A COVID-19 Homeschool Primer from a Homeschool Mom
COVID-19 has put a serious damper on your Spring Break plans. And now, you get to see what life was like in Little House on the Prairie, in your own one-room schoolhouse while you work from home. As a homeschooling mom of three rambunctious boys I want to offer you some advice. Homeschooling shouldn’t look like school. Working from home won’t look like working from an office. Once that sinks in you’ll be off to a better start than me in my first year of homeschooling.
I’ve gained these precious moments to sit down and write by allowing my children a lot of freedom. I’m going to pay for it soon. The pantry door opening is a clue that my 3 and 5 year olds are helping themselves to an afternoon snack while the silence in my 7 year old’s room means he is deep into an iPad game and won’t want to stop for dinner. This is about to be your new normal. You’re going to trade in office water cooler chat and blog reading for silly songs and books, but everyone is going to make it through. Your co-workers are now legitimate toddlers, who will not understand how your phone conversation could be more important than their amazing discovery of an ant drowning in the sink. Don’t judge. Your house will be just as filthy in days.
With incredibly low expectations, sketch out a rough schedule. I list all our scheduled activities that cannot be moved. I make a list of all the things I would like to accomplish for the next day, then I pick no more than three of them. This provides a rough and realistic estimate of how much “quiet” time I will need to need to accomplish those three tasks. I already guarantee you though that your little one will need a million things while you are on a work phone call. I don’t know how they know you are on the phone but they know and emerge from another part of the house to ask for help on a video game level you didn’t even know they were playing. Sigh.
Morning family routines can be roughly divided into two groups. Those homeschooling families with good children have leisurely mornings. These children sleep in, or at least stay in their rooms until called. Their parents accomplish myriad things before anyone is awake. Then there are the more challenging children, like my little hooligans. Medical professionals call them early risers. They are up and ready to go even before the sun makes an appearance. A morning basket, full of do-on-your-own activities, is an easy place to start. Your morning basket can be thematic (space, holidays, nature) or just a collection of easy activities your kids haven’t seen in a while. If you’re brave, some scissors and paper plates can keep kids occupied forever.
Once I have coffee and the children have been fed, we all do chores together just to get the house tidy. I’ve found that putting the kids to work leads to higher productivity. Lower your standards and let them help fold, put away, sweep and wash. If you can get household chores done during the day, together, you will feel less stressed when the kids go to bed.
In order to get some quiet time for myself I know I need to give everyone some good contact time first. Essentially, I want everyone to be sick of me. Instead of trying to teach kids via lecture style like they would get at school, this newfound time with your kids is a great chance to indulge some things they are into or teach them something new. My seven-year-old loves to sew, my five-year-old loves gardening and my three-year-old loves cooking. These all fit nicely into our schedule especially if I feel motivated to bandage needle wounds, sweep dirt from the patio and eat “creations” made of carrots and barbecue sauce.
I love to read, so our homeschooling revolves around reading books and doing projects that relate to those books. Read Harry Potter, make wands, do some kitchen chemistry (read: fire and messes) and sketch owls. Read Charlotte’s Web, paint farm animals, grow some plants and let some caterpillars turn into butterflies in your home. Read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in your homemade living room tent. Try Poetry TeaTime and get dressed up while you read funny kids poetry and sip tea.
If this all seems like too much reading consider some thematic lessons. Head to Teachers Pay Teachers and type in your theme, find some worksheets, gather up books and toys on the same theme and see what you can do with them. We spent three weeks studying birds for fun. We watched bird videos, painted birds in watercolor, tracked birds in our yard and even mastered some bird calls. Woot woot.
One of my children is incredibly motivated by workbooks. I’m a huge fan of the Summer Brain Quest books which mix subjects into a fun “learning path” where your kid traces his progress with stickers. There are also suggested outdoor activities and additional reading options. It’s not comprehensive, but a great way to keep hands from being idle.
Quiet time is non-negotiable in our schedule. We start with some quiet reading time after morning chores and roll right into rotations. My five-year-old might choose a rotation with a puzzle and a timer to see how fast he can put together a puzzle. My seven-year-old gets some blocks and an internet picture of Neuschwanstein Castle – good luck! I build an amazing train set with the three-year-old and leave him to play, or let him look at some books in my room while I write.
If all else fails, drop your standards. It is a few weeks. This is a great opportunity to do some things with your kids that you don’t have time for. Cook with them, do a woodworking project (just don’t hurt yourself enough to need medical treatment . . . because well, overcrowded hospitals) binge a new TV show together or just stay in your PJ’s all day reading. These are all things homeschoolers do on occasion and I’m happy to give you permission to do them with your kids now. Thanks COVID-19.
Here are a few links to get you started:
- Spreadsheet of Online Resources: some of which are offering free access during Covid-19 related shutdowns
- Teachers Pay Teachers: search for a variety of worksheets & lesson plans
- Let’s Play School: Free Preschool Printable’s and curriculum to purchase
- The Peaceful Press: Charlotte Mason Style Curriculum based on popular read aloud books for children
- The Read Aloud Revival: tips, tricks and suggestions for reading out-loud with kids
- List of Museums with Virtual Tours
- Outschool: online, short, video courses for kids of all ages. (Use this link to get $20 credit towards your first class.)
- The Waldock Way: home of my favorite Harry Potter Curriculum, she has great curriculum packs and ideas, lots of info on game schooling
- Exploring Nature With Children: A yearly nature led curriculum. What I love about this is it could easily be continued even once school is up and running again. A great way to spend time together as a family.
- Storyline: Picture books read by famous people with light animation
- MrEthridgeMusic: Free videos for at home learning
- Online Jr Ranger Packet from Aztec Ruins
- Jr Ranger Booklets to Download & Mail In
- Wild Explorers Club: weekly online lead activities focused on adventure and exploration
- Make your own handwriting practice sheets
- SQUILT music appreciation – music appreciation lessons for purchase
- Brain Quest Summer Workbooks