By Kimberly Miller
We are all facing challenging times right now. Not only are we facing a global health crisis, but many families are finding themselves in situations they never anticipated. Social distancing and quarantining have led us into new and unexpected territory as we learn to navigate life in isolation with our families. Parents all across our nation have been forced to homeschool, with little or no time to prepare themselves or their children for this drastic change. We are all reeling from these challenges, but we do not have to let them overwhelm us.
If you suddenly find yourself in the position of homeschooling your children who are usually at school all day, and even working from home as you do it, this post is for you. It is our hope that you will find some tips and strategies that will help you cope with the challenges facing your family, and come out on the other side closer to one another and grateful for the lessons learned through the experience.
Adjusting Your Perspective
Have an attitude of gratitude
What we are all going through is tough; there is not doubt about that. It is scary and unexpected and our lives have changed overnight. It can be easy to give in to the fear and uncertainty and let it affect how we live our lives during this time. But it is important as parents that we keep our focus on the blessings all around us. Our perspective can have a huge impact on how we function in our daily lives. Focusing on the positive things in our lives can help us get through challenges, including this one. We are all in this together. You are not alone.
Reassure your children
Your children are watching you and learning from how you handle this situation. How you respond will say a lot to them about how to handle difficulties and how to find hope when things are hard. Your children may be experiencing a lot of fear of their own. Depending on their age, they may be very aware of what is going on in the world and that may cause them some anxiety. Reassure them that you are doing all you can to keep them healthy and safe and that you are hopeful for the future.
Adjust your expectations
You may need to adjust your expectations during this season. Give yourself and your kids plenty of grace as you navigate these days together. You are facing a lot—don’t be too hard on yourself or your kids. Try to laugh at your mistakes and learn from one another.
Practice self care
In the midst of all of this, remember to take care of yourself. Take a few moments each day to do something you enjoy. Do you love to read? Dip into a good book after the kids are in bed. Enjoy knitting? Pick up a project to work on while your are listening to an audiobook together. It’s little moments like these that keep us homeschooling moms sane on the hard days, and they can do the same for you right now as well.
Creating an Atmosphere
Create an atmosphere of peace and safety within your home
Make your home a haven for your whole family. Burn nice smelling candles. Play soothing music in the background. Keep your home as neat and clean as possible without making yourself and your kids crazy. Place a soft, cozy blanket on the couch for times when you can sit and relax. Cook delicious meals together.
Have your kids help with household chores
Having the whole family at home all day long means that your house will probably be messier than usual. Have your kids get involved in the work of keeping it clean and tidy. They can pick up after themselves and help with household chores. Work alongside them and make it a family activity.
Get your children involved in the cooking. It will be a great learning experience and another way to keep them busy at different times throughout the day. And who knows, it may spark a new family hobby!
Implement a routine or a flexible schedule
Having order and structure to your days will help tremendously with keeping every one on track. Set up a routine for each day. Schedule in times for relaxing and having fun, as well as times to get tasks accomplished. Post the routine or schedule where everyone in the family can see it; that way everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them at any given point in the day. It is important to remain flexible—no two days look alike in the life of a homeschooling family, so you can expect that there will be occasional interruptions—and that is okay!
Structure and order are especially important for children with autism or other special needs. Knowing what to expect in their day can go a long way toward easing the transition for your children.
Some families may have been given academic assignments that must be completed. Others have had no requirements placed on them by the school. Either situation can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath. Here are few ideas to help you get through the actual school part of homeschooling.
Don’t try to recreate school at home
It is impossible to have the same kind of environment at home that your children experience at school. Don’t frustrate yourself and your kids by thinking you need to bring school home. Instead, embrace the differences and work with the new learning opportunities available to your children.
Focus on the Basics
Unless your school has laid out certain requirements, make your primary academic focus be on the fundamentals. Skills based subjects, such as math, language arts, and reading should be the priority right now.
As for the other subjects, the best way to learn together is to read aloud or listen to audiobooks. If you have to work from home as well as teaching your kids, utilize audiobooks at times when you might need to keep them busy so you can focus on your work. It’s a wonderful screen-free way to occupy them and a great way for them to learn as well. Enjoy reading good books together. If you have the time, curl up on the couch together and settle into a story (even with your middle school or high school students). It will keep you all busy and take your mind off your worries, if only for a little while.
Provide hands-on learning
Give them hands-on projects to do. This is another great way to keep them occupied when you have something else that needs your attention. Working with clay, painting, drawing, fun science experiments, STEM projects, building with blocks or Legos, putting puzzles together—all these are wonderful ways to challenge your kids’ minds and occupy their time (while keeping them out of trouble!).
For an amazing list of resources for learning, check out this page. It is a huge list of links to a variety of places on the internet. There you will find links to virtual field trips, museum tours, free ebooks and audiobooks, online lectures and classes, educational Youtube channels, and much more. Be sure and take advantage of this incredible resource!
Going Stir Crazy
Let’s be honest. Speaking from experience, there will be times when you or you children (or both) will go a little stir crazy. You will reach a point where you will be tired of staring at the four walls of your home. While you can’t necessary go out and about, don’t despair. There are still plenty of ways to combat that inevitable cabin fever.
Just because we are all social distancing doesn’t mean your kids can’t play in your backyard or take a walk with you around the block (just try to keep your distance from your neighbors for now!) or a family hike in the woods. Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for everyone’s mood.
If you can’t get outside, find other ways to fit movement into your day. Turn on some music and dance around the house together. Have your kids do some jumping jacks or somersaults. Get them moving to work out some of the wiggles when they just can’t sit still to focus on schoolwork.
Start a family tradition
Create something the whole family can look forward to. With all of our future schedules so uncertain right now, it is important to give your kids (and yourself) goals or events to look forward to, even if it is something as simple as a once a week family movie night. Family rituals help mark time and give us all something to focus on in our day or week. Kids need concrete ways to show the passage of time, and family routines and traditions can give them that right now. Start a new family tradition. Eat dinner together in the evenings. Start a family read aloud before bedtime. Little things like these can make a huge difference in how we view our days together.
These are a handful of ways that will hopefully help make this time a little easier for you and your children. Yes, these are challenging days, but with extra love and grace, we will get through this time and our families will be stronger as a result. Love your family and embrace this time of learning and growing together.