Families everywhere faced the unexpected need to homeschool children during the COVID-19 pandemic. While I’ve been intrigued by the idea of homeschooling in the past, the sudden need to take it on myself initially worried me. There is still much uncertainty about the upcoming school year, the possibility of more remote learning, and the necessary monitoring of this medical pandemic. Although some families are now choosing to move forward with homeschooling for various reasons, we plan to return our children to their school. Regardless, these are five lessons that I learned along the way and will take with me as we move forward with our children’s education, no matter the format.
Seek Out the Perspectives of Experienced Homeschooling Moms
I already followed other inspiring mothers on Instagram who coincidentally home school. These mothers started free Zoom chats to provide their perspectives, lessons learned, and a supportive mindset to remind mothers that we are exactly the mother our children need during these challenging times. Social media makes these helpful experiences accessible to everyone, including moms who do not personally know anyone with homeschooling experience. For more information, check out Stephanie Weinert’s blog or follow her on Instagram for more information about Coffee Zoom Chats.
Set Up an Area for School Materials
This doesn’t have to be a separate room and you don’t have to convert limited common area space to a schoolroom. We primarily used our dining room and kitchen breakfast bar for school work. We knew we needed to add more organization to our set up once we knew that we were not returning to school in May. The piles of books and supplies on tables wasn’t working. For us, this was as simple as using a cheap plastic rolling cart. We labeled the drawers for each child to hold their books and supplies and topped it with a pen/pencil holder. Done. This made it easy to move supplies into other areas when needed and gave us a storage space to return everything when the “school day” was complete. It also entertained the toddler who spent parts of his days pushing it around everywhere.
Start the Day with a Prayer, Mantra or Intention of Your Own Faith
Most days, I tried to start the kids with the opening format they followed at school, which included prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance. I know this may seem silly to picture the three of us in our living room standing with our hands over our heart reciting something usually verbalized in larger, more formal settings. Truthfully, it centered our day. It reminded us why we were schooling at home and how it contributed to the well being of the larger community. It reminded us to pray for those affected by COVID-19 and for those working on the front lines. We missed this step some days, especially towards the end of the school year when we just wanted to finish. However, I found that it improved our day when we did it.
Take Outside Breaks Whenever Possible
I learned quickly that recess really is beneficial. Everyone, including me, needed multiple pauses throughout the day. Fresh air rejuvenates and helps make the school focused time more productive. My children would struggle if they tried to power through to finish earlier. I needed a break from trying to help with math problems. Two to three outside time breaks were key to our better days.
Use the Daily Assignments as a Guideline, Not a Requirement
My type-A personality resisted this one. I’m naturally a “list checker” who follows deadlines and due dates in detail. Over time, I learned that I truly know my kids best. I know how to balance times when they need to engage work ethic and when they truly needed a break. There will always be some assignments that are due when they are due and I need to teach my kids how to manage their time and complete something, even when they don’t want to. This instills confidence and empowers them as they learn that they can do things they thought they could not. There were other times, however, when there were daily lessons or worksheets still incomplete. I could see that my child was crispy, emotional, and simply DONE. I found that the best thing to do on those days was to close up for the day, get some physical movement, and let them know that we would start fresh tomorrow.
Regardless of what our children’s education format looks like this Fall, I hope that some of these lessons may help.