I am starting to see facebook posts/pictures with cringeworthy "schedules" for those in public school to use over the next couple weeks, while they may be home with their kids, facing a potential weeks or month long quarantine due to COVID 19. I say cringeworthy, just because for me personally, I have tried doing schedules like that so many times, and often it has ended with me feeling like a homeschool failure. Sometimes the learning curve for parents with homeschooling can take a while. So with that in mind, I thought I would share what I have learned over my time as a homeschool mom, in the hopes that it helps those who are forced for the next couple weeks to join our ranks, and makes the experience more positive and less stressful:
1. First, let me offer this encouragement and thought: My understanding from reading people's posts is that my public school friends will actually still be utilizing classes and teachers through the public school system, just online. So in that regard, what you may be doing will be done at home, but it will not completely or truly replicate homeschooling. I only say that to say please, please, please, don't walk away from this experience--if it it wasn't as positive-- assuming that what you experienced is the sum total of what homeschooling could be. Your experience may be wonderful, or it may be the most stressful time you have ever had, but that doesn't mean if you ever have to homeschool again for a longer period of time, it would be the same as homeschooling during a public quarantine.
2. Know and accept your personality and how God made you, and how God made your kids. If you are a woman who thrives on structure and you are up every day at 5 am to work out exactly thirty minutes, or all of your day is scheduled to the minute normally, and you thrive on that, then hallelujah, good for you. Find one of those schedules I think of as stressful and cringeworthy, and rock that bad boy with no shame! Seriously, I think that is awesome and I am a little jealous, because I have always wanted to be as structured as someone like you, but it's just not who I am. Those schedules are out there because someone is blessed by them, I am pretty sure. And that is great for them. That is just not my natural bent. On the other hand, I do love a good plan--it just has to be one with a little less structure and that leaves more room for transition times. Other people like to fly by the seat of their pants completely. Fact is, every mom and every kid are different. We are all unique, and that is a beautiful thing. One of the benefits/blessings of homeschooling is that you can CHOOSE how you want to run your educational activities in a way that fits your personality and your family. So if running a tight ship is your style, go for it. I fully support you and say, rock on, my friend, But if you are like me, and your ship is more of a pirate ship mojo, then most likely a schedule of minute by minute activities is just going to stress you and your little pirates out. In that case, ABORT mission and find what works for you, my friend. This is one of those things where you can save yourself alot of stress by not comparing yourself to anyone else, looking at your life and the ages of your kids, and pick the level of scheduling that is natural and works for you. Some people schedule by the minute, or half hour. When I had babies in the house, their afternoon nap time was prime time for us to get more intensive work with the older kids accomplished. Nowadays, I try to be consistent at having a flow of activities for my day, but the times they happen varies. I try to be consistent about when we wake up, lunch, and bedtime. Point is, figure out what you and your kids need, and do that.
3. Don't try to replicate school at home any more than you have to. Yes, the kids need to get whatever book work is needed done, so I am not advocating they don't do that. I am saying that this quarantine could be an awesome opportunity for your family to grow in relationship together. Pick some good quality book/books to read aloud together for the next month at some point every day. (There are all kinds of free classic literature online available through Project Gutenberg, that you can download onto your kindles or ereaders.) Schedule some fun movie nights. Go on a nature walk. Help your kids put on a "play" or puppet show in the living room. Play some board games. Bake cookies together. If you know how to sew or knit or crochet, maybe you could take this time and do a simple project together. The opportunity that I see in this quarantine is that all of our schedules- homeschool, public schoolers, private schoolers- are going to slow down a whole, whole lot. Just for a few weeks, the pace of our life is going to give us room to focus even more on building relationships with the people we live with and love the most. See that opportunity for what it is, and be intentional with it. Have fun with it! When we mommas have joy, our homes are better for it.
4. Be proactive. This is going to be a challenging time, I know, for all of us. Being confined with people for an extended period of time is difficult and will stretch all of us. But talk to your kids, get them on board from the beginning, that this is a time that our family can pull together and by being intentional about being kind to each other, not pestering each other, giving each other space for solitude or quiet times as well as some planned activities, this time could be a wonderful memory someday. Sit them down, if they are older, and get them on board. Maybe you could talk to them and find out some activity idea they would like to do, that would motivate them to be considerate, kind, and intentional about making this a pleasant experience from their end. Clearly define your expectations of what constitutes good behavior, and brainstorm some realistic potential family rewards for the end of quarantine, if you can all pull together and all can go well. It might be a family trip to a favorite restaurant or ice cream shop, or to see a new movie.
5. Get outside daily, if you can, and if the weather allows.. Find time to let the kids run around in the backyard, or take a nature hike. I know that I find nature to have a therapeutic, restorative effect. Take advantage of that to restore your sanity when you are at the end of your proverbial rope, and help your kids run off some energy as well.
6. If you are like me and you need quiet time, then figure out a time of the day in your home as a quiet time, when everyone retreats to their own spaces for more solo activities, like reading or napping or journaling. Designate some favorite, quieter toys that will only be allowed out during those times, so that everyone gets some mental and emotional space to restore equilibrium.
7 When you do that readaloud thing I was talking about, don't make your kids sit and listen. Perhaps allow them to play with quiet toys on individual blankets in the floor while you read, or doodle or draw at a table, or even work on a knitting or quiet handicraft while they listen. This is one of our favorite parts of homeschooling as a family, and an excellent way to grow your children's attention span and help them learn to appreciate wonderful literature. Start with a fun book you know they will enjoy, like The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl, or maybe the Narnia stories by CS Lewis, or the Harry Potter books. Readaloud is fun when kids aren't made to sit unnaturally still, and this is the kind of habit that might carry on in your family well beyond the current quarantine.
8. There are all kinds of educational videos on Amazon Prime, as well as various online learning sites like Khan academy or duolingo. Make use of those free resources as needed, or when the kids just need something different from whatever they're currently doing Pick a country to learn about, watch videos, and cook a meal one night of simple foods from that country. Find music on Google music or Apple music from that country, and play it while you eat, to add ambiance.
9. Make plans, but be prepared for some of your plans to go awry. Know that that doesn't mean you failed; it means you and your kids are human. Plans are good and helpful, but don't lose hope if things don't go how you planned. Every good general plans for battle, but they know that once they are on the battlefield, all bets are off , and they have to act based on what is happening in reality. It's the same with coaches on the field of any sport. And it's definitely the same with homeschooling. It's good and beneficial to make plans, but it's okay to change course when you need to and go in a completely new direction, if that seems to be what will work best.
10. Begin your day with atleast 10 minutes reading the word and praye, and a short meditation. I probably should have put this one at the top of the list. I know that I find that beginning my day in prayer sets the tone for my day, and helps me to be more prepared for whatever comes at me. I love using the Lectio 365 app, which is a free app for Biblical meditation, but I also enjoy using the Calm app on my phone, when I have a moment here and there.
Anyway, these are tips/ideas I had, that I hoped might help others. Here's hoping that with a little humor, compassion, and kindness toward one another, that we can get trhough this trial with grace and aplomb.