It’s Day 5 of Maryland’s mass school-at-home movement. Welcome to your new normal of coronavirus homeschooling. You always said, “I could NEVER homeschool” – and yet, here we are.

As a veteran homeschool mom and educator for 20 years, I’m going to chime in with some thoughts about how families can make it through COVID19 school-at-home in one piece. Yes, this is for you, Ms. Mom who hosts 9am wine parties on the first day of school in September. No, I’m not actually judging you. I’m just guessing that you might be freaking out a bit. 

This is also for the super-zealous moms who have signed up for every free online learning opportunity that rolled out in the past 10 days. Even as an unschooler, I’m not judging you, either. I can appreciate your enthusiasm to do right by your kids, but I can also anticipate the crushing disappointment you’ll feel in a couple of weeks when the novelty wears off.

Just know: The old guard homeschool community has got your back. We might not know one another personally, but we share something in common: Our love for our children and a desire to make it through to the healthy side with an emotionally intact family. Oh, and yeah, we hope our kids learn a thing or two along the way.

Embrace Your New Role

Your kids know you as “mom”. They know your rules and they know your buttons. Now, they’ve got to get to know you in a new role: “School-at-home Mom”. It’s okay to switch roles throughout the day and say, “I’m not asking you as mom, but telling you as Home-School Mom that I need you to finish this task.”

Chances are, you are probably feeling like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. That’s okay. (Ask any teacher how they felt during their first 6-weeks in a classroom.) Be honest with your kids about how you’ll need to work together to make school-at-home be a success. If they’re sports kids, use a team analogy with you being the coach. If they’re music kids, talk about how the notes, staff and treble clef all have a role in creating a tune.

Remember: If your first week has been rough, that’s normal. Most all new homeschoolers go through a phase of you’re-not-my-teacher. Take a deep breath and calmly talk about what your new normal can look like.

Ditch That School-At-Home Schedule

I get that some well-intentioned school administrator thought they were doing everyone a favor by creating their brightly colored school-at-home daily schedule. But, yeah … do yourself a favor and put that in the emergency if-we-run-out-of-toilet-paper pile.

  • Some children thrive on structure.
  • Some children require structure in order to maintain their own self-regulation.
  • Some children resist structure like it’s the plague. (Imma thinking we might be updating this saying in the 21st century.)
covid schedule

You know your kids best, so implement a routine that works best for your family – but stay flexible. If your kiddo is playing legos and the 45-minute designated playtime is over and they’re still engrossed – stop and consider: Are you trying to work from home for your job? Do you appreciate the quiet time as your baby sleeps? Is it really worth arguing over this particular transition?

Remember: You’re not giving up your parental authority in a situation like this. You’re simply picking your battles wisely during an extended time of crisis. The schoolwork will get done eventually.

Don’t Stress About Take Home Work Packets

Some kids enjoy doing endless worksheets. Hooray if you have one of those kids. But others are going to moan and cry every time you ask, “Are you done, yet?

If you or your children get sick from the coronavirus, it’s likely you will not be doing much school-at-home for 4-6 weeks. I can’t imagine schools failing children for not completing work packets for being sick. Heck, I can’t imagine most schools will even be grading these packets.

The last thing any family needs during COVID19 is a daily battle of the wills over make-work. Instead, find alternative ways to practice essential math facts or writing skills. 

Remember: Your kiddo will not fail in life if they don’t meet every single language arts objective in their 7th grade curriculum. And, honestly, most homeschoolers don’t actually give their kids worksheets to do, anyhow.

Unplug From the Internet

Social media has been flooded with thousands of links to free virtual field trips, cultural events, and online learning platforms. I applaud all the organizations and businesses stepping up to help children keep on learning throughout the pandemic. 

But, here’s the thing: Your kids are not actually going to learn much by just sitting in front of a screen, passively watching someone talk at them. Even if they’re clicking and playing educational games, the quantity of deep learning is limited. Think about it. If learning happened that easily, then all schools would be online and all children would be acing those high-stakes tests.

Remember: Utilize those online resources as you see fit, but be certain to keep engaging with your kids. Talk about what they’re watching. Ask them to show you on paper what they just visually ingested. Be part of their learning process as much as you can.

Keep Your Kids Socialized

[Yes, I’m going there.] 

Look, socialization problems exist in brick and mortar schools (think bullying and ostracizing), as well as in some homeschool families. I’m not going to get into an us-versus-them debate about the topic, but I would be remiss for not mentioning a few thoughts. 

We find ourselves in the midst of an unprecedented time in educational history, with millions of children now being schooled-at-home. Most families will be okay with the socialization piece during this time of social distancing. I am, however, thinking of the kiddos who are an only child – or an extreme introvert – or who struggle with communication impairments – or are austistic – or suffer from mental illness – or live in a home that lacks an adequate level of emotional safety because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or a parent’s addiction.

How we keep these various children connected with a network of social support will vary upon their age, their access to phones and the internet, and how strictly they may be monitored within their households.

Sad and lonely kids won’t be focused on learning. Think broadly of how you can use Facetime or an old-fashioned phone call to help your kiddo stay connected. If the child in question is not yours, see how you can reach out through text message or even under the guise of needing to hire someone to run an errand for you.

And let’s not forget about you, my new school-at-home friend. Suddenly finding yourself 24/7 with a high needs child is going to be tough. Be certain to find healthy ways to vent (without the kids hearing or seeing) and connect with other parents who may be experiencing the same trials and tribulations as you.

Remember: Social distancing can easily turn into social isolation for some people. Find creative ways to stay connected so kids remain physically AND emotionally healthy.

When In Doubt … Laugh … Or Cry

We’re looking at school-at-home possibly lasting throughout the rest of the school year – with even more social distancing during the summer. Especially for those of us who live in cozy households or on limited budgets, tensions are going to run high. Things are going to get broken. Bored kids are going to eat your stockpiled food. 

And you, my reluctant school-at-home parent are going to want to scream. I get it. Much to my shame, I’ve done my fair share of yelling in times of high stress.

We have no idea how bad COVID19 will get before life returns to whatever new normal we will have. I’m not going to tell you to not get mad when your kids are driving you crazy. But I will encourage you to see if you can turn anger into laughter. As the first yelp is coming out of your mouth, pause, let everyone know a scream is coming and encourage everyone to join you for 15 seconds – and then vote on who had the loudest scream. Try it again, but make it sound like a bear. Keep going until the pressure is defused and folks are giggling.

Or not. Maybe you just need everyone to go to their rooms for 15 minutes so you can sit on the floor and have a good cry. There’s no shame in that game. 

Remember: None of us signed up for this pandemic. We’re all going to lose it at some point. You have permission to be imperfect and to make mistakes. Try to have a backup plan in place before you get to a critical tipping point.

Making It Through To The Other Side

How you decide to school your children at home through this pandemic is entirely your choice. For some parents, getting those work packets done will be as much as they can accomplish – and that’s okay. Nobody is asking you to do more than that.

Remember: All of our children will grow up with memories of the next few weeks and months. How your family handles the stress of school-at-home will make the difference between hard memories and gentler ones you’ll be able to chuckle over at future holiday gatherings. 

Each day will be the best that it can be.
Some days will be better than others.
That’s simply the way homeschooling works.

Be safe.
Be kind.
And stay healthy.

Last modified on March 23, 2020

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