We are living through a moment in history! Doesn't that make you feel better? Yeah, it doesn't make living through a devastating global pandemic any better for me either. It is hard! It sucks so bad. In the midst of this we still need to live our lives, work, play, and learn. At times it seems absolutely ridiculous to try to do anything with a semblance of normalcy knowing how far from normal life is right now. Many people are homeschooling during this crazy moment in history. I am doing it and I assume you are too, or planning to, if you are here reading this post.
Homeschooling can be stressful in good times. During a pandemic, homeschooling can feel like an impossible endeavor. I am figuring it out day by day and I want to share some tips to help you get through this. Honestly though, these are great tips for all the time, not just when you are in crisis mode.
Keep it Simple
If you are feeling stress, there is a good chance your children are feeling stressed too. Now is not the time for stringent schedules full to the brim with new information. It is not the time to fill your child's learning plate with things they hate just for the sake of checking it off the learning list. Yes, there are some topics or subjects that your kids will need to cover this year. Just pepper those things in throughout the year in small bite sized chunks.
There is no certain amount of time it takes to learn something. If your child can learn about plant anatomy from a 5 minute YouTube video instead of 2 hours of dry textbook coverage followed by worksheets and reports, all the better for both of you. There are weeks that we never get around to a math or science lesson, that's ok, it still gets done over time. Now is a fantastic time to let your children dig deep into their interests. If they are occupied and learning, don't interrupt them, encourage them.
Record Natural Learning Moments
There are some weeks that it feels like we have done nothing at all. That is so far from true though. To avoid this feeling I would suggest keeping a list of the things your kids have learned that look like everyday moments. Those moments count and they add up fast. These things include answering all the "why" questions, watching documentaries or educational YouTube videos, reading books together, observing plants or wildlife, celebrating holidays and including a discussion of why, writing in a journal or writing letters... You can fill a whole day of learning without ever cracking open a textbook or filling in a worksheet. When you take the time to record those learning moments it gives you an excellent start to your portfolio and peace of mind knowing that your kids are actually learning a lot with very little effort, no fighting, and zero tears. You can learn more about putting together your portfolio in this post.
I give you permission to take a day off! Some days we are overwhelmed as parents, teachers, and just simply humans in a pandemic. Your stress will tinge the day with frustration, anger, and possibly fear. If you need a break, take one. If you notice your kids are feeling overwhelmed, give them a break. Come back to things when they have a better mentality. Obviously, you can't just take off every day. Some weeks we get a whole week in but many we only do 2-3 days of "school". I just focus on recording those natural learning moments and let the kids go crazy working on their own projects.
When the kiddo was in second grade we were homeschooling in crisis mode, non-pandemic reasons, and chose to do all learning through games. We played the Exact Change and Even Steven's Odd board games every day and he played the Ni No Kuni video game for reading (it has a lot of text). We spent a lot of time outside. At the end of the year he scored above age level on every subject on his national norm test. Kids just learn. You would have to actively try to stop them from learning for them to not learn.
Understand Your Expectations
It is important to answer some questions. Why are you homeschooling? Who are you doing this for? What outcome are you looking for? Make yourself clear expectations from these. Use them as a guideline for what you need to work on. Personally, we homeschool because we want to instill a lifelong love of learning in our kids. We are doing it for our kids.
When I first started homeschooling I had these in mind and yet I set up our homeschool to fill my own needs. I wanted a schedule. I wanted a beautiful box of curriculum. I loved it. The kiddo hated every moment. He was overwhelmed with information and did not get the time he wanted to learn more about any of the topics he found an interest in. Eventually, I realized that he was not going to have a lifelong love of learning if learning looked like memorizing a barrage of information and moving on. At that point, I can't even say I was doing it for him. I was doing it for me and getting what I wanted. It took a long time to figure that out. Now my kids can freely peruse knowledge. Our goals for homeschooling are being met. We all feel happy and comfortable in our homeschooling experience. The kids even happily accept the peppered in requirements because we don't interrupt them to cover it and they understand the need.
Ignore the Naysayers
Look, you are going to have people in your life that are against homeschooling. It goes against the norm. It goes against their own expectations. You aren't going to change their minds. The only thing to do is just let it go. You don't have to agree. You have the right to do what is best for your child. Stick to your expectations and don't feel pressured to succumb to other people's expectations.
My family was very against homeschooling from the start. They let me know frequently. Emulating school at home did not make them more accepting. Getting the kiddo out for lots of social time did not cause them to be more accepting. Doing a live pop quiz of learned information for them every time we saw them did not change a thing. They didn't need to see what our school was like or even what was learned. Over time they just got used to the idea. They aren't pro homeschooling by any means, but they are used to us doing it. They see us as the one family that is doing it right for some reason. I'm glad they finally came around, but it takes time...not persuasion.
I really hope this encourages some of you today. I know it has been a rough week for us here. A lot has come up and so my kids have been left to their own devices most of the time. We have spent some time doing our Natural History Illustration project and working on prep for the kiddo's first American Sign Language class tomorrow. That is it. The tot has been hanging out and listening to stories with me. Maybe we will do some math next week. I think we are going to hold off on Chemistry experiments for a while but the kids are watching a ton of Animalogic videos on YouTube, so science is covered. Keep it light and we will all get through this with our sanity and maybe actually enjoy this homeschool year!