Wednesday, April 1, 2020

My Best Advice (for homeschooling during a pandemic)

Crazy Feeling? Stressed? Homeschooling? Worried? I Gotchu!

Hi, my friends.

I do realize I am cutting into my regularly scheduled 30 Day Blog Challenge (I think this is Day 42). 

But I have heard your cries. Everywhere I turn on my Social Media accounts there are those of you who feel driven to drink (I personally am a teetotaler and have to rely on chocolate). Your “homeschooling” journey was suddenly thrust upon you. Not only do you now have to keep these people in your house ALIVE but you also have to school their little brains.

Some of you are doing so while continuing to work. Some of you struggling financially. Some of you just need adult interaction.

I am about to lay down some of my very best advice…EVAH.

I am not going to go into my own pitiful experiences. Just know that I understand. Sometimes life is HARD! 

But we have been homeschooling since my son began first grade and he is now a Senior. I also taught in my former life...most of my teaching experience has been with the Littles. I do have a few tricks. 

It always hasn't been an easy road. 

But we managed and I kept the boy alive. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a Sudden Homeschooler. At least, I planned for my trip down the long and windy path that is homeschooling. I got to read up, plan up, and pray up.

Just remember that none of this is normal. One good thing is that, basically, we are all in this together. We need to lift each other up. 

So here’s what I got for you.

·         Don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to not have all the answers or feel like everything is under control. First of all, we have to let ourselves feel all the feelings. And remind ourselves that God wasn’t surprised. For one, think of this time as a way to fill your tank up and pour as much of yourself into your kids. Within reason, however. Some of us introverts can’t tolerate the peoples being around ALL THE TIME.

·         Don’t feel like you have to manage your “homeschool” like a traditional classroom. Homeschoolers “homeschool” a thousand different ways. Most of us don’t really spend a whole lot of time at home (at least that used to be the case). We were busy exploring, taking field trips, visiting art museums, hanging out at the library, playing sports, and blowing things up at our weekly co-op meetings. This staying home stuff is new for us too. The point is though is that you are not going to be able to duplicate the traditional classroom experience at home. Unless somebody wants to try and make me some of those cinnamon rolls my elementary school cafeteria used to serve. Then I’m all about the whole school experience.

·         A routine is important. Even if it is a really laid-back routine. Most kids thrive on routines. This might look like a certain time to wake up in the morning, followed by a list of self-care tasks. After breakfast, you could schedule “schooltime” with plenty of breaks built in. There is no reason why your kiddos should be doing school all day.  If you struggle with a kiddo who is a “piddler” try using a timer. Works wonders. 

·         Take some time in your schedule to get some fresh air. Even if it is for a 5-minute nature scavenger hunt in the front yard. That fresh air does a body good. We lived in an apartment for quite a few years. We also didn’t live in a very safe neighborhood. My son used to stand out on the balcony and entertain the neighbors coming home from work. We also grew a few tomato plants on that same balcony. You do what you can.

·         Make a list of read alouds for you and your kids to read together. We have always scheduled our read alouds for after lunch. I will make a treat and we will enjoy hot tea or hot chocolate. Let your kids do something quiet while you read. Legos, playdough, drawing. Just no sleeping. I let Audio Books do a lot of the work for me. I do have a post of some of my favorites here.

·          Establish some time moving each day. I have some printable cards on my blog called “Brain Breaks.” Any time you think your people need a break, have somebody draw one of these cards. You can also surprise them with an impromptu dance party.

·         Help stimulate an Attitude of Gratitude. Develop a habit of listing your blessings. Talk to your kids about what they are grateful for. Make a daily list and keep track.

·         Did you know that play is cathartic?  When I was a younger teacher, there was a program for at-risk preschoolers that revolved around play. The idea was that these kids had little opportunity to just "play." At home, they might have to worry about being hungry, being in a dangerous situation, or have little to play with.  There is something very healing and therapeutic about free play. You don’t have to initiate or come up with creative activities. Just let them play. If you are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of mess that free play might cause, only allow out a certain amount of toys at a time. Your kiddo doesn’t need the Legos, and the building blocks, and the Playdough out at the same time. Sometimes they don’t need as much stimulation as you think they do. I will try and post my very FAVORITE playdough recipe sometimes this week. 

·          Cooking is a very educational activity. There are so many skills to learn while cooking. Don’t discount what you are teaching your kids simply by having them help you prepare a meal. There are many homeschoolers across the universe that add the simple task of having their kids help cook to their "Home Ec" course of study. Next, you could do a course in the proper way to fold towels. Amen and Amen.

·         Don’t worry about trying to do it all. Just focus on what your child’s teacher requires. Hopefully, you will have a bit more time to assist your student if extra help is required. Fill in those days at home with extra play, plenty of books and encourage your kids to express their creativity. We are working through some easy Youtube drawing lessons. It doesn't have to be fancy. 

·         Your child might not know how to entertain him or herself. He or she is used to being guided and directed during their school hours. Sometimes they think they require stimulation and direction. We never have had this issue. However, I see all kinds of lists floating around during the summertime. If your child is struggling with “boredom” consider creating an activity list or jar as potential ideas for them to follow.

·          One of my secret weapons when I taught was peaceful classical music. I piped it into my classroom most days. I continued when I started homeschooling. In fact, I have some playing right now. You will be surprised how it stimulates the brain but calms the soul.

·         Another secret weapon is my sophisticated planner called the Spiral Notebook. I do have a simple planner with a calendar that I jot down appointments and “whatnot.” But the Spiral Notebook is what I use to make lists, make goals, meal plans AND Josiah has his very own for his list of chores and school assignments. That way there is no confusion.

·         Establish “Quiet Time.” Everyone needs some time during the day when they can refocus and regroup. Some might require naps. You could also encourage free reading or if you are like us we like to spend this time watching a documentary. Nothing says “quiet time” like the adventures of scientists living in the white vastness of Antarctica.

·          Make your meