DON’T PANIC: A Homeschooler’s Guide to the Quarantine
If you’re a parent of a child whose school is closing for the summer, congratulations! You have become a member of a group that laughs and cries in extra-curriculars, dances while teaching division, and is fully capable of accomplishing a day’s work while wearing pajamas. Welcome to the world of homeschooling.
A few things before we begin. Remember. You know your kids — you’ve been teaching them all along. You just have a few more subjects to teach for the next few weeks. You’ve got this, even if you have to share child care with a friend to pull it off around work.
First Things First
Always know where you keep your towel — and your sense of humor. These last few weeks have been especially tense for all of us, and your kids are feeling it too. If you have a chance to laugh, enjoy it! Have all the fun you possibly can while you learn with your kids.
Homeschooling is quite the journey, and it carries with it its own challenges and stresses. An attitude of love, grace, and laughter will carry you a long way. Laughter also has the added benefit of strengthening your immune system and relieving stress and anxiety. So, laugh. Laugh and keep yourself and your family healthy and happy during this season of self isolation.
When you can’t laugh, just breathe. Take deep breaths, frequently. Parents and children alike can benefit from taking deep, cleansing breaths as a method of calming high emotions, and regaining self-control and focus. There’s an added benefit to this too: the extra oxygen helps brain function, and deep breathing keeps your lungs healthy.
Strategies and Tips
If you’re laughing and breathing, that’s great! The next step is to add some learning into the mix. Here are some tried and true homeschool strategies and tips.
- Read together! If you don’t fancy yourself a great teacher, that’s okay. Books are better teachers than most of us. Read fun books, new ones, red books, and blue ones. Read aloud together as a family and pass the book around — older kids or a parent can help the littles read their passages. Make a blanket fort or some cozy reading nooks, and give your kids some books to choose from for some quiet reading time, and be sure to pick up a book yourself. Your children are watching you more than ever, and the younger ones especially will start to follow the examples you set.
- Lighten up your school day. School at home is different. Thank heavens! You choose the start time. You might be finished in 3 or 4 hours, and that is just fine. (Well, Latin and Logic add some time here.) PJs and cozy blankets work fine! Math probably needs progress to move on to next year’s level, but many courses stand alone. Relax about those. Consider Life Skills 101 as a new Unit Study. Cooking is a great way to learn fractions and to feed your family. There are a lot of math card games out there.
- Move and Give People Space! Earphones with MP3 players and their favorite tunes reduces stress and increases mental space for my family. Find and respect those retreat spots and times. Exercise, movement, and sunshine reduces stress. Timers are key to our homeschooling survival. The Pomodoro Technique requires a fun break after a fairly short work time. “Class breaks” here might involve 10 laps in the yard, or two bags of leaves!
- Use checklists and schedules with rewards. Find which one works for you. A checklist on a clipboard or the fridge can give hope that the work day will end. Rewards can be earned screen time, or pulling a slip of paper from the “Reward jar.” Board games? Cooking? Tossing a ball?
- Keep hydrated and fed. They help everyone stay friendly. One child wilts away in sadness or anger when hydration is low. Snacks? Second Breakfast? One mother was explaining that snacks need to last longer since we’re not going to the grocery store as often. “Just like in ‘The Long Winter.’ Right, mommy?” Laura Ingalls Wilder to the rescue!
- Break up screen time. Screens can be your best friend and your worst enemy. We mix book learning with online classes. Cyber meetings have been great for study and games. Museums and performance artists are creating free content for our stranded students daily. The internet offers great resources, but our family has to break up the time online. If we don’t, tempers rise dramatically.
- Use the technology. Your kids might hate me, but — my well-intentioned but highly distractible teen projects his school work onto the living room TV. Chromecast or an HDMI cable work fine for this option. We use a free Google Chrome extension called “StayFocusd.” I supervise while my son selects “Khan Academy, Quizlet, and Spotify” for two hours. At that point he is locked into those three options. Whenever he forgets his work and looks for amusement online, a banner pops up saying, “SHOULDN’T YOU BE STUDYING?”
So, welcome aboard the homeschool journey. We’re ALL missing our weekly classes, clubs, concerts and coffee shops. Be kind. Allow do-overs. Laugh. This is uncharted territory for us all, but we’ll get through it. Sanitize your phone. Grab your towel (or blankie), and we’re going to make it out of this alive.
Need more tips? Check out DON’T PANIC Part Two: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Online Resources.
Mikki Marugg Bates is a wife and homeschool mom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her homeschooling adventure began thirteen years ago with her Classical Conversations community. She has successfully launched two children to college, a violinist and a writer, and is homeschooling a cello-playing Boy Scout. Previously, she worked in technical support and sales. Her family shares a love of music, history, travel, classic British comedy, and Western Swing. Her husband, Michael Bates, blogs at batesline.com.
Kat Bates is a writer and language-lover currently reading roughly all of the western canon at St. John’s College, Annapolis. Homeschool credits include: teaching her younger brother how to read, learning Latin, diagramming sentences, and falling in love with the history and the classics. Platonist, not Aristotelian.