Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Suddenly Schooling at Home

Suddenly you have found yourself schooling at home. Oh my goodness! Now what? This could be a complete headache – but it just might be a golden opportunity instead!

As millions of parents before you have proven, homeschooling can be done successfully. So let’s view this as an opportunity. Following are some points that will hopefully free you from some fear and frustration.

Take a deep breath and relax. I assure you that you are not going to ruin your children and their education. Honest! So, as much as you can, step back and allow you and your family to decompress from the abrupt change. Your children are still growing and learning even though right now life at home might be a little confusing.

Schooling at home is different
Schooling at home is not going to work the same way as a school classroom, nor should it. You are now simply tutoring a few students in your home. You don’t need the trappings of a classroom full of students. Homeschooling is flexible and there is no one-best-way-to-homeschool.  You are now free to create the routine that works best for your family!

Academics shouldn’t take as long
Realize that academics in your new home-teaching lifestyle are not going to take as long as institutional schooling. A lot of the time in traditional classrooms is spent on logistics and crowd control. At home most of this activity is unnecessary and, therefore, eliminated. Your formal academic teaching time is only going to be a few hours a day, depending on the needs of your children. Each day may even vary, depending on the pace your children learn. You are now free to customize.

People learn all the time
Realize that humans are wired to learn, and there are generally two types of learning that take place – formal academics and informal activity. Each type of learning is legitimate. Just because your children are no longer in a classroom setting does not mean that their brains have turned off and they are no longer learning anything. Academics have their place, but informal hands-on activities are just as important and can be part of your school day. Translation – free play and fun projects are good learning times for your kids.  If your school materials are a bit sketchy at first as you are transitioning, hands-on projects and play are legitimate options while you are finding resource materials. (I would suggest setting particular times for any electronic devices and refraining from using those as babysitters, however.)

You are free to flex
If you do not already have all of your materials, for whatever reason, and need to do your own planning, now is a good time for a practical approach. Simply start by slimming down your academic core to cover only some of the basics for now. For example, English, History, Math, Science (and Reading if you have very young children) are plenty for now. Put other subjects on hold until you pull together your basics and get a daily routine going. Again, don’t worry—you won’t ruin your children if you don’t resume all of the subjects all at once.

Also, it is perfectly acceptable if you don’t cover every subject every day. Traditional schools don’t do it and you don’t have to either. For example, perhaps consider assignments for English, and Reading for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; then do Math and Science on Tuesday and Thursday. Work with what makes sense for your daily routine.

Each child is different
As a parent, you know this. What this can mean academically is that what works for one child may not work for another. That is perfectly normal. You don’t have to cram them all into one academic mold. They also may not learn at the same pace. One may be more interested and academically ready than another. Developmentally some children are simply at a different place from their siblings and that’s just fine. In homeschooling, everyone can learn at their own pace. Adjust to their needs. By going with their developmental pace, there is no such thing as being “behind.” So feel free to slow down or speed up. There is no reason to stick to something that is too hard or too boring.

So what does your day look like?
Much of what your day looks like will be dictated by your family’s lifestyle. You are free to construct your own routine! Notice that I used the word “routine.” I highly recommend coming up with a daily routine as opposed to a rigid schedule. Strict schedules usually don’t hold up and they become tyrants as you unsuccessfully try to serve the almighty schedule. Instead, aim at a predicable routine that can flex when disruptions occur. Set a general flow for the day so that everyone knows what to expect.

For example, in our homeschool, our day started with breakfast and household chores. This took a couple of hours. Once that took place, I had the daily assignments laid out and it was time for academics. This also only took a couple of hours, depending on the age of the child and the subjects. We usually finished up around lunch. After lunch it was free time and we used this for unstructured play, projects, field trips, and errands. After supper was very flexible, but we often worked on crafts and had a family read-aloud time. But - that was our homeschool. Your homeschool routine might be completely different and that is perfectly OK. You might even have to try several routines before you figure out the one that works the best and that’s OK too.

Where do I find resources?
The amount of resources for homeschooling is staggering! Websites abound. There are sites to buy materials; there are sites for free materials; there are support group forums. One only needs to start googling. For example, for free materials, just search with words like ‘free homeschool materials.’ You can find support groups on facebook by searching ‘homeschool support’ or for more local help search  ‘homeschool support’ with your state entered in.  The options are seemingly limitless.

If you are confused about how to begin searching for materials, consider making a basic list of what you think you need. As you begin your online search for materials, don’t feel badly if it takes several days, or even a week or two, of looking around. If you are nervous about choosing materials, join some of the facebook support groups and ask for recommendations. These groups are full of homeschoolers who are using a wide variety of materials and can give you suggestions and insights. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you are new and have questions.

Remember – there’s no need to freak out. You have plenty of time and help is just a few clicks away. Choosing to view this time as a new adventure for your family will help lighten the load for everyone.

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