One Homeschool Mom’s Top 10 Tips

+ Resources For Families Adjusting to Schooling during COVID

Child inscribing numbers on dirt path

Today was a bad day. I’m sure you’ve had them. The get-out-of-the-same-room-as-me kind of day. Scream-to-the-heavens-for-peace kind of day. The I’m-a-terrible-parent kind of day. The I-can’t-parent kind of day. The I’m-failing kind of day. The I-forgot-to-feed-the-kids-on-time kind of day. The my-head-is-barely-above-water kind of day.

As a parent, if you haven’t had one of those days in the last few months, I question if you are human. We are in some weird funky times. 

COVID-19 has upended all our lives. No one is immune to the upheaval. 

The thing is homeschool families aren’t immune to these feelings. This is not normal life for us either. 

It may be more of an inconvenience for some homeschooling families than a total overhaul of life, like it may feel for some families whose children have been previously enrolled in a compulsory school. But either way, it isn’t normal.

Homeschooling families are used to meeting up in group settings. For our family, which was already homeschooling prior to the quarantine, meeting in groups with other families was a minimum of two times per week. We attend programs at the library or play at parks to break up our days. We have co-ops to attend. We have rhythms and structures to our day that have been upended due to COVID and more people around these spaces with the Stay-at-Home orders.

I am not a veteran homeschooling mom. I am not a veteran parent.

I am a former educator, millennial, stay-mostly-at-home, business co-owner, homeschooling mom. Over the course of my 34 years of life (if your birthday is over the quarantine you just skip it, right?), okay fine, over my 35 years of life, I have found some practices that you may find helpful. 

However, the internet is full of resources right now that make me feel overwhelmed and underperforming. This is not my purpose. The practices below are to help you feel less overwhelmed. 

  1. Morning Pages:
    Julia Cameron created the practice of morning pages in her book The Artist’s Way. The practice goes something like this: Every day, after you wake up and before you do anything else (or frankly anytime during the day), write three pages, longhand. It’s not for anyone’s eyes but your own, and the only requirement is that you be as honest and unfiltered and unfettered and free as you can, and, most importantly, keep the pen moving. Get out of the way. Go. This practice has helped me get out of depressive or ruminating thoughts which let’s face it this time is ripe for. 
    Bonus: you are modeling writing for your children and they can also participate. Freewrites are an extremely powerful tool for writers in all stages.
  1. No School at Home:
    You are not homeschooling. You are also not doing school at home. You are educating during a pandemic. That is wholly uncharted water for us all. Don’t try to recreate school at home. I am sorry to say, you will fail. Children naturally are curious about the world and will continue to learn even if you try to stop them. Create a unit study around their interest whether it be FortNight, or lacrosse, or Legos, or fairies, or whatever else is the hot ticket of the moment. There are ways to interweave math, science, literacy, and more around each of these topics. Let them deep dive into their current passion. I give you permission to let go of what the district has assigned. As of July 18th, 2020 there is a lot of uncertainty as to what school will look like in the front range of Colorado. It’s looking suspiciously like there won’t be in-person learning until after Labor Day, but nothing has been fully announced. So why chase something that is going to be changing and likely not have your family’s values or needs in mind? Instead, create your own meaningful and personalized education for your child.
    *Did you know most homeschooling families with kids in grades K-5 spend an average of 30 minutes to 4 hours a day depending on age? But did you know that learning can happen around the dinner table, on a hike, on the computer, playing a strategy game, and more? Learning can even happen on the weekend rather than a weekday. You don’t have to sit down at a table or a desk with a book for learning to happen.
  1. Family Rhythm:
    We don’t follow one of those beautiful color-coded calendars. Instead we have a rhythm to our days. We have a few hard-and-fast times we stick to, mostly around food and sleep to keep the rhythm moving. I’ve found that hour blocks of time make me feel unaccomplished if we didn’t finish what I planned during that chunk of time. Whereas rhythms allow fluidity and structure in our day. 
  1. Enchantment:
    According to Julie Bogart, a veteran homeschool/private school/public school mom, A Little Enchantment Goes a Long Way. If you or your kids are bored and you are having a hard time eliciting excitement in learning try a little enchantment. It is our duty as parents and educators at this time to unlock the treasure of learning. Let our children be curious. Let them fall in love with learning and exploring our world. An easy way to do this is to incorporate the art of strewing. In Lyons, we are unique with our community of Lyons Families. It is easier for us to source materials from other families for free or cheap. Be creative, be generous, be vulnerable and ask for what you need to infuse your child’s world and learning with wonder and enchantment.
  1. Just Add Water:
    When things are, shall we say, tumultuous with behaviors, either mine or theirs, I just add water. A glass of water for hydration. A special tea. Apple juice. A bath. The hose. A dip in the river. Our secret weapon is an epsom salt bath and an episode of Mister Rogers right before nap. Knocks them out every time! Whatever you choose to do, cleaning the dishes, filling a big bucket of water, a shower. Just add water.
  1. Connection:
    This time is going to be challenging. I promise you, you will want to wring someone’s neck at times. And if you are able to flip your mindset to love and connection in those times of hardship you will transform your familial relationships. You have more time to cuddle your babies, yes even those teens. You have more time and space to have conversations and get to know your child on a deeper level. You will become even more intimate with their bodily functions and body rhythms. Gross, yes. These insights will allow you the ability to reassess your rhythm to maximize learning. Does your child wake up naturally at 5 am? You could be done learning by 9 am. Is your kid a night owl? School after lunch. Does your kid need lots of breaks? School for an hour on and an hour off. Most of all hug your kids a little more, tell them you love them five more times a day, and look them in the eyes more frequently. Heck, we are in a pandemic, you never know what might happen to any of us. Let’s use this time to connect and love each other a little bit more.
  1. The World is Your Classroom:
    Increase your immunity and health in nature while tying in learning. Take your learning outside. Write a story at the top of the L hike. Bring your iPad to Reindeer Ridge. Take that packet on Lichen Loop. Or forget all the learning and let nature guide your learning. Find examples of the Fibonacci Sequence, seed hunts, signs of predators, tracking animals, food chain studies, or identifying plants/insects/trees to name a few. The possibilities are endless.
  1. Do a Neuro Reset:
    Have you heard of brain breaks? These can be really helpful for kids with high energy/low focus. Some educators even suggest doing a brain break every 15-20 minutes when doing intense learning sessions. But let’s not forget about a neuro reset for the caretakers too. Here’s a quick way to reset your nervous system AND remember to do it 10-15 times a day.
  1. Backwards Planning:
    If you decide to go the route of child-led learning sometimes it can feel like you’ve done no learning at the end of the day. I encourage you to buy a cheap daily planner. At the end of each night, write down everything you did from sorting dishes while putting them away to talking about philosophical ideas to human body learning to cooking to you name it. Everything we do is learning everyday. You will have weeks or months when you feel like you aren’t doing enough and you are failing your kids. By reading back in this planner you will be filled with confidence because you are doing enough AND you are enough.
  1. Let it Go:
    As a former teacher this is still something I am working on. But taking a cue from Elsa, I try to let go of the shoulda, woulda, couldas as much as possible. I have to remind myself regularly that homeschooling isn’t compulsory learning. It is a different, non-linear path. So you need to be able to let go of the idea that you are off track or creating a learning gap. They will learn what they need to learn in order to become functional adults. Your child won’t be left behind. I promise. Relax. Breathe. You’ve got this.

