For those of you who have been thrown into eLearning at home with your kids or perhaps they are on an extended break (without official learning required from their school), I wanted to write this to help calm the anxiety and be an encouragement to you.
Our family homeschooled for 15 years before we slowly made the transition to a different schooling choice for our children. Now that I am suddenly thrown into schooling at home, I wanted to share with you the differences between the two mindsets and some expectations during this time.
1. School at home is not Homeschooling
School at home is not a true representation of homeschooling. There is a huge difference between homeschooling and what many are now having to do, eLearning at home. Our kids’ school has been great. They were able to pull off the transition from the classroom to eLearning in a matter of days. Our governor shut down our schools with days notice due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. While I am supervising their learning at home right now, it is nowhere close to how a homeschool environment would be set up. There are some major differences here.
My kids’ teachers are still their teachers while at home. Their curriculum, assignments, and expectations are all set by the teachers. I have two in high school who are independent in this endeavor. I am only supervising/teaching our youngest (2nd grade). It’s very isolating having all the kids do their own thing.
This is a crisis time. Homeschooling involves a lot more than educational learning at home. If we were truly homeschooling, we would be out of the house more. We would be going on field trips, to the park, and out with friends. We would be participating in activities. We would also take mental health days at times. School in pajamas was a norm during dreary or cold days. If sleeping in will help ease the stress, sleep in. There’s no special reward for starting school at a specific time.
There’s no shame in making your own schedule for what works for your family. You do not need to keep a typical school schedule (unless your kids have live classes they need to attend). We have four students at all different levels and needs. I have a college student who does virtual classes, two high schoolers who are working independently on their computers, but occasionally have to do a live session with their class. Then I have an elementary student who needs 100% supervision. You know your kids best and you’ll figure out a schedule that’s conducive to the whole family.
2. Give yourself grace
When we homeschooled, I had months to choose the curriculum, plan the lessons, and organize our day. I also consciously made the choice to stay at home to teach our children. Many of us are either still working or working from home and still have to fit that into the mix. It’s not easy to rearrange your whole day to accommodate it all.
I taught 3 different children in 3 different grade levels. When they were in elementary school, I could teach at least four subjects together as a family. Bible, History, Science, and out loud reading were done together. Their assignments for those subjects were simply tweaked to fit their grade. Beyond that, I spent about an hour with each child to go over English/Language Arts, Phonics, Math, Spelling, and Reading in order to get them started for the day. We used a Math curriculum that was taught via DVD. I was there for guidance if they needed it, but they were fairly independent once I got them set up. (It’s also good to note that my three middle children I homeschooled, were all neurotypical and didn’t require a special learning plan. They could work fairly independently once they could read.)
I share this to encourage you to not be too hard on yourself, especially if you are supervising many elementary children right now or a child with special needs. You are essentially having to do the work of several teachers who have their own curricula for each subject times how many grades are represented in your home. Those core subjects are not being taught together. There is no overlap. My suggestion would be to encourage independent learners and motivate the ones who need more help to do what they can until you can rotate back around to help them.
If your kids are home, but don’t have a formal eLearning system going on from their school, don’t feel like you need to fill their days with “educational” things. Structure can be important for everyone, so I would encourage loose rhythms to your day. (Morning routine, activities, snacks, lunch, rest time, exercise, chores, etc.) If your kids are little, there is much more learning that takes place during play than people realize. Let them play! If your kids are older, encourage them to dive into household tasks or learn a new hobby, pick up an old one, cook, learn how to do laundry, etc. Extra screen time is okay too. We are watching more as a family and I’m okay with it.
3. Rest Time and Self Care
We reinstituted mandatory rest time after lunch. My little guy goes to his room for half an hour to an hour after lunch. My rules are simple. Stay in your room and be quiet. He can rest, read, or play quietly. It gives us the mental reset we need for the middle of the day.
Even if you need to get back to work or finish lessons after rest time, rest time does the body good. During rest time, I might make a cup of tea, watch a short show, write, listen to music, or exercise. It’s self-care time for me. Do what you need to do to take care of you.
4. Not Normal Times
During these times, nothing is normal. Many of us are home for hours on end, trying to educate our children while also accomplishing all that was already on our plates—working from home, household tasks, and more. We are also trying to avoid the grocery stores in order to do our part to slow the spread of the virus. That also means making the most of what’s in our pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Stress is high. Never have we lived through this type of pandemic. We all react to stress differently. Our kids are not exempt and they might show their stress in various ways as well. Our routines may need to shift to make room for decompressing the stress. Learning does not take place in a vacuum. Everything around us affects the learning capabilities of our children.
Let’s do what we can and not worry about accomplishing it all. Schooling at home is not the same as homeschooling. We should not put that expectation on our shoulders. Even in the best of circumstances, this transition would be extremely stressful and take time to adjust. We are not in the best of circumstances. So give yourself and your family some grace and rest when you can.