If you find yourself in the position of temporary homeschooling, due to the recent Coronavirus or other changes in circumstances, you may be wondering how to make it work. This blog post is for you! As a current homeschooling mama (with ages 8, 5, and 13 months), plus being homeschooled myself, I want to welcome you to the life of learning with your kids, and hopefully, give some ideas about how to make it fun and successful.
Yes, I was homeschooled! I started in Grade 4, and successfully graduated from high school, along with my four younger siblings. My mom homeschooled us all for 28 years. If that isn’t dedication and love, I don’t know what is! My husband was also homeschooled and we are excited to give our children the same learning experience.
But for those thrust into homeschooling with no previous consideration or even a desire to homeschool, this new idea may seem daunting. And where to even start, looking for books or lesson plans? I wish I could give you a personal hug! You can do this. Whether “do this” is a 2 weeks, or a month, or half a year – you CAN do this. YOU can do this. There are so many resources available and you are not alone. Here are some of my top tips and ideas to make temporary homeschooling successful.
- If you’re on break now, keep it that way another week! Even two. Start up school on April 1st to have time to prepare, and adjust to a new routine. And once you do start, try 30 min a day instead of 2hrs. This is as new for your kids as it is for you! Focus on 1-2 subjects for a week, and gradually add on.
- Schoolwork can be done in 1-4 hours. With more one on one focused attention, lessons or teaching time can be short, 10-30 min depending on age. Break it up in to two segments if needed, one after breakfast and one after lunch. Current time to homeschool our 3rd grader is around 2 hours, and about 30-40 min for our kindergartener.
- Put together a routine or schedule. We’re more of a routine family, but others thrive on a schedule. Whatever works! In general, we’ve found that a breakfast/get dressed/do schoolwork routine works best for us, especially attacking the critical thinking subjects (math anyone?) while the brain is fresh. That said, if rain is in the forecast for the afternoon, get outside in the morning, and switch school to the afternoon! Flexibility is the key in all this. Make a little time each day for school, creativity, being outside, chore time, quiet time, and screen time.
- Think outside the box for learning. History and geography can be as easy as reading a few chapters of a Magic Treehouse book on Egypt, watching YouTube videos about kids in Egypt, and then making pyramids out of plastic cups! Spelling can be an age appropriate word search, and then asking the child to spell back 5-10 words. Parts of speech can be learned with Mad Libs. Handwriting can be a letter to the grandparents. Even games can be school (Monopoly anyone?) Learning doesn’t have to be at a table with worksheets!
- On that note, read – and then read some more! Whether picture books or novels, reading is the best way to get in so many subjects! Our favorite book resource is Sarah MacKenzie at Read Aloud Revivial. Lots of great lists by age and topic, plus her podcast is the BOMB.
- Get outside. Seriously. Backyard, or walks or bike rides around the block, or hikes – the fresh air and movement is good for anyone. If the stress in schoolwork is building, take a break for 15 min and send everyone outside. It helps! Or maybe take the workbooks to the park, or finish up on the back patio.
- For younger children (kindergarten and under), simple is best. Read to them. Practice sight words if they are learning to read. Do puzzles! While playing toys, ask them to count or name colors. Have them count by twos while jumping up and down! Make it fun, keep it short, and let them play.
- For older children, and if you have multiple ages at home, stagger the teaching. Help Child A do math for 20 minutes, while Child B reads independently, and then switch. To keep little ones busy during teaching time, try putting together a small box of special toys or activities and only get it out during this time. (We often use play dough or Magna-Tiles. More ideas here.) Also, try teaching older ones during nap time for younger ones.
- Use this time to teach your children beyond academic work and work on life skills. Can they properly set the table? Can they do their own laundry? What about balancing a checkbook? Make dinner? Or even learning to tie shoes or ride a bike? Math and reading are important, and so is preparing children for real life. Mix in a little of both for balance.
- Hands on learning is for all ages, not just for preschoolers. A field trip to a zoo suddenly becomes school for the day! Before going, decide on an animal group to focus on, like African wildlife, and read up on or watch YouTube videos of lions, elephants, and hippos. Write down three things unique about each animal. Maybe write a short story too! Then go to the zoo and see those animals. Ask questions to any employees. Sketch their habitat. This type of learning is so memorable, and easily covers multiple subjects with little effort. Foster a love of learning!
- Homeschoolers have their bad days too. And there’s no way to escape because…well, you’re home. If it’s an off day, or even a tough couple days, consider focusing on 1-2 subjects. And read. And call it done. Go bake brownies. FaceTime with the grandparents. Dig out some old toys. Snuggle on the couch with popcorn and a movie. Play a board game. Homeschooling looks different for different families, and even varies week to week. A tough day today doesn’t mean a hard day tomorrow. Start fresh and it’ll be ok.
Remember: it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel lost. Full-time homeschooling mamas sometimes feel that way too! (I know I do.) Facebook or Instagram are excellent platforms to ask if there are local homeschooling families, and groups you can join to ask questions. (For Phoenix-based families, try these: Homeschooling in the Phoenix Metro, Arizona Homeschool Chapter, or Arizona Families for Home Education. Getting a support group, whether in person or virtually, will help you navigate these times of change and enable you to give the best you can to your children. Feel free to reach out to me on social media with any questions, or if you just need to talk!
Favorite free online resources:
We also love these Fun Schooling Journals for a more open-ended learning style. Our favorite preschool and kindergarten curriculum is Five in a Row. Can’t get out and about? Try this list of virtual field trips! A fellow blogger friend made this list of online learning resources. Preschool Prep on YouTube also has some fabulous free educational videos.
Also: during this school closure period due to Coronavirus, check if your child’s teacher or school has learning packets or guides. This may become available over time as well.