You’re suddenly a homeschool parent. Or maybe you’re some quasi-hybrid parent support person sitting in the wings at home as your child is educated via the internet. Either way, your kid is being educated at home, so you’re a homeschool parent! It was never something you planned for, or maybe even wanted, but here you are. My first semester homeschooling my kids a few years ago I realized that there is a learning curve to education at home. I thought I could just replicate what was happening at school, and that’s just not how it works! I have homeschooled for 3 years and here’s what I have discovered:
1. You Got This
Know you can do this. It hit me one day that one of our family values as part of our Family Brand is “Smith’s do hard things.” I had to ask myself- is this phrase just something we repeat together every morning as a family because it sounds good? Or do I believe it for myself? Do I really demonstrate this for my family? Do my kids catch me complaining and distraught about the new way of life that we find ourselves in, or do I authentically share my ups and downs with them, but ultimately do they see from me that we CAN do this? Do they feel that I have grit and determination and a willingness to work and figure it out? Chances are the way our kids see us show up to challenges is how they will learn to face them as well. Teach them well by showing them that you (and therefore THEY) can do hard things.
2. Mother and Father Know Best
One unique thing about this homeschool experience with internet instruction from the school is that many of the benefits that I really enjoyed when I homeschooled have been stripped away. The workload is determined by the teachers sending assignments, and the time itself that class will occur is dictated by when virtual class and calls with teachers or classmates are scheduled.
Some friends I talk to are stressed with the workload that even their grade schoolers are experiencing. The teachers are doing their best to recreate school at home. HOWEVER, I realized several years ago in my first semester of homeschooling that homeschooling can’t be just regular school recreated at home. It just DID NOT work to expect these young kids to have the capacity or attentions span to stay engaged for 4,5 or 6 hours of “school” at home.
Most homeschooling families that I know only do school 2 ½-3 hours a day. Or possibly even less, depending on how old their kids are. Trust yourself to know what is best for you and your kids. If the workload is too much, advocate for your child and don’t be afraid to tell your teacher that it’s just not working and that you won’t be completing all of the assignments. Or perhaps you work with the teacher and create a plan and a workload with them that DOES seem feasible for your family. We are in unchartered territory here and it’s my belief that teachers and schools will be understanding. Everyone is doing their best, and we’re all in the same boat!
One last suggestion- If your child or family is struggling, create a new possibility. It might sound crazy, but if you find yourself sitting there monitoring your child’s online education anyway, and it’s not going well, you may want to consider going all in and just homeschooling yourself! You absolutely could do it. You are in the driver’s seat, and YOU know what is best for your family.
3. Schedule It!
It’s important for my kids and myself to know what to expect every day. If your kids are old enough, create a schedule together. Let them have a say in what time school starts and what time lunch is, free time, and whatever else you want the day to include. In my experience they will be so much more willing to follow the schedule when they help create it! Put the schedule up on the fridge or the wall and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be rigid, but I have found that having a schedule actually creates more freedom and frees me up a ton from answering questions all day about “when can we get on the t.v, what time is lunch, etc.” Everyone knows what they can expect every day. CLICK HERE FOR A SAMPLE SCHEDULE Even if the school time is pretty set by the online teachers, set your own routines around that.
Additional ideas for schedules can include time for family play time, and even a family workout. Our kids love our daily family workout that we take turns planning each morning. Sometimes it’s silly and fun, like a handstand competition or learning flips on the trampoline, but most importantly we are moving and having fun together.
For me one more thing that I found was important to put in the schedule to keep morale up was to have my kids get dressed, make their beds, and comb their hair every day before their day really got started. With day after day of staying at home I felt overwhelmingly that this helped set the stage for the day and that they brought themselves to the day differently when they did this. Their productivity and mood was greatly improved. Trust yourself to know if this would be beneficial for your family or if this is a battle you’d rather not fight!
