Homeschooling 101: 10 Tips from a semi-pro

I am the kind of person who lives by my planner. But I think we can all agree that no amount of careful planning could have prepared any of us for what has happened over the past several weeks. Our lives have been inundated with messages of this virus, social distancing, and proper hand washing. Our churches, schools, and restaurants have shut down and life, as we have known it, has come to a screeching halt.

The other morning, I posted some funny memes about the brave new world of homeschooling that so many Americans suddenly find themselves entering. And while they were meant to be humorous and lighten the burden with a little laughter, I realize this is no laughing matter for so many families. Literally overnight, thousands of parents and kids found themselves in homeschooling “free fall” which I basically equate to being shoved off the high dive by some punk who knows that you don’t know how to swim.

Photo by Lane Smith on Unsplash

While I am in no way an expert on homeschooling, I am a self-proclaimed semi-professional. I have been doing it with relative success for the past 8 years. Some of my kids now attend traditional school; others still homeschool. But none of them drink, smoke, do drugs, and none of them have joined a gang (yet) which is excellent news given that my most sassy child is only 10 years old. Given my newly self-appointed status, I figured I’d hop on my blog and offer what I hope will be some helpful hints and tips to help others make it through this time. Please know that this list is in no way exhaustive. Everyone learns differently and there are a million right ways to homeschool your kids. There is no foolproof, one-size-fits-all method when it comes to education {to which all the homeschool moms and classroom teachers said, “AMEN!”}. These are merely suggestions, thoughts, and ideas that have occurred to me over the past few days. Take what you need and leave what you don’t.

  1. Get dressed (almost) every day. Sure, pajama days can be fun and necessary at times. But I would caution that lazy clothes lead to lazy days. Most adults I know would agree that sometimes putting on new workout clothes is all the motivation we need to hit the gym and most of us can’t deny that we just feel differently we put on our favorite outfit or dress. Well, kids are no different. They feel differently when they are dressed for productivity. So consider saving the pajamas for a lazy day and instead institute theme days like Wacky Wednesday or Team Spirit Tuesday to keep it fun and to encourage everyone to dress for success.
  2. Seek progress, not perfection. No homeschool mom is perfect. No student is perfect. No teacher is perfect. None of us has this figured out yet, so be patient with yourselves, with your kids, and with their teachers who may be suddenly forced to “teach” electronically. Remember we are all in the same boat here. No one was 100% prepared for this and the learning curve is steep. Give yourself and others the grace to make mistakes. The goal is steady progress and to keep your kids learning and engaged during this “break.” So just do your best and assume others are doing the same.
  3. Find out what their schedule is like and try to pattern your day accordingly. You don’t have to be militant about it or feel pressure to mimic every detail of their school day, but staying on a schedule even loosely related to what they do at school will keep them in a routine and provide a sense of normalcy during this transition. And don’t be afraid to include time for chores! When everyone is at home, the house gets pretty messy pretty quickly. Most homeschool families have some sort of a schedule or routine that we stick to and, for our sanity, we expect our kids to help with daily chores. Believe me, sanity is something you don’t want to lose!
  4. Exercise every day is a must. Go outside and breathe fresh air! If weather permits, go for a jog or a family bike ride. Hit a hiking trail or take fishing poles to a pond. Play kickball, freeze tag, or hopscotch. Jump rope, hula hoop, kick a soccer ball, or teach your kids the string games you grew up with like Chinese Jump Rope or Cat’s Cradle. If you are stuck indoors there are hundreds of FREE yoga videos on YouTube: Big plug here “Yoga with Adriene.” I’ve been practicing yoga at home with her for the past 4 years and I absolutely love her “Find What Feels Good” approach. Her channel is my absolute fave. You could also have a dance party or a Nerf war. Create a jumping jacks/ push ups/sit up contest, let your kids set up an obstacle course, or design a workout for the family. This can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be but have fun and sweat a little!
  5. Just Read It!!! Read aloud! Read silently! It doesn’t matter how or when or where you read, just read. Reading is the most fundamental skill. Some of the happiest memories of my homeschooling years have been spent bonding over books with my kids. Pick up a classic like “Charlotte’s Web” or “Sign of the Beaver.” Or choose a silly book like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or “Captain Underpants.” {Do not assume that girls do not like potty humor because I can assure you, they do!} This is a great opportunity to start a series like “The Chronicles of Narnia” or “Percy Jackson” or “Harry Potter.” And don’t forget about audio books! If you have a library card, you probably have access to thousands of audio books through Libby or Overdrive. Your public library might be closed, but the audio library is open 24/7/365 and you never have to worry about late fees!!
  6. Speaking of your library……most public libraries have incredible websites and online resources! If you have a library card, you likely have access to all kinds of educational games on the library website. Ours offers free, online classes on hundreds of different subjects as well as online language learning classes so check your local library website and see what may be available to you, especially if your school system sent your kiddos home to ‘homeschool’ with little to no instruction.
  7. Think outside the box! While many schools have gone to e-learning and your children have assignments they must complete, others (like our local school system) just shut down before they had time to plan or prepare. Whichever scenario you find yourself in, don’t be afraid to get creative with you child’s learning. Stream a documentary or science show like Planet Earth or The Magic School Bus and talk about it. Put together a puzzle. Order a book of brain teasers, sudoku, or crossword puzzles on Amazon. Practice and illustrate lists of spelling words on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Baking, cooking, card games like Uno and Rummy, and board games like Monopoly and Yahtzee are a great way to practice math. Science experiments you can do at home, such as erupting a volcano or making your own lava lamp, are just a google search away. Khan academy also has free online lessons on just about every subject you can ask or think or imagine.
  8. If you don’t know, ask! Don’t be afraid to ask a homeschool mom you know for hints, tips, ideas, suggestions, or help. If you don’t know one, shoot me an email. I’m here to help in any way I can.
  9. Use this time to grow in your faith. Remember that this is Lent. These days leading up to Easter are some of the most precious, sacred, and holy days for Christians around the world. If you are a Christian, use this mandatory “break” from your crazy schedule to come together as a family and talk about this season. Talk about Easter. Read your Bibles or do an online devotional. Whatever your faith background is, use this time to grow in it. Be intentional about your children’s spiritual development. You have nothing to lose, and they have eternity to gain.
  10. Have fun! Our pastor preached an entire sermon on Sunday about how our blessings are directly tied to our burdens. Homeschooling your kids may feel like a burden and if you’re being asked to work from home AND homeschool your children it likely IS a burden! But great blessings often come with great burdens attached to them. Try to use this time to look around and count your blessings. Our health is a blessing. Our families are a blessing. The fact that we live in a nation where we can seek medical help when we need it is a blessing. It’s a blessing to be educated and to pass education and knowledge to the next generation. I hope and pray that you will use this time to create memories with your kids that will last a lifetime, and that someday you’ll all look back on “that time that you had to homeschool” as a time of laughter, learning, and abundant blessing. And if you want a little encouragement or to share a funny story feel free to comment below. If you need a little help or are seeking a safe place to vent feel free to reach out to me or another homeschool mom you know.
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

We’re all in this together, friends. And being together–even at a safe, social distance– is way better than being alone. May this time be filled with abundant blessings for you and those you love.


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