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Monday, March 16, 2020

Keeping Sane While Corona "Homeschooling"- My Advice as a Veteran Homeschooler- Part 2


I previously wrote this post on what the difference is between homeschooling and "corona homeschooling" and that what is going on now around the world with school closures is much harder than homeschooling ever is, and people need to be kind to themselves, because everyone is going through a rough time.

However, for people with their kids home and being responsible to educate them and entertain them for the foreseeable future, many for the first time ever, we who have experience homeschooling our kids probably are a bit more prepared for this, so I wanted to share some of the knowledge I gained through my years as a homeschooler, which can hopefully help you keep more sane during this time period, and keep your family life more happy and running more smoothly. For the purpose of this post and to keep a difference between standard homeschooling and what is going on now, I'll be referring to this as "Corona-schooling" instead of homeschooling.

I know that what I am writing will be controversial, and especially can get teachers upset at me, but my priority is helping people weather this storm and not just on grades. You can disagree with me, but this is my advice based on years of homeschooling.

I just wanted to add that I specifically was inspired to write this after seeing so many of my friends share on Facebook how much stress they're under, trying to school their kids, and how some of them feel like they're falling apart and losing their minds. So this post was written with them in mind, tips on how to deal with this situation, with your sanity as intact as possible.

How to Keep Your Sanity While Corona-Schooling


I feel like I have much to say, but the biggest point is- cut yourself some slack. Cut your family slack. This is a rough time, a rough situation, and you don't need to make your life harder than it is.

Ditch The Official Classwork

First of all, I understand the thought behind it, but I am not cool with the fact that so many schools have sent home work for kids to do while they're at home. I mean if these are optional to give kids what to do when they're bored, that's one thing, but requiring it, especially grades depending on it, is so not ok. Parents and kids are going through enough stress right now without having schools dictating how they spend this time at home, without added stress about figuring out how to get the required amount of schoolwork done and grades affected by it.
Many parents are trying to work full time from home (or even out of the home) and can't be on top of their kids to get school work done, people might have enough computers or phones available to do things via the web or phone, and on top of that, most people don't have the emotional wherewithal to be policemen to get their kids to do all the schoolwork done, and its making this difficult situation even more difficult.

My kids' teachers can yell at me, but I don't plan on requiring my children to do any of the schoolwork they were sent with. And if doing so is making your life harder and your kids lives harder and increasing the tension in your home, I recommend contacting your kids teachers and letting them know that you are doing that.

(P.S. I messaged my son Lee's homeroom teacher, the only kid of mine who has official assignments, and told him, "As a single mom of 4 kids attempting to work from home, I can't do school at home", and while writing this post, I saw a response from the teacher who replied, "Completely understandable, its fine that he doesn't do the work." But I would have done the same whether or not I had his ok.)

Homeschooling Isn't School At Home

One thing that most non homeschoolers aren't aware of is that homeschooling does not mean school at home. There are so many different ways to homeschool, some structured and some not, but what it definitely is not is recreating school at home.

I saw people posting their corona-schooling schedules and they looked like a school day structure, with different periods, different subjects, the same length of a school day, and many even had things like recess listed. All I can do when I see those schedules is shake my head and say no, no, no. Not because homeschooling schedules are inherently wrong (more on that in a bit) but because the goal should not be to recreate school at home, because you aren't school at home. You are not their standard teacher, you aren't prepared for this, you most likely have more than one kid in more than one grade at home, and trying to make a school day at home is just a recipe for stress and disaster. Kids learning at home, one on one, learn so much faster than learning in school. Much of the school day covers so much beyond necessary learning; its a given that you can cover the same content in a fraction of the time while at home learning at your own pace. You don't need to recreate a 7 or 8 hour block of time for school at home. Even if you do school at home, cut yourself and the kids some slack. Their learning won't suffer.

Do It Your Way

About lists and schedules, though, I feel more needs to be said. So many people, because they're used to having a structured school day for their kids, think that kids being home need to have an official school day schedule.

And for some people, that works. And that's fine. As long as the schedule isn't too strictly regimented (you and your kids both need to breathe) and it helps you.
And for other people, it does not.

There are many different types of homeschoolers. Some people are very much "school at home" people with daily schedules, different time slots for different subjects, following an official curriculum, either bought or made by them at the start of the year, book learning with assignments and tests. And if that works for them, then great. (And even they don't have 7-8 hour school days.)

But that's by far not the only type of homeschooling. And in fact, I think its probably the rarest kind, and most likely to be followed by people who homeschool for religious reasons, by people that would send to private religious schools if they could afford it and/or find one that they approved of, but can't, so they basically make a school at home for their kids.

Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum are unschoolers. People who shun the concept of schooling period, and think that it destroys people's innate desire to learn, and most of what you learn in school you won't remember anyhow, and that with freedom to explore knowledge that appeals to you, you'll end up having a very good education that will enable you to pursue your dreams and won't stop your success in the workplace. These people will never have sit down learning unless a child wants that.

