The advantage we have over our pioneer ancestors is that we have cars, homes with heating, electricity, internet and FLUSH TOILETS*!
Some of you are facing schooling at home or homeschooling. But no worries, mates. It can be done. We homeschooled four kids and work with homeschool groups.
First, if you’re waiting for school to start up again, just treat this like a vacation, if you want. In Oregon, if it snows, schools close for snow days, which means the schools may tack on extra days later anyway. Many schools and colleges are preparing for virtual classes; the community schools I work for are looking at an April 6 virtual start.
If you want and need a routine for you and your kids, create one like you would for summer break. For instance,
Morning: Breakfast, dress, quick chores, second breakfast, read, approved projects.
Afternoon: Lunch, more reading, approved projects, snack.
Evening & Weekends: Like you would any other day.
Throw in some outdoor field trips (e.g. hiking) or projects (e.g. gardening).
If you’re heading into homeschooling, here are five things we feel are most important, with explanations to follow:
2. Limit Screen Time
3. Study and Study for Fun
4. Make it hands-on
5 The “B” word
And a bonus tip
And a bonus confession
1. Read. Children (and adults) don’t always have the time to read for pleasure. Let them read for pleasure. Reading abilities grow when you love reading. My four kids loved four different genres. My eldest read National Geographic magazines. The second loved historical fiction. The third loved fantasy. The fourth loved audiobooks which turned into reading a variety of genres. There were so many things I thought I HAD to do when I started homeschooling. One thing was making the kids read other books, such as biographies, non-fiction, classics, etc. That lasted 2-3 trips to the library and then I figured “let them read!” It was good advice to self. Later, a friend told me that her daughter needed to increase her vocabulary. When she told her daughter to read more, the daughter replied (think teen voice here), “But, Mom. With all my schoolwork, I don’t have time to read.” Now is a good time. Reading is reading. Graphic novels, newspapers, scriptures, comics, it’s all good. I mean, really, have you read Calvin and Hobbes? The vocabulary words in that comic strip are amazing. People like to compare literary books with nutritional food and that other books are “fluff,” just snacks. But in my lit class in high school, why did I have to read a “classic” instead of The Foundation Trilogy, by Asimov? Was Asimov not good enough or was it just the scifi that didn’t count? Here’s a book that may help you parents, Parents Who Love Reading, Kids Who Don’t, by Mary Leonhardt. What do you do if you don’t have a personal library and your public library is closed? Get e-books. Some indie (independent) authors giveaway the first book in a series. (My favorite indies right now are Lee Strauss and Susan Kaye Quinn). There are some authors who have picture e-books out there for free, too. I have a Kindle Fire and Amazon has a lot of free classics and picture books. Some classics get too wordy for me, but Treasure Island is a story that just moves. Secondhand stores are great sources for books. I frequent Goodwill and other 2ndHands for books and games. Talk about great finds. Also, Thriftbooks . com when I’m looking for something specific. Note: You might want to monitor e-book reading, make sure it is actual reading.
2. Limit Screen Time. There are studies here and there on the internet but in my un-scientific studies, I find creativity grows better without it. And with only four children in the “study,” I noticed that those kids behaved better when they were off screen. It took a few days for them to detoxify from screens though.
3. Study and Study for Fun. I had a checklist for my kids. They had to do the main subjects daily, but it wasn’t intense. Remember, when you’re one-on-one (or two or so) with a student/your child, teaching doesn’t take as long as in a large classroom. I had my kids read a short section of each subject in What Every 1st [2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th] Grader Needs to Know by E.D.. Hirsch, and finish a page or two of a math workbook. I used other books for middle school. Then it was time for reading and projects of their own interests. I know I said limit screen time but there are many great things on channels that make history real, geography interesting, art possible and science fascinating. YouTube has the Dorling Kindersly Eyewitness videos that I used to have on VHS for my kids (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEBTfxJ13zkpZVbZTF3aukg). Disney + has some great National Geographic vids. And my family likes movies. We quote movies to each other (“you’re killing me, Smalls”). My daughter even got a part in a play because she could do an Irish accent from watching movies set there.
4. Make it hands-on. When I first started homeschooling, I was scared I’d mess EVERYTHING up. An experienced homeschooling friend told me to think about the advantages I had by being at home. Well, we could go on more field trips by becoming members of the children’s museum, the zoo, and more. A couple of my kids wanted to cook things (reading, math, science). A couple of others wanted to use the sewing machine (math, art). And there was woodworking and legos and drawing, among other things. There was also performance. I mime. My older kids joined me now and then when I performed at schools and joined other children when I directed local children’s shows. They knew I attended a writer’s critic group and some of my kids started writing their own stories. A friend of mine is an artist and fellow homeschool mom. Her children practiced art. They’re artists now. And you can do that, too. Whatever your hobbies, you can try it with your children. Disclaimer: It was hard for me to allow my children to use the sewing machine, to go outside and hammer and nail boards together, and to let them get out ingredients. Many times for my own sanity and to allow my children to be creative, I would leave the room they were working in. This was after I taught them how to use items safely and give them the third degree on cleaning up after themselves.
Also, almost every game I know has educational value. We taught our kids games when they were young, adjusting the rules for their ages, then we were able to play full games as they got older. Games have reading, letters, numbers, math, strategizing, history, geography, etc., etc.
A couple of books that helped me are 7 Kinds of Smarts, and Awakening Your Child’s Natural Genius, both by Thomas Armstrong. Another good resource are other homeschooling parents.
5. The “B” word. Bored. That’s the word that made me feel like I needed to do something for my kids until I realized I’m not an entertainment center. I had to learn how to let the children create their own entertainment. If my children came to me and said, “I’m bored.” I said, “No problem. Vacuum the living room.” Child says, “Nevermind.” “Oh, no.” says I. “You’ve already used the B word. Vacuum now, then you can find something else to do.” I don’t think they used the B word twice. They always found something to do, even if it was reading (which is a great thing to do). This releases you from constantly having to come up with some exciting new thing. That can be so draining.
Bonus Tip: My friend who originally told me to think of the advantages also helped me out when I was pulling my hair out because I was homeschooling and trying to get my tax return done. She said, “Take the week off.” Gadzooks! I’m allowed to do that? Yes. After that, sometimes we’d take the month of December off so my children and I could make Christmas gifts (which can be considered educational). There were other times we took a week off because maybe grandparents were visiting from out of state or we were heading to their house. So take the day, week or month off as needed.
Confession: Doesn’t it sound like our homeschooling days were great? It wasn’t always great. Sometimes it was bad. And sometimes, I was so frustrated or feeling down about the whole thing. But I loved homeschooling. I loved being with my kids and trying to help them try out different types of learning. I suppose you’d have to ask my kids how they felt about it. Probably, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Enjoy when you can!
*Once upon a time, there was a cold and windy January in which many people lost power. The electric company worked as fast as they could to restore power. Unfortunately, a single big branch fell and knocked out only one home’s power, ours. The electric company couldn’t come for a single home; they were busy helping entire neighborhoods. For three days, we got colder and colder. Thank you to our friends who put us up for a night. The power company fixed everything on the fourth day. I really love electricity.
Then there was the time at the end of a February, the pipe to our septic tank busted and we were without flushing toilets, but the plumbers worked until late and by 10 pm we had those glorious commodes back. We were out for only a full day but, dang-it-shoot, I LOVE plumbers and not using outhouses (unless I’m tent camping in the wilderness for a few days then I’m okay with it).