Never in a million years did I think I’d every be titling a post “home schooling 101” but here we are in the midst of Corona-Chaos and there you have it… and while here in Houston, we are currently only out of school for an extra 8 days I feel like that is just our confirmed range. Talking to teachers and principals, seeing the national & local climate and reading between the lines, I feel like right now is the time for me to start mentally preparing our family for the potential of a home-school set up.
I know that schools are working on ways to get lessons to students and Zoom has offered free access to educators to connect them with their kids, but we all know that we parents are the ones that will have to make sure the work is happening. And without the constructs of a physical school, we are going to face more challenges than the teachers do in the first two weeks of school to make our “classrooms” run smoothly.
I will say, my husband and I have joked from time to time that we should pull the kids from school, home school & travel for a year – and we have often wondered, could we really make it work??? So over the years, I have been taking mental notes from my friends who home school to see how they make it work. While I definitely started pulling from their playbooks as best I could remember on day 1 of being out of school for Coronavirus, I absolutely hit them up for tips
And, since I am all about moms helping moms, I am compiling the top tips so that I can share with you lovely mamas…
Here we go, Home Schooling 101…
Set a Routine that Works for Your Family
That brutal 6.15 AM wake up to get the kids out the door? Gone. There is no reason to fit your homeschooling into the traditional classroom time frame. There is a very good chance you need way less hours to cover way more. Figure out what time everyone in your house is up and fed on a typical non-school day and start your day after that. Decide when you will start your day and also have a clear stop time to your day… but also remember that a schedule can look more like a routine… the actual start and stop times can be flexible but the order of event should be predictable. My good friend Amber Gill sets her day like this:
- 4.30AM: Mom wakes up, does 10 minutes of getting the blood flowing exercise, has quiet reading/reflection time & does work in a quiet home
- 7.30AMish: Kids wake on their own and come in for breakfast. Mom makes breakfast and gets them settled to eat and then she heads to the backyard or garage to do a 20-30 minute work out.
- 8.00AMish: Breakfast clean… kids help!
- 8.30AMish: Morning lessons. From what I understand, lessons can vary day to day.
- Noonish: Lunch time for all. Pause in the day and prep, eat and clean up lunch.
- Post-Lunch to 2PMish: Quiet activity time. Naps for younger ones. Reading, arts & crafts, etc for the older ones. But give their brains a time to rest and relax as well as their bodies.
- 2PM: Movement for all! Family work out ranging from a walk to backyard soccer or free active play. But get outside and get moving.
- 3PMish: Family chores
- 4PMish: kids get some free time as mom starts to prep dinner
- 5.30/6PM: Dinner time for the family, Mom cleans up after while she sends kids to play (note, this is the only meal Mom cleans solo and it’s so she can reset the kitchen for the day after the help of little ones)
- 7PMish: Evening routine begins: Bath, Bible/Reading, next day’s plan discussion & Bedtime
This set up seems so simple and totally achievable. I mean, really, you are focused in on the intense learning for about 3.5 hours… and that doesn’t mean three and a half hours of non-stop learning… which leads me to the second tip…
Be Flexible on How Long You Spend with a Subject Area
Every source I have tapped for advice has, in some way or another, said to be open to how long you spend on a subject area. There will be days that they want to dig deeper into the science lesson you have found – let them. There will be days that the math is just a struggle – don’t force it. My friend, Niki Edwards, tells me a big key in there homeschooling is that if a lesson is getting tense, wrap it up and move on for the day. You can come back to that topic another day and more often than not, the next time you work on it, things will go more smoothly.
I feel like this tip is a lightbulb for me. When doing homework with my kids, I so often feel the need to keep pushing until we get there. But the times I have had the clarity to say “okay, let’s take a break and come back to this later” have always been the times that we are more successful.
That leads directly into the next tip that came from everyone: take breaks and keep them moving and getting fresh air through out the day. I gotta say, this is the biggest complaint about a traditional school system that I have – the kids don’t move enough and they don’t get outside enough. What better time to work those things into their routines? And how much can we relate?
I know that as someone who works from home, I find myself moving from my study and the desktop computer to the living room and the laptop often. I stop typing and walk around and mentally “write” to bust a brain-block. I do an hour of work in the early AM, stop to care for kids and then work out and come back to work for a couple hours. I break for lunch. Then I do another hour to two until it’s time to get kids from school. I do the after school routines and then find another hour to work in the evening before wrapping up for the day. If I blocked those times together, I would actually get less done from burn out than I do by breaking things up. And I definitely saw this work well on Friday when I started into some basic routines. We had reading time for 45 minutes or so in the morning and then I sent them to play. We did math for half an hour in the afternoon and then they got a little TV. Sure, we had a much lighter day than we would need if we are trying to maintain a true learning schedule, but it did give me a glimpse into making it work.
Lots of Praise!
My friend, Kat Calaway, tells me this is the key to success… lots and lots of praise. Find small age-related rewards. And this totally adds up to what I see in the classrooms. All of my kids’ favorite teachers have a set reward system that allows them to earn simple treats – in the classroom, that ranges from no shoes for the day to Teacher of the Day. So what does that look like at home with social distancing?
Off-hand, my first ideas are time on the Nintendo Switch, picking the next family game selection, choosing the movie night movie (something that is usually a parent selection), Chef for the Day… I’m working on more ideas and obviously, the bigger the reward, the more reward bucks required to earn it…
But don’t discount the power of small praise – stickers, high-fives, hugs. And a big one: praise should be for BOTH academic success and character-trait successes. Working hard, showing kindness, being helpful are all just as praise-worthy, if not more, than getting all the math facts correct.
And here is the other side of the coin – for most of us, this idea of homeschooling is not a long term project. We are looking to keep our kids learning and moving forward for WHEN they go back to traditional classrooms, not IF. At some point, if this drags on, we will likely get direction from our schools as to assignments they are asking the kids to complete. My goal right now is to set up a routine of learning at home that is fun and enjoyable so that when/if we get to a true distance learning point, we will have the framework in place to plug the assignments into. I am not and will not be their favorite teacher. But I can take cues from them…
One of our favorite teachers as a read and report station at school. When the kids complete their tasks, they can go to the class library, read on any topic they desire to learn about, from animals to historical events to scientific explorations, and then present what they have learned to the class. By far, this has been both of my girls favorite thing to do at school. Why not let them learn about whatever topic they would like right now?
Reading about the life of a new favorite artist is reading. Writing a page to share with the family about what they have learned is writing. Baking has tons of math involved. I can read with my Kindergartener about his favorite dinosaurs and he can copy the names for handwriting practice…
And Math facts can be tons of fun. My kids never loved addition drills as much as when their Grandpa taught them to play Blackjack and you better believe we will be playing some during this time. Puzzles sharpen logic & reasoning skills. Games incorporate all sorts of strategy and math skills…
We do not have to make this time of learning stressful or rigorous. The goal is not to single-handedly teach them advanced calculus. The goal is to not lose traction in learning. Get creative, explore topics that you love, facetime with friends to let your children learn from other experts.
But most importantly, remember that this too shall pass and just love on those littles – even if they are getting big.
And share your tips! Drop them in the comments for everyone’s benefit. Let’s be each other’s village and work together. We got this, mama…