And then there are people in the middle, the relaxed homeschoolers. The people that may have some official lessons, but definitely don't do school at home. They try to take the best of both worlds with unschooling and regimented schooling.

And then there are other types of homeschooling as well.

My approach to homeschooling was somewhere between relaxed homeschooling and unschooling. Because that was what worked for me.

I have ADHD and have a really, really hard time sticking to a schedule. Spontaneity is my middle name, and I love flexibility to do things as they work for me and my family. Whenever I've tried making a homeschooling schedule, even a loose one, after about two days, at most, I just couldn't anymore.

If you're the type of person and the type of family that thrives with order and lists, go right ahead and do that at home. But don't feel you have to. Do what works for your family. Period. Don't let other people tell you how you have to.

There is no one right way to homeschool. There's only what works for your family at that point in time. And even if you choose one way, you can always change it.

Deschooling

Transitioning from traditional schooling to homeschooling isn't a simple adjustment, either for the parent or for the kids. And this is even harder when its thrust on you, not because of a choice you make. Most veteran homeschoolers recommend a period of de-schooling, a period of time to help the kid transition from traditional school to homeschooling.

While I'd love to write more on this, no need to reinvent the wheel. This post has good information on what deschooling is and why it is necessary. And this post on tips for de-schooling is great, but also basically proves my point about why this corona-schooling is much harder than homeschooling, since a large percentage of those suggestions are things that can't be done now what with coronavirus shutting everything down and social distancing being enforced.

However, just note that the transition for your kids and you will be challenging, and its totally reasonable and even recommended to cut back on the official school at home thing and official lessons now, and just try to have fun, even if you plan on having a more official regimented learning schedule at some point.

But How Will They Learn? And What Will They Do?

So if you are thinking of doing things in more relaxed ways, whether because of de-schooling or because you realize that a regimented homeschooling approach won't work for you and/or your kids, you may be concerned how your children will learn, and what they will do all day.

So first of all, boredom is fine. Boredom is literally the wellspring of creativity. When kids are bored, they come up with great ideas of things to do. In the past two days, with me giving my kids absolutely no structure (other than bed time and meals), my kids decided to draw pictures, read, create their own comic strips, built ikea furniture that was sitting around for months undone because of a pelvic injury I had, Lee finally managed to set up our Alexa that I bought but was having trouble setting up. And today my girls had the suggestion to go paint rocks, and so the family did that together.

You don't need to schedule every hour of the day. Let your kids have down time. Let your kids have screen time. Even if you give your kids unlimited screen time, they will get bored of it, and want to get off of it and find other things to do. Especially with this being open ended. They might spend a lot of times on their screens for now, but they will get bored at some point and look for other things to do.

I plan on writing another post with educational screen time options and suggestions, so wait up for those.

But there is learning everywhere. Even if you're thinking in terms of standard school subjects, learning to cook is a useful skill and helps practice math, especially if you double or halve recipes. Cooking also can teach science, especially when there are chemical reactions in our food.

And instead of just sitting down and having class, just talk with your kids. Let them ask questions about anything and you answer, its a good way to learn about so many different subjects and share. And if you don't know the answers, google is your friend.

There is so much to learn just from living. You don't need to recreate school at home and fill all your kids hours with structure unless that is what works for your family.

Cut yourself some slack.

Messes

Homeschooling is messy. Having kids at home all day is messy. Doing projects with kids is messy. Letting kids entertain themselves is messy. Cooking with your kids is messy. Letting your kids explore the world will make messes. That is fine. Kids are allowed to make messes. Don't think you're failing at this homeschooling thing if your house is a mess. Life is for learning and learning is messy.

Set up some ground rules with your kids, like things they aren't allowed to use, and if you can't trust them to not use those things without permission, make them inaccessible. Destruction (breaking and literally destroying things) and other irreversible things isn't allowed in my home, but toys strewn everywhere, papers cut up into tiny little bits left over from the paper dolls they made- that is able to be cleaned up, but permanent marker isn't. Paint often isn't. (Painting is only under supervision in my home.)

But while kids make messes, you don't have to be the only one to clean it up. Setting strict rules that need to be enforced, no moving on to the next fun activity until the previous one is cleaned up is something that is important. Even my kids who always push off cleaning after themselves were willing to when they knew that they'd get to paint as soon as they cleaned up the room.

Final Words

Just everyone, be compassionate to yourself. Be flexible. See what works for your family, and what doesn't. If you had this idea that you'd be doing things a certain way and you're all stressed out and feel awful by it, then change what you're doing. You set the rules for how things go; don't let an outsider who isn't the one taking care of your children at home be the one to tell you how you must educate them during this time. There is no one right or wrong way to do things, there's only what works for your family.

Any homeschooling veterans have some suggestions to those new to home education? Anything you'd add to this list? Those of you who are schooling at home, how is it going for you?

3 comments:

  1. This was THE MOST validating thing that I have read all day! Thanks so much for putting things into perspective for me!

    ReplyDelete
  2. THE BEST POST EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting. I didn't have any thought of homeschooling my kids. They're in the school of life, baby! We'll get back to school when school starts.

    ReplyDelete

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