4. Passion Projects
One huge benefit to homeschooling is choosing your own curriculum. Even if you are not choosing your own curriculum and are doing what is assigned by your child’s school, I still think there is huge opportunity during this time to really make learning fun again for your child. It’s likely that each child has a distinct learning style you can cater to and this would be the time to do that! Do they have a passion that they could research or watch youtube videos about all day long? Encourage them to explore that natural curiosity & even learn with them! Or if they don’t know what they love, perhaps you go back to when they were younger and that could give you some clues to their passions and interests. I have found that as kids get older, they only learn what they have to for school and they loose some of their original passion and love for research and learning that they once had! See if you can incorporate some type of an elective class into their day where they can do this. Some examples of what my kids have done for electives are cooking, entrepreneurship, rodeo, and Spanish. A couple specific recent examples- my kids found a magazine article that talked all about macarons. They all love macarons so we decided that next Monday we’ll try baking them together. Their natural curiosity in the world created the opportunity to try something new. Another recent idea we’ve had is we planted a garden together last month, and I take my preschoolers out there every day to count the carrots. They love keeping track of how many more carrots we have every day! These types of learning may look different than what we traditionally think of as “school” but they love it, and I would challenge that it’s value in their overall education can’t be overstated.
5. The Journey and the Destination
When I first considered homeschooling several years ago I spent countless hours researching curriculums, blogs, and Youtube to try and find the “best” curriculum for my kids. After deciding on a curriculum I realized after that first semester that there were some things that I wanted to do differently the following semester. So we tweaked a few things and adjusted. The same thing happened the following semester, and the one after that. I realized that homeschooling is a continual journey of adjusting and readjusting based on your current best thinking and family’s needs at any given time. Allow yourself freedom to adapt and change if you realize something isn’t working. Even this month I’ve adjusted our schedule and curriculum more than once to better fit our family’s needs. For example I had put an hour of family play time in our schedule from 2-3pm, but we soon realized it was pretty hot outside at that tjme and so we moved it to 530-630. It’s all good. Give yourself the freedom make changes and adjust. Don’t worry about getting everything right at first. Just start somewhere and then go from there!
6. The Roller Coaster
I remember what a roller coaster my first week of homeschooling was. Literally minute to minute was a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I am thinking my kids are definitely getting into Ivy league schools and I am the best, most fun mom ever, and the next minute I’m locking myself in the bathroom and hoping they never find me. Many days ended in what seemed like a total trainwreck. But we got up and tried again the next day. And the next, and the next. Even now the rollercoaster still exists. I like to think that they highs and lows have leveled out a bit, but they are most definitely still there. Some days everyone is fighting, and no one wants to do any work and school work drags out all day. The very next day they get all their work done in an hour and they are besties. Give yourself (and your kids!) grace in all of this and a chance to try again tomorrow.
7. Don’t Get Lost!
Find something that gives you a mental break, and schedule it in your day, every day. Rally the troops and get everyone on board. Right now for me that looks like a bike ride on my beach cruiser with my husband every night after the kids are in bed. Maybe for you that could look like 30 minutes in the afternoon while your little ones are napping and you can read or paint. Another thing I’ve employed at times is a specific time during the day where my big kids play with my little kids and my husband and I work on the business together. Every family will look different, but the point is that you don’t neglect yourself, and also to enroll the family in the cause! I think it would be so healthy for kids to hear that mom or dad needs a minute to do things that they love too, and that you feel like you can ask for the family’s support in that. A family is a team, and I know that if my kids asked me for a few minutes to have to themselves I would be more than happy to provide them that. I believe we can ask for the same things from our children. A family will function at it’s best when mom and dad are functioning at their best!
And Don’t Forget
You are brilliant, capable, and possess exactly what you need to make your homeschooling or online schooling journey something beautiful. These 7 steps will help you not only survive this year, but will be your guide to allow you to look back on this unique situation with gratitude and joy for what you created with your family during this time! This may be a once in a lifetime homeschooling opportunity! You got this!!!
YOU REALLY CAN HAVE THE FAMILY OF YOUR DREAMS.
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