Ever since everyone got sent home, my social media and my inbox have been filled with parents, guardians, and caregivers, all wondering how on earth to balance homeschooling with daily life and business. As a mom who homeschools as well as runs her own website copywriting and social media marketing business even during a time when her husband was deployed to another country, let me assure you – YOU CAN DO THIS. I am no superwoman. I have no extraordinary powers. I’m just your average Mom trying to build my dream while also giving my little the best possible future that I can (while also not losing my sanity.) Isn’t that what we all want? Let me offer you a few of my favorite homeschooling tips:
Let me first start by saying this: forced isolation homeschooling is NOT the same as homeschooling. For all of you that thought, “Wow, this could be a good opportunity to find out if homeschooling is right for me!” It isn’t. I’ve already heard horror stories of teachers sending home piles of schoolwork WITH DUE DATES even though school isn’t in session. For some reason, there is this major panic that everyone will come back so far behind what they were supposed to learn that some teachers are setting impossible standards during a chaotic and stressful time.
Actual homeschooling is rarely stressful and rarely deadline-oriented. Real homeschooling is about teaching your child the best way THEY learn at a time that their brain can process it. True homeschooling is about learning in the world around them, not from worksheets and “death-by-powerpoint.” Actual homeschooling builds the bonds between parents and children (most days) and never creates lasting emotional trauma.
We go to parks and museums. We go on nature hikes. We go grocery shopping together. We even have homeschool groups and extracurriculars. Today, during COVID-19, we don’t have those luxuries, so you aren’t getting an accurate representation of what homeschoolers do daily. However, there are many things that we CAN do around the house to respect social distancing and protect our families while still getting valuable learning lessons that they can take back to school with them.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s discuss what you CAN do to help your student continue to learn while also loving them through the stress. Try out some of these homeschooling tips:
When your kiddos head off to school, we have to remember that every minute of the day isn’t bell-to-bell learning. With a classroom of 20-30 littles, you have to remember that much of the day is filled with distractions. Things that fill up a teacher’s day:
The point is, even with the best teacher, much of the day is spent just trying to manage a large classroom.
For this homeschooling tip, just remember that you have a smaller classroom at home. Whether you have one child or 10, you likely don’t have 30 students in your care. As a frame of reference: middle schoolers really only need 3-4 hours of learning in a day at home, while elementary school-aged children need only 1-2 hours. Do not try to teach your one child a full school day of learning, unless that’s what they feel up to! Forcing long school days only likely result in frustration and tears all the way around, and you’ll never get your own work done!
Don’t skip out on playtime! This is probably one of my son’s favorite homeschooling tips. Sure, pull some freebie worksheets off of Pinterest to cover a topic you’d like to discuss, but don’t forget to play! Studies show that even in adults, the best learning retention happens during the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of a learning lesson. Therefore, the best learning occurs only in 20-30 minute stints, followed by some serious playtime. But, where you call it playing, we call it hands-on learning or “game schooling.” Try these suggestions:
My 8-year-old son loves helping out around the house for his homeschooling. He learned color matching by sorting out laundry piles. He’s learned dry measurements by feeding the animals. As a bonus, he’s learned to care for our things and our home. He’s also learned to respect others’ property. Because he gets to see me take care of the housework and do it himself, he is more aware that carelessness often creates extra work all around.
Although he does love doing laundry, taking care of the pets, and vacuuming, his favorite is cooking! My little has always liked baking and cooking with me, but we took it up a notch and had him join Raddish, an online cooking club. We went ahead and subscribed to the monthly boxes, but you can choose just to order single boxes while you’re stuck at home. Every box comes with 3 recipes, a good-quality cooking tool, and a badge they can earn. Lucas is tasked with preparing one meal per week in our home (with adult supervision, of course.) Once he’s cooked all three recipes, we have a celebration and iron his patch onto his apron.
The best part of it for me is that it comes with a “bonus bites” section that comes with a very in-depth homeschool lesson, complete with YouTube videos and other goodies to help them learn about the food they are preparing. Raddish checks off science, math, reading, and history in every lesson.
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Honestly, this is one of my favorite homeschooling tips! Much of our homeschooling centers around reading! We love to pick a book and build a curriculum around it. Every day, we read at least a chapter of a book together. It doesn’t matter WHAT you read, as long as you’re doing it together. We’ve gone through Harry Potter at least twice, but also love The Magic Treehouse, The Chocolate Touch, and we are currently working on The Little House in the Big Woods.
Although we like to read just for fun, it’s easy to build a curriculum around a book. Amazon is especially helpful for this. Here’s what we did for The Little House in the Big Woods. We found the online curriculum on Amazon for $10 or so. It comes complete with a chapter by chapter breakdown, including reading comprehension, spelling words, and projects. Since we can’t check out a book from the library at the moment, we’ve found an online audio version. This week, our projects that accompany the text will be making molasses candy and creating rag dolls, just like they did in the book!
You can do this with just about any book. As you read along, create an age-appropriate vocabulary list and have your kids practice spelling. Love Harry Potter? Try cooking a Harry Potter-themed dinner together! All about knights? Make a knights training course or learn the knight’s code of chivalry and try to follow it! Dreaming of becoming a fairy princess? Pick a princess book, dress up, and do a daddy-daughter date in the living room or brush up on your manners during a day time tea party. The possibilities are virtually endless. Just remember, the point is to foster their love of reading while you can before they get to go back to school-lead reading assignments.
There. I said it. There is valuable information to be found on these streaming channels. In fact, there are whole homeschool curriculums built around this idea, and their kids are having heaps of success! Plus, think about how many movie days you got as a kid in school. For the best success, don’t let them run wild on it, and I wouldn’t have them sit there all-day (remember, only the first and last 10 minutes is the most retained information anyway). Do a Pinterest search or a web search of “Netflix Homeschooling” or cruise the National Geographic section of Disney+, find something interesting then follow the rabbit hole. Did you learn all about volcanoes? Make one! (Science.) Did you watch Moana? Do a science experiment about bioluminescence or build a boat and float it in the bathtub or the pool (science and engineering).
Remember, now is a stressful time for everyone, our kids included. They’re watching us to see how we react to the situation, too. Feel free to sleep in. You only have a few hours of homeschooling to do, so if they (or you) need to sleep in to heal emotionally and physically from the stress, go for it. Pajamas are okay, too. Pajamas are where we feel the most comfortable and relaxed, let them enjoy it while you enjoy a little less laundry. Finally, if you feel the frustration rising, stop. Take a break. Walk away. No one learns under high stress and no one has time for that anyway. Right? Come back to it when you’re both ready!
Did you know that homeschool kids are typically really well socialized? Which means, so are the parents. Although we homeschool separately (for the most part), we do it in large groups. We mastered the “alone together” concept a while ago, although under much brighter circumstances and because we chose to. There are Facebook groups, websites, and Pinterest boards filled with ideas and homeschooling tips. We’re all welcoming and ready to help another family succeed. So, don’t be afraid to ask someone you know, reach out to a WFH homeschool mom, or join a group and ask some questions. We’d love to help! But one thing’s for sure; you’ve totally got this!
These homeschooling tips is a guest blog post written by Jes Finton, the owner of Jes Unscripted. As a homeschool mom who also runs her own successful website copywriting and social media marketing business, Jes understands the daily stressors of WFH life and homeschooling.