Compliments of a very scary pandemic, many parents have been thrust into the role of facilitator of their children’s education. Judging by my inbox, many feel ill-equipped and worried about what these next few weeks will bring.
The prospect of keeping children engaged in school their work, free of anxiety, and gainfully occupied for the hours of the day they are not online, receiving and uploading lessons, is overwhelming. This is a fact, whether you are a veteran home educator or not.
These are waters that home educating parents navigate daily. The added component of limiting travel outside of the home does challenge even the most experienced and stalwart homeschooling parent(s); this is true. But parents who homeschool know a thing or two about managing chaos so that things get done.
It might be useful to peek into the world of homeschooling parents and cherry-pick for helpful survival tips?
I have home educated for 21 years. Although I had not set out to homeschool in the early days of parenthood, I tried it for one year. It went swimmingly well. Each subsequent year went so well, that my husband and I just kept going with it. Four kids have been homeschooled K to 12. Two are Ivy League grads, one is at the US Naval Academy, and the youngest is being sent home from his full-scholarship year abroad in the Balkans as I type these words. He is 17 and will be a senior next year.
Here are my basic survival tips:
1. Never begin a day without a plan — a schedule. Pie-in-the-sky though it may be, have one. Make this plan the night before.
2. ALWAYS include your kids on this plan. They need to have a say. They might want to negotiate. Allow some room for this but anticipate ahead of time what they will ask for.
3. Remember, you guys are a team — and the captain of the team? That’s you.
There is one enemy that you all face. This — stepping into the electronics abyss. Your kids will need to be online for school, but they will want to be online for all kinds of other unproductive things. You can control this monster, but it is a formidable opponent. No one knows how long schools will be closed. It is important to plan against idle consumption of internet litter because it will grow and grow. Set those limits now. Choose creating things online over consuming things online. There is a difference.
Consider implementing a daily two-hour, quiet, joint-reading time. No glowing screens in the room, just books and maybe snacks. You need to participate for this to be successful. Maybe tv time has been negotiated, too? That is fine but set a limit. In your planning session (of the night before), you will negotiate the movie or tv shows that all will watch together, and you will secure agreement from all. If everyone wants to veg-out on their own individual screens, fine. Be in the same room, set a limit, and all use earbuds.
Build your day around an outside event. Spend time in nature. While we may not be free to socialize in groups together right now, there is nothing to keep us out of the woods and parks (so far). Do some research and schedule a daily hike, a long bike ride or a walk along a beach. It can be near or far. Pack your own food, so no stops are needed in public places, download some audio books for the ride and combat anxiety and boredom with exercise and fresh air. By planning ahead (the night before!) you can reverse engineer the schoolwork into the hours you are home before departing on you daily outing.
Remember these three things:
1. There is no such thing as bad weather — just bad clothing.
2. If you take away the walls, they can’t bounce off the walls.
3. Being surrounded by nature rejuvenates, inspires, and heals.
This temporary, imposed social-distancing can be an opportunity for your kids to relax and recover from the stresses of their school life. It is an opportunity you do not want to lose to Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite or FarmVille. Instead consider a structured online class in Python or Tableau.
Maybe the time you now have at home with your students will make you curious about the homeschool life? I don’t think home education is for everyone, but I know it works and I think it makes better sense especially now that we are so connected to online academics.
Have you ever wondered what a homeschooled teen does all day? Below is the schedule my youngest son maintained last year. I share this because when one considers taking this road less traveled, when parents start to wonder what it would be like for their kid(s) to learn from the “school of life”, it is extremely useful to have a few models to consider. Here is one. I hope this helps you imagine the self-directed learner’s life.
This time is stressful, but it is also an adventure. Think of pitching a tent in your yard, painting a room in the house, or cleaning out the garage. If every day is looked upon as opportunity and adventure, you and your kids will be happier.
This outlook is what keeps home educating families excited about their lives together.
It bears repeating. Have a plan each day. Fortune favors the prepared, so schedule your days with your family ahead of time. Get everyone on the same page. View yourself as a partner in their education and recreation. Good luck and godspeed!