As millions of parents have started the new task of teaching their children at home, I thought I would share some of the tips that I have picked up along the way (through trial and error!)
1. Set realistic expectations
Recognize that everything will not go as smoothly as you imagine it to. Life is messy and so is homeschooling. Remember that progress is progress. Of course every homeschooling mom would like obedient and eager students, but are we ourselves eager and obedient?? (not hardly) My advice is to start small and add on as you go. Math and reading are the most important subjects, followed closely by writing. Yes, the chant “reading, writing, and arithmetic” had it right all along. For your first week of school, just having your children do their math lessons and reading a fun book, is a great way to start off your journey.
2. Add on slowly
Now after you have figured out how to get your little
monsters darlings to do their math and read a book, you can begin adding in some creative learning. Our favorites include watching nature documentaries, writing and illustrating short stories, reading fun biography books, doing simple science experiments (Pinterest is an awesome resource), and creating tons of art projects (again Pinterest has a ton of ideas).
3. Get exercise!
I think any elementary teacher will tell you that having PE in their daily schedule makes a world of difference. Children (and adults) feel much better when they get their wiggles out. This can mean going for a walk together, dancing to music, doing yoga, or even having an impromptu PE class in your living room. Anything that helps break up the day and lets all of the excess energy be burnt off is a definite plus in my book.
4. Build in screen time
I’m sure you will find that the kids will naturally be gravitating towards their devices since we are all home bound. And that is perfectly okay, but there needs to be a boundary. Since I am home all day, every day with my kids, I have noticed that the more devices are used, the worse the attitudes tend to be. It is a weird phenomenon. For instance, when the power goes out for long periods, my kids have multiple meltdowns and pitiful why me? moments none stop for about 20 minutes. Then after those 20 minutes are up, they magically rediscover books, toys, games, or simply realize how much fun looking out the window can be. This has happened to me multiple times, so trust me…it is very much real. That being said, there is definitely a time and place for devices in a day. My usual rule is that the kids can look at their kindles until we start school. Then usually, I allow screen time again later in the afternoon until dinner time (we eat early). After dinner, I encourage the kids to do other things, so devices are usually not an issue during that time. How much screen time do my kids have during a day?? Probably too much. But by breaking it up into smaller segments, I have found it really helps with attitudes and behavior issues.
5. Make a schedule
Having some kind of schedule will make your day go so much smoother. It does not have to be a rigid or even a heavily detailed schedule, but you need some kind of guideline for what you expect of your kids. Here is our current schedule:
6:30-8:00 Free time – that usually means we are all glued to our devices
8:00-8:30 – Breakfast and get dressed
8:30-10:00 -Ben does the majority of his school work (Emma’s hours vary based on what her college and co-op classes require that week, but a usual school day for her generally lasts from 8:30-2:00)
10:00-11:00 – Watch educational programming or creative play
11:00-12:00 – Lunch
12:00 – 2:00 Art, reading, Legos, etc.
2:00-4:00 Free time
4:00 – 7:00 Dinner, family time, and baths
7:00-8:00 Watch a movie on my bed (usually just me and Ben)
If you noticed, my kids rarely do more than 2-4 hours a day of “real” school work. That means that if you have to work and home school your kids, you can easily just do the school work in the evening when you come home. Just have the kids watch educational programming, write stories, do chores, play learning games, etc. while you are gone during the day and finish the book portions later. It is 100% flexible!
6. Have fun!
Yes, I have to admit that not all of school is (or should be) fun but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be. My kids love to whine about school just like everyone else’s children (yours will too!) Just remember that they are kids and that is what they do. After you collect your temper, just remind your child that school is required by the state and that if we do the more boring stuff quickly, it will be done for the day (simple, yet effective) I think that once we lose the mindset that all school is boring, we can find the joy in learning again. The best thing about teaching children after all, is their joy in learning something new. (This does not always extend to math problems!) I am always amazed at all of the facts that my kids pick up from watching shows or reading books. Learning is learning. If they are interested in dinosaurs, learn about dinosaurs. If they enjoy looking up weird ways to die, research diseases and epidemics. Anything can be a lesson. Cooking, singing, bird watching, discussing current events, bouncing a ball (hello, physics), or even talking about digestion as you eat can all be a learning experiences. Don’t restrict yourself to books.
I think that I will stop there. I could probably write an entire book on homeschooling and still have more to say! If there is one takeaway from this post that you can carry with you, it would be to simply enjoy your children. Learn together. Make memories. And above all else, if something is not working, do not be afraid to scrap it and try again!
I hope to do a series of learning at home posts throughout the next few weeks, but feel free to search on this blog for other homeschooling ideas.