Due to the Coronavirus, most of the United States has been thrown into homeschooling as an effort to keep our families safe from this new threat as well as not lose precious school days our kids need to continue to grow their academic skills.
We’ve homeschooled for the past three years and in my younger years, I worked as a public school teacher. I’ve seen both sides of the coin and know it is not an easy task for parents, educators, or our children to be thrown into a new learning routine mid-year.
It’s exciting to see so many photos floating around on social media with families embracing their new “homeschooling” status. Hopefully, in the long run, this disruption from normal life will help us all have more empathy and understanding of the roles we play in our children's life.
In addition, this could spark a revival of parent involvement in the education system. Students succeed when parents are invested in their children's education.
Here are a few tips for those of you working to wrap your mind around your new role as the primary educator of your children.
1. Give it Time
It’s going to take time to discover your teaching style, students' learning style, and a routine that works for you. Most public school teachers usually need a few years to really get the hang of their craft.
As a homeschool mom our first year was very overwhelming and each subsequent year I learn new ways to manage this thing better.
Thankfully, you most likely won’t be teaching your kiddo for years but it does help give some perspective to your situation. If the first days, weeks, or duration of your teaching journey together is challenging you are not alone.
Embrace grace over perfection as you dive into this unprecedented journey.
Trial and error is a part of the process. You may find that you do best with a rigid schedule or it could be that just staying in PJ’s, playing games together, and slowly working through the work teachers sent home works best for you.
Thankfully, we now have all the time in the world to be together so there is no rush to wake up and get everything done.
2. Accept That Homeschooling Is Not the Same as Public School
I struggle with this still even as a veteran homeschool mom. I think that our day should include the same activities, learning goals, and be the duration of a traditional school model.
As hard as it is, it’s helpful to throughout the expectation that what you do at home will be the same as what your child is used to at school.
First of all, you are jumping into this mid-year and with no time to plan or prepare for schooling at home. It’s going to be very hard for you to know exactly what your student should be working on and having a comprehensive plan for what all you should be covering is a challenge for both you and the public school teachers working to guide you in this endeavor.
Focus on the basics: reading, writing, grammar, practice math facts/skills, and then give yourself some room to explore as a family. This is a great time to tackle a project you’ve put off as a family.
Plant a garden, learn how to bake something new, build something together, explore nature, read aloud a good book to your kids, buy some science kits, research a topic that interests everyone, or watch documentaries in your PJ’s.
Most of all keep your expectations low. Remember teachers often plan to do a lot and end up only getting to pieces of what they planned. This is a great opportunity to inspire fresh joy in learning for your kiddo and to learn about them in a new way.
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3. It's Going to Be Hard to Adjust to Being Together All the Time
There is a fairly good chance that over the next few weeks your kids are going to drive you nuts. Regular homeschoolers aren’t immune to that either—that’s why they don’t normally live in a world of quarantine.
We rely on parks, libraries, co-ops, sports, meetups, classes, museums, etc. to keep us all sane and engaged. We are all entering uncharted waters.
Your children are going to fight and get on your nerves. The fact is no one is perfect at this homeschooling thing. We all have moments where our patience is tested.
There are many times I’ve had to apologize to my kids for using impatient words or getting frustrated with them. That’s just a part of being in close quarters and the added expectation that you will “educate” your kids can be a heavy burden at times.
Do what you can to focus on fun, memories, and family bonding. This is not just a chance to learn together--it’s a chance to grow closer together as a family unit. That is so much more valuable than keeping up with tons of schoolwork.
When you want to get overwhelmed or think you are failing, remember these are extenuating circumstances for us all. You are not alone!
4. Embrace the Outdoors
Thankfully, Spring is on its way! When the sun is out, send those kids out to enjoy it. Let them be bored outside. It’s a great way to create some space between you and your kids that does not include screens. It can help get their crazy energy out, boost their vitamin D, and give you some quiet space for a time.
Use the outdoors as your classroom. If you have access to trails, try a nature walk or maybe just bring all your books out into the backyard.
It’s amazing how fresh air and sun can help brighten everyone’s mood.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ashton Bingham
5. Keep Your Kids Physically Active
Kids need to move their bodies. They are naturally loud, rambunctious, and just a lot. Have them run, bike, take walks together, do some YouTube Kid’s yoga, or all of the above during the day.
Giving them chances to spend some of that extra energy will help them do better when attempting to focus and complete their schoolwork. It also will just help keep a calmer happy home, as things can get tense quick when you are cooped up and they have no way to use up their high levels of energy.
An added bonus is if you are able to be active alongside your kids, giving you some much needed happy endorphins that can boost your mood and lower your stress during this uncertain time.
6. Fix Your Mind on the Good and Beautiful
With the amount of anxiety going around in our world today we all have to go out of our way to fix our minds on good.
Philippians 4:8 puts it so well, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
What an important verse to remember when our lives are currently being turned upside down!
One tip to try is starting your day with a thankfulness list. It could be as simple as everyone stating something they are thankful for or as elaborate as writing an essay on all the ways God is providing for you in this season.
Posting this list in your home as a visual reminder that God is present and providing is a great way to help combat the fearful thinking that we all are fighting against.
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7. Start Your Day with Prayer and Meditation
One thing this whole ordeal shows us is how little control we have over the details of our lives. Within a week our health, the education of our children, the economy, and so much more has been thrown up in the air.
Disruptions like these are opportunities to turn to the Lord in a fresh way. He is our true provider.
Pray for strength to love your family well in this weird season. Ask God to forgive you for thinking you had it all “under control.”
We all should open our hearts to what God may be wanting to teach us through this uncomfortable season.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:29-30
8. Self-Care Is Essential
Don’t neglect investing time into things that will also fill your cup as you go through your day.
Setting up boundaries, even at home is helpful. If you aren’t used to being in the same space as your kids during daytime hours and rely on getting out of the house for your “me time” don’t neglect making time for yourself even at home.
It’s easy for togetherness to wear down your patience. Self-care is essential to the sanity and well-being of all! Take a walk, do something creative, read a book, spend time working from home, or have an “at home” date night with your hubby after the kids go to bed.
Mental health is a real concern as we are pushed into a more isolated routine in order to keep our community safe. Don’t neglect you.
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9. Your Kids Are Going to Eat All Day and Your House Is Going to Be Messy
Just a fair warning: when your kids are home, all they want to do is eat. If my kids went to public school one of my top concerns would be how they would be able to make it so long between meals. I think at least one-third of the day is spent feeding the people! It’s truly amazing.
If you are used to a neat and tidy space, it’s about to get crazy up in there. I really love a clean house but over the years I’ve had to let some of that go.
It can feel painful to see your clean floors destroyed with the dirt that is inevitably tracked in from them playing in the yard. Or the crafting leftovers that somehow find a way to explode across your kitchen table. Also, let’s not forget the snack scraps that somehow make it into every room of the house!
Some things that help are choosing a “cleaning day” and cleaning the house top to bottom day.
Make sure to enjoy the 30 minutes of clean house bliss once everyone’s done their part. Every other day of the week just stick to some general end of the day tidying.
Employ the help of your kids! Have them pick up dishes, bring down laundry, and feed the pets. If everyone is home, then everyone should be playing a part in maintaining your living space.
One of my favorite homeschooling verses is Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
This most likely is not what you had in mind for your spring but nonetheless God calls you to jump in and do it well for Him. Yes, we are called to serve our families but truly our first calling to serve the Lord.
Remember, He is with you through all of this upheaval. Let’s all pray this ends quickly so we can resume our normal--but in the meantime may God use this season in your life for his good.
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