The Covid Academy: Tips for Those on an Unexpected Homeschool Journey
I have three other posts around ¾ of the way finished about trips we’ve been on recently, a homeschool book list recommending some of our favorites, and our new(ish) trim in our living room. Since I started writing these posts, the world has taken quite a dramatic turn. Its dizzying to witness how quickly things can change from one day to another. A few days ago many of the students and teachers in my county were looking forward to spring break next week. Yesterday, they found out they’ll be off of school for the next two weeks and then some of them will enact online class schedules after that due to the threat of the coronavirus. I can’t remember this ever happening in my lifetime. Not only are parents faced with a complete breakdown of their children’s normal schedule, but some are having to prepare to assist their children academically at home. If you are that parent, I can imagine this could seem like a pretty daunting task if you’ve never done it and/or never wanted to do it. It might be especially scary if you have been involved in more than a few homework battles where you’ve thought there is no way you could ever teach your child on the regular. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have a ten year old, eight year old, and five year old that I’ve homeschooled since they started pre-school at home, so I’ve got about six years under my belt. And hey, that’s more than nothing! I’ve seen several friends and friends of friends write social media posts expressing anxiety over this, so I thought I’d offer some thoughts in hopes of easing anxieties. Hopefully this be an encouraging message to some parents that might feel a little overwhelmed by this task, as I did in the beginning. If that’s not you, feel free to keep it moving. These tips will be geared to the elementary age group since that is the only experience I have. If you have middle or high schoolers. I don’t know. Imma pray for you. 😊
As a disclaimer, although these tips could be worked into any situation or arrangement in different capacities, if you’re a working parent and are still expected to work during self-isolation or quarantine with your kids, YOU’RE IN SURVIVAL MODE, BABY! I’m a photographer, and I can’t get anything done for work until my kids are in bed because having three kids at home and homeschooling is more than a full time job. If I were you, I wouldn’t feel pressured to make sure you’ve covered all of the academic topics they will have missed. Turn on Netflix or Disney+, crank the volume, fill your coffee table with an irresponsible amount of snacks, and you do what you have to do to keep everyone healthy, as happy or at least as settled as possible, and keep your job. The kids can catch up when school starts back and they’ll be just fine. However you get through the next few weeks, I salute you!
The first thing I learned a few weeks into homeschool is the importance of just going with the floooooooooooooooow. When we first started homeschooling, I had all kinds of plans of how we were going to schedule our days and none of that ever happened the way I thought it would. What I didn’t realize was that all those snack breaks, unexpected spills, paint and marker accidents, sibling fights, discipline duties, etc. that take place on a normal day with kids at home don’t stop just because we have to fit academics in. You’ll have chances to fit academics in, it just might not be when you expect it. And that’s ok. When you’re dealing with an uncertain daily timeline and a myriad of variables, taking the day as it comes will save your sanity. Having an idea of a timeline is good, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out that way.
If you have to teach them something new, try to make it into a game. Everything is easier to learn if its fun. It doesn’t have to be a structured, detailed game. I remember when I was in third grade my teacher taught us spelling by having us line up in front of a mini basketball hoop, tossing us the ball and having us spell the word she called out. If we spelled it correctly we could try to make a basket for a point. If you have smaller children, involving them in academic lessons through games that are physical can help burn some energy and keep their focus longer. It can be as simple as throwing a tennis ball back and forth as you practice math facts. Have them practice spelling words while they have a diving competition in the pool. You can even do this with homework help when they’re back at school.
Time they spend reading, creating, inventing, building, and problem solving, not only “counts” as learning, but may be even more beneficial than their worksheets or pre-planned lessons. LET.IT.HAPPEN. I keep a box of what probably looks like trash to most people, for the kids to mess around with. It is filled with empty individual ice cream cups (washed out), empty plastic milk cartons (again, washed out), bits of string, scrap paper, googly eye stickers, pipe cleaners, shoe boxes, chop sticks, straws, etc. They have access to everything in the box and can take it out and make something cool whenever they want. Teaching them to clean up after those building, and inventing sessions is a whole other story, but if you’re self-isolating, you’ve got some time on your hands anyway. 😊
If you’ve got more than one kid, they will fight. They WILL. And it’s cool. It doesn’t mean your kids are “bad” or don’t love each other. Count it as learning social skills, boundaries within relationships, tolerance, understanding and lessons in self-control. If you’re a kid who needs to learn those lessons, who better to fight with than your siblings that you know love you and will forgive easily? Will it drive you crazy? Maybe. Probably. But every fight is a new opportunity to reinforce your values in how to solve those inevitable conflicts in life. And take solace in the fact that they have to sleep at some point so it won’t last forever. 😊
Don’t be afraid of technology or electronics. Both of those things can be extremely beneficial when they’re used the right way. We use YouTube regularly, especially during science and geography. This week we studied Japan and got to “tour” the Jigokudani Monkey Park from a travel vlog on YouTube. We journeyed with them from the various busses and taxies they had to take to make it to the park, and then witnessed all the sights they saw while they were there. It was the easiest lesson I ever taught, and it stuck because they told my husband all about it at dinner that night. Annnnnnd let them play video games every now and then if they’re into that. Their imaginations and mental well being will survive the brief video game interlude and it may be the only quiet you have during the day.
Take some time to teach them how to do a few household chores you don’t normally have time to delegate to them. It’ll take some things off your plate, and they gotta grow up sometime. Amiright? I’m right. Moms of boys, consider these next few weeks as payback for all the messes they made potty training and teach them to clean around the base of the toilet. It will change your life.
Let them play outside. Turn on some music and let them dance. Show them how to water and care for your plants. Have some family movie nights. Leave them to their own devices and have them figure out what to do in their boredom. It’s all good. You can’t mess it up. Well I guess you could, but you probably won’t. 😉 In all seriousness, from my heart to yours, these homeschool years have been the sweetest, most memorable, most stressful, and most rewarding years of my life. I hope these next few weeks go as smoothly as possible for you, and that you’ll look back on these strange circumstances and remember the silver lining in the extra time together it has afforded us all.