’s relaxed. It’s our best beginning.
- We start with Bible study. No fancy curriculum, just a standard Bible reading plan. We read two chapters. Discuss. Pray. That’s it. If that seems over-whelming, just start with a prayer. (Now would be a good time to get yourself acquainted with Jesus, if you haven’t do so already. He’s critical to a decent homeschooling experience.)
- Next we watch CNN 10 and discuss current events. Available on Youtube, this is a ten minute student news program and it’s well done.
- Finally, I read aloud to them from a novel. I started reading to my kids exactly 24 hours after becoming a parent and have not stopped. Board books turned to Dr. Suess. Dr. Seuss turned to Junie B. Jones. Junie B. Jones turned into The Hobbit, and so on. Biographies. Classics. Fantasy. Historical Fiction. Exactly zero of my children complain about this time. My teenager is as enthusiastic about it as his younger siblings. Ideally this would occur at the end of the day when we’re all relaxed and our brains are dull, but frankly if I waited until the end of the day, it would never happen. Since it is one of the most valuable times we share, we do it at the beginning of the day. If you never have had time to read to them before, you have it now. The world is literally cancelled. Books are not. If you need suggestions, please find a wealth of information here. Our favorites include: The Golden Goblet, The Neverending Story, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
- School work: Make a list. This doesn’t have to be fancy. I typed a list in a Word Document. Printed it. Slipped it into a page protector. They cross off their tasks with a dry-erase marker. When they finish, they bring me the list and I sign off. When they get my signature, their day is done.
- Limit screens: Our policy is zero video games during the school week. Find a policy that works for you and your family.
- Go outside: Children really weren’t designed to sit at a desk for 6 straight hours. Don’t make them. Let them have breaks. Let them run around your house. Let them play with your dog. Let them jump on the trampoline. 10 minutes of unstructured play can stimulate their brains for better focus during the remainder of that math lesson.
- Teach them to cook: Honestly, this is an investment in you. It will save you so much time. Start anywhere. Let them pour their own milk for crying out loud. If it spills, and it will spill, let them clean it up. Let them toast their own bread. Write down your smoothie recipe and show them how to use a blender. Yes, you will have strawberries on your ceiling on occasion (also show them the ladder and teach them how to use it). The kitchen is where the lion’s share of our learning takes place. Food is the epicenter of community, so it invites conversation, intimacy, communion. Teach them to cook.
That 6th “how” leads me to the only warning I share with you. You are going to need to make a new budget. The school is no longer providing your daytime electricity, toilet paper, or limiting times for food consumption. Your utilities will increase. Your toiletry needs will increase. Your ever-available pantry and refrigerator will taunt your little darlings exceedingly. Like Edmund trying to resist Turkish Delight, the temptation will overwhelm them and that recommended 30-day stockpile will be gone in an afternoon. Truuuuust me.
How do I know what I am doing is working? I don’t! I’m wandering through the wilderness, trusting God daily for his wisdom and guidance, patience and forgiveness. I figure I will know my homeschooling has been a success only when my grandchildren are grown and have become contributing members of our society. That’s a long time from now. Until then, since they haven’t failed their standardized testing yet, I trust God and the people he has placed in our path to help guide my children through their education.
Finally, know this: you are not going to thwart their college admission chances in a two month time span. You will not. So, relax. Enjoy what you can enjoy about this time. And if you find the best thing ever about your homeschool experience, please share it with me!
Five Fun Facts:
- Your windows double as dry erase boards.
- Alexa can set timers and make announcements.
- When dividing fractions, remember: Keep, switch, switch.
- Alexa knows how to spell every word in the English language.
- Graph paper saved my homeschool.