The Covid-19 pandemic has turned everyday life on its head, bringing a halt to life as we know it. In the blink of an eye, families are adapting to a temporary new normal which includes having their public-schooled children at home full-time and being saddled with the responsibility of trying to finish the school year. Since my family spent so many years homeschooling (14, to be exact) I can’t help but have thoughts about all of this.
I debated about my title, because unlike most of my posts which are directed towards homeschooling parents, this post is meant for parents who suddenly find themselves in that temporary role. There’s a difference between homeschooling and schooling-at-home. In what I consider to be true homeschooling, the parents have made the decision to take full responsibility for the education of their children. They control the curriculum, workload, and other educational choices, taking into account the unique needs of each child.
School-at-home is different, however, in that millions of families now find themselves muddling through assignments, thrust into them near the end of the school year without the benefit of building up to them and learning/reviewing alongside their children. Add to that the stress of the pandemic, the fear of potentially losing loved ones, and the very real decrease in income. Some parents may have already lost their job. Others are trying to work from home and at the same time they’re now acting as their child’s teacher. If you ask me, finishing these last few lessons should be the least of anyone’s worries. There are times in life when life itself becomes the primary lesson, and this is one of those times. If you’re able to do assigned schoolwork without it adding even more duress, then its routine may comfort some children, but it’s also possible that it will add to an already stressful situation, causing overload.
Something that homeschool parents understand is that children are learning all the time. It’s very possible that your children would learn even more if you do your own thing, which is the essence of homeschooling. If you’d like to truly homeschool during this pandemic, then here are some suggestions in how you can spend quality time as a family while your children still learn.
Games – Many games are educational as well as fun. Think Scrabble for spelling, Yahtzee for math, etc. You can find games that teach history, geography, vocabulary, and more. Additionally, they teach reading and sequencing skills, cooperation, and good sportsmanship. Chances are that your family’s favorite games teach a lot, but this might be a good time to try some new ones. You can have fun together as a family, laugh and release stress. The educational benefits can be your little secret.
Reading – Adults are scared and our children are scared, too. Cuddle up on the couch together and escape with a good book. While you read aloud, they are improving their listening skills and learn about grammar and pronunciation. Stop often and ask questions to make sure they understand, spend time explaining new vocabulary words or difficult concepts.
Writing – Your children are living through a historic event. Have them keep a journal and write in it each day. They’ll be practicing their writing, and it’s therapeutic to get their feelings out onto paper. Their notes may end up being a prized possession, and even contribute to a future book, blog, song, or movie.
Art – Art is also therapeutic. Get out the art supplies and let kids express themselves. They could make cards to send to family and friends. If they’re musical or enjoy acting, maybe they could indulge those passions right now. They could even share it through the internet.
Investigation – Children are naturally curious. Find out what concerns or questions your children have and do some research together to learn about it. Have them give an oral report to the rest of the family or write a short paper about what they learned.
Natural Science – Where possible, go for a nature walk. Take a guide book along, or check Pinterest for printable scavenger hunts. Take pictures of things to research when you get back home, or to share on social media. Fresh air and exercise will do you all good, and getting away from technology and news reports will lower stress, too. If going for a walk isn’t possible, identify birds, flowers, or trees from the window or porch.
History – Your kids are living it at this very moment. How about making a time capsule to document some of the things happening now? Print out news stories and favorite memes. You could include your children’s artwork and writing from this time. Set a future time to open it together as a family. Read books about other historic events and how people endured them. Interview grandparents by phone or FaceTime about events they experienced and their thoughts about what is happening.
Life Skills – If your children don’t already help around the house, this is a good time to start. They can help with laundry and other household chores. This is a perfect time to take up gardening. Digging in the dirt and soaking up sunshine are actually good for our immune system! Picky kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies that they helped grow. Teach them sewing while making masks for loved ones or to donate. Cooking incorporates reading and math. Learn some basic car maintenance. These are just some ideas, there are many more.
Boredom – is okay. I wrote a post years ago called, Boredom: Gateway to Creativity, and I encourage you to read it. Your kids have a rare gift of time in which they can explore their own thoughts and have time to pursue new interests. Don’t feel the need to be your child’s Entertainment Director. Let them conquer their boredom and see where it takes them.
These suggestions don’t mean that you have to totally forego public school assignments, but you may want to limit “school time” to a manageable length, and to the extent that it doesn’t cause discord. Some days will be better than others, so be flexible to accommodate changing needs of family members. Give yourselves grace. We’re all trying to cope and get through this ordeal the best we can.
For work-at-home parents, schedule a block of time to spend with kids on schoolwork to read directions, answer questions, grade, etc. While older kids are working independently, then you can do your work. With small children, you might try to work during their nap time, or while an older sibling spends time with them. You might rotate their toys each day so that some things seem “new” and might hold their attention longer while you attend to other things. Children can actually play an important part in the family right now and that is great for their self-esteem. Depending on age, you might even talk to them about your work needs and invite their suggestions on how they can help you. They might surprise you, and will be more cooperative when they feel like an important part of the team.
Your family’s health is important and doing school in a more relaxed way will help ease stress and strengthen family bonds at the same time. Your children will be fine and they may even learn more. Who knows, you might decide to continue to homeschool when the pandemic has past.
This is a scary time that will be with your children forever, shaping their character. Not all has to be negative, though. They can also have good memories of how it gave them extra time with their parents and siblings, and how you grew closer together as a result.