I never thought I would write this post, but the emails and messages are pouring in asking for help and advice about schooling at home during the Coronavirus pandemic. A little background about myself before I get into the advice I have to offer. I have been homeschooling my three children for the past 7 years. My kids are 5th, 3rd, and 1st graders although we teach up by a grade or two.
I chose to homeschool and truly love it, but like most endeavors, we have wonderful days and hard days. I have great compassion upon you, who are being launched into this not by choice but out of necessity. But, I want to encourage you that you can do this and enjoy the experience!
Look at this as a new job. In your career you have good days and bad days, but it doesn’t make your career an overall bad experience, at least I hope not. This is just the nature of life. Ups and downs. These next weeks you will experience both the good and the hard.
Check your attitude, now! Like anything, if you set out expecting this to be a terrible experience, it most likely will. Just like we tell our children, attitude is everything! Get positive and set the tone for your kids. This is an opportunity to grow, learn, and have more time together. This is not a death sentence.
But, I don’t like my kids home during summer, Christmas, or spring breaks! How can I possibly survive this season AND be expected to teach them? Guess what? I don’t like breaks either. When our family is on break, my kids can drive me batty too! It is not the kids being home part that is the issue but rather the lack of schedule, structure, routine.
Homework is an awful experience in our house, and now we have to do this all day, every day?! I would hate homework too if I were trying to work with my kids after 4 pm when they were already exhausted from the day. This will not be like a homework experience. It will be so much better, because your kids will be fresh in the morning!
How am I going to entertain my kids for weeks on end? All day long?! You don’t have to! Your job is not to entertain them! Let yourself off the hook now from this entertaining business! Your job will be guiding their education, helping them work on character growth, refining their life skills like cooking and chores. Your job is to put your kids to work. Humans thrive in work. Work is not all hard and bad; it can be rewarding and fun.
This is your job, not extended weeks of entertainment. We would all lose our minds without productivity. We need a goal, a purpose, a passion.
So, what does that look like? How can you achieve this?
Set a schedule. This will protect your sanity as much as it will your children’s. Here is a sample of what works for us. I explain this in further detail below if you are interested.
8-8:15 am Morning time. Every homeschool parent will tell you to start your day with all your children doing something interesting and engaging. Never start your day with math. Never. Morning time for us includes bible study and a great read aloud book. Even if all your children have separate independent work on their google chrome books, I encourage you to start your day together with a good read aloud. It helps to focus everyone’s minds and start your day off well.
8:15-9:15 am History and Science. I intentionally select the most interesting subjects to begin our day, so the kids are excited about learning. It is important to give your kids hands-on learning. They cannot have idle hands, or they will get bored. I give my kids coloring pages or projects, as I read the curriculum aloud. They can listen much better when their hands are busy.
9:15-9:45 am Brain break. At this point, my kids have been listening for over an hour and they need a break. I send my boys to ride their scooters or play in the yard, or my daughter practices piano or works on a drawing or typing lesson. DO NOT let your kids on a video game or watch a show for a brain break. You will not get them back on track without a fight. Save electronics for the end of the day!
9:45-11 am Math and Language Arts. This is the meaty part of our school day. Now that their brains are alert, focused, and ready to go, we work on the more challenging subjects. I cannot teach 3 math lessons at once, so I start my oldest first and cycle to my others. She needs a quick 10-15 min instruction and then she works on the problems independently and comes to me with questions. While I am working with her, I have my boys work on their language arts worksheets and handwriting. This pattern takes the most coordination and patience of my day.
11-11:30 Brain break. This break typically includes music practice for my kids or more outdoor play.
11:30-12 Read aloud. Literature and more literature is a theme throughout our day. I always have a classic book or a book that is coordinated to our history or science studies.
1-2:00 pm We work on extras. Science experiments, special history projects, typing lessons, math fact games, geography curriculum, etc. This is also the time that my boys end school as most of their work has been completed, therefore I am able to sit down and focus on my oldest child’s writing curriculum or other advanced work that she has.
2:00 Done. The remainder of our day is filled with activities outside our home, but since that is not the case now, I would suggest things like chore rotations, independent imaginative play, outdoor time, cooking lessons, art etc. I also highly recommend that you send your kids to play independently for an hour or more. You will need the time to regroup after a full morning.
How can I do this if I have to work? Your kids should not have more than 4 hours of schoolwork per day and less if they are in younger grades. I would work when they have “brain breaks”. If you work early in the morning, during brain breaks, and in the afternoon/evening, you should be able to do both. If your job is not that flexible, then you will just have to adjust the schedule.
When will I have “me” time? If you are a person who needs downtime or “me” time, I highly recommend you wake up early and have quiet for a few hours in the morning before your kids are up to start their day. Maybe your kids are early risers like mine, then teach them to have quiet in the morning. My kids know that they have quiet time in their rooms until 7 am, which allows me to start my day in peace with a bible study, work out, etc. Don’t sleep in! You’ll need to be fresh and ready to take on your new job.
How can I do everything else I need to get done in a day? Emails, cooking, cleaning, etc…It will all get done. There is enough time in the day. You may just need to cut back on Netflix. 😉
A few last tips:
Stay focused. If you get up to do the dishes or check your phone, the kids will lose their focus. You set the tone.
Stay calm. If you go off the rails, no one can learn. You are steering the ship and if you feel yourself sinking, it is best to take a “brain break” early and regroup after you’ve come back up for air.
Offer rewards. Kids are motivated by rewards. We have a reward system in our home that if my kids do their work with diligence and good attitudes, they can fill in a star on a star chart. When the chart is complete, they get a reward from a prize box. Other ideas for rewards include extra electronic time, favorite snack or treat, etc. Do not underestimate the power of rewards with kids!
Do the best you can. Teachers and administration will understand. This is an unprecedented time in our history, and we can only do our best.
You got this!
P.S. Your house will be messier. It just will. More people will be living there all the time. Accept this fact now and try your best to roll with it.
This piece originally appeared at joypetersen.com, published with permission.