If you’ve found yourself suddenly homeschooling, I just want to take a minute to encourage you. I saw someone recently call it “SIP” schooling (Shelter in Place) schooling, and I think that is a helpful distinction. As someone who has homeschooled for ten (non-consecutive) years now, I think it’s important to make sure you understand that what you’ve been tasked with is not homeschooling. Yes, you are home. Yes, you are schooling. But those of us that have made a deliberate choice to homeschool have gone into it with deep thought and preparation. We’ve studied curriculum and ways of homeschooling. We’ve found resources and support systems. We’ve attended conferences. We’ve talked with others about how to do this. We’ve had time to plan and prepare for our school year.
You? Well, you have been thrown into this. You’ve found yourself in a spot you never probably dreamed or imagined. And it’s hard. And it might feel lonely. And you might be overwhelmed.
(Side note: Honestly, those of us that have been homeschooling for a while feel some of these same feelings. We aren’t used to being home this much. We feel really isolated. My girls are missing piano and art class. They are missing daily swim practice and weekly AWANA. One of my biggest concerns is that I don’t want you to think what you are doing right now is traditional homeschooling, because I don’t want you to feel that you could never homeschool…and I definitely don’t want for you to believe the stereotypes that seem to follow homeschoolers. What we are ALL doing now is crisis or SIP-schooling! I wouldn’t want to do this if it was homeschooling, either!)
Anyway, I don’t want to leave you without hope or encouragement, so I’ve put together a few things that have helped us on our homeschooling journey. If you find yourself suddenly homeschooling, I hope these will help you in a practical way!
1) Anchor your days
What do I mean by that? Instead of a strict schedule to follow, I like to set up specific anchors in our day. For example, our anchors look like this:
- Up and at ’em/get ready for the day
- Bible/academic time
- Quiet time
- Recreation time (finish academics if not done)
- Family time
These things don’t happen at a specific time, but it is just a rhythm through our normal day. We have these “anchors” that we sort of “float” our day around. Not every day looks like this either, but it does help kids to have a basic routine and stability (especially through these turbulent days).
2) Be flexible
Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes we don’t feel well. Sometimes we have a project or something else we need to complete. Sometimes the pressure is too much.
It’s okay to stop what you’re doing, take a break and try again later. If you find yourself getting frustrated with your child, take a break. The great thing about homeschooling (whether you are suddenly homeschooling or intentional homeschooling) is that you can change your schedule and school whenever. In the morning. In the evening. On the weekends. Whenever!
I’ve heard it said that when you start homeschooling, your child needs a month of de-schooling for every year they’ve been in school. You don’t have the luxury of that amount of time right now, but you can step away, do some stress management (deep breathing, read a book, listen to music….whatever helps you decompress), and then come back to it later.
3) Read aloud
I am a huge, huge, huge believer in the ability of books to unite us. There are so many books we’ve read as a family that we quote or remember together. Plus, reading aloud has so many benefits (you can see those here).
One practical tip is that if you haven’t done much reading aloud of chapter books with your kids, give them the opportunity to build with LEGOs or draw while you are reading since they may not be used to sitting still that long. There is nothing like a great story to draw kids in though!
4) Use Learning Boxes/Baskets/Bags with Littles
If you have younger kids that need more attention, I found learning baskets/boxes (aka busy bags) to be so helpful and make life easier. When my girls were little, I had certain baskets I pulled out for different days of the week. After I spent time with my youngest child “doing her school”, I would let her choose activities from the baskets (or bags) while I helped her sisters. That usually kept her busy for a while. I also had her older sisters take turns reading books to her, drawing with her, or playing with her while I worked with the other child.
5) Choose relationships over academics
Kids all over the country are in a similar situation. The next few weeks are not going to make or break your child academically….they could however cause a fracture in your relationship that is difficult to repair. If you can focus on making good memories by doing some fun activities, cooking together, learning life skills, and enjoying each other’s company, your child will do just fine next year. I’m sure teachers are expecting to do some extra review next fall, so make your learning times at home relaxed and pleasant.
I know it isn’t always easy. I woke up in a bad mood and felt grumpy for the first few hours this morning. Then, I reminded myself that I get to choose my mindset! I don’t get to choose all the craziness that is happening around me, but I can re-frame things in my mind and choose to rely on God’s grace to get me through one day at a time. Let’s be intentional with these precious weeks with our children!