Additional Resources

And if you are really wanting some tangible resources/project ideas here you go:

Interdisciplinary Ideas

  • Puzzles: research the original artist, the puzzle making process (watch an episode of How It’s Made), era, location, or recreate the puzzle (draw + cut out).
  • Family/Friend History Project: FaceTime family to collect oral histories (take a meeting while you have a virtual babysitter), create a timeline or family tree, create a family website, create a family movie (bonus: record video chats to include in the movie).
  • Music Study: research a composer, create a timeline of composer’s life, research instruments, find your favorite YouTube rendition of the song, research era and write a story from composer’s point of view, research country and city of composer location.

Math Resources

  • Wild Math: Learn math outside created for grade K-4.
  • Beast Math: Created for ages 8-13. Utilizes a graphic novel style interface and great for reluctant readers and math learners.
  • Khan Academy: You can learn anything. Expert-created content and resources for every course and level. Always free.

Literacy Resources

  • Brave Writer: Discover how Brave Writer helps kids of any age jump into writing at the right level for them. 
  • Vooks: Develop reading skills with fun, animated read alouds you can watch anywhere, anytime.
  • Epic!: A massive online collection of books for kids aged 12 and younger with easy to navigate search and filter options. In addition to books kids can read themselves, it also includes comprehension quizzes, read-to-me books, audio books, videos, and more.

Science/History

  • Tinkergarten: Taking their outdoor, play-based class philosophy online due to COVID with small-group, virtual sessions.
  • Mystery Science: Mystery Science offers open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science. 
  • Merlin: Free, instant bird identification help for 4,500+ birds for North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. 
  • iNaturalist: Helps you identify the plants and animals around you. 
  • National Geographic Shorts: Beautifully crafted stories for the whole family.
  • Clio App: Website that connects thousands of people to historic and cultural sites around the United States. Including sites right here in Lyons!

Home Education Resources

And if you need a sounding board or have questions feel free to email me at kejostes@gmail.com.