4 Tips for Homeschooling: Whether by Choice or Sudden Necessity

I started writing this post in the first week of February, then I changed my mind and started writing something else. I didn’t finish that either because, well, I just didn’t focus on blogging for a while. Now that I’m on my third day of social isolation, I’ve caught up on a few things and I’m ready to write. Having observed parents expressing all kinds of emotions from fear, to confusion, to frustration about their instant and unexpected homeschooling status, it seems only right for me to finish this post today.

In the original draft, the first two pieces of advice were the last. I wanted to get the other things out of the way and close by reminding parents to take it easy and give themselves a break. In light of the recent, rapid changes to all of our lives, I switched things up. Reminding people to relax and show themselves and loved ones a bit of grace took on a greater urgency, so that’s where we’ll begin.

1. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your children. Education is a learning process for everyone, including the teacher. Professional teachers are tasked with learning the personalities, traits, habits, fears, preferences, and learning styles of 15 to 30 students per class. Within a few weeks they know who is shy, outgoing, comical, sullen, bratty, and respectful. They have learned to identify strengths and areas to improve, and with the right support and resources, they’re able to make adjustments to help each student understand and retain various lessons.

Isn’t that what you already do with your children? You know which one is easily frustrated, which one has great focus, and which one is happiest when moving around. Start there and work with that. Remember that while you’re guiding them through learning, you’re learning too.

2. Flexibility is your friend. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. You can always make adjustments. If something isn’t working for you and your child, try something else. The beauty of homeschooling is that it truly serves the members of the home. I thought my son would love doing math classes online. He hated it so I switched to a textbook, a workbook, and worksheets. Now he isn’t miserable while doing something he always liked and I’m not aggravated by a miserable child.

Even if your student’s regular school offers live classes online, you still have the flexibility to adjust the environment. Can your daughter sit on the porch with the laptop and take her class outside? Could your son stand up and move freely while watching the teacher on the computer? If you believe they will benefit from it, why not? You have the flexibility to do what works for your family, so feel free to do whatever that is.

3. Don’t worry about the curriculum. There are dozens of programs, most of which only have one or two things that differentiate them from each other. There are also resources at local libraries, at some local school districts and universities, and of course, on the internet. You can purchase an entire program or in some cases, buy what you want a la carte. You can also do what I did, which is pull from various free sources to compile something that works for your family.

Gently used text books can be found at thrift stores, library book sales, and used book stores – or on the internet. The same goes for other supplies like maps, posters, models, and flashcards. In most cases, if you have been forced into homeschooling because of COVID-19, your child’s school is likely to provide you with all, or many of the resources you’ll need.

4. Learning has no schedule. I know that we have schedules, but our children can be educated at any time of day (or night). Consider all of the adults who take classes on evenings or weekends. Is that Accounting class less significant because it took place at 6:00pm? Is that certification invalid because it was completed over several weekends? Of course not! So if your child is at home during the day but you can’t be, or you have to work from home during specific business hours, it’s ok. The children can do things that don’t require as much supervision or instruction during the day. This works especially well if you have children of varying ages.

Coloring, drawing, painting, building with blocks, scavenger hunts, dance contests, bike rides, hide and seek, board games, playing outside, playing dress up, and yes, even watching movies or educational television shows can all be done while you work. If they have a favorite show to watch in the evening, let them watch in the morning, since they’ll be doing school work later. Just don’t freak out about keeping a “normal school schedule” if that’s going to create more hardship for your household.

Whether you have always desired to homeschool, you have shifted gears to homeschool when public schools no longer met your standards (like me), or you have suddenly found yourself homeschooling as a result of social isolation, you can find a way to make it work for your family. While we must all remain physically isolated, there are online homeschool groups, community homeschool cooperatives, and hopefully, your tribe of family and friends to lean on. Reach out to them. COVID-19 can’t reach through your phone or computer so make sure to take advantage of all available resources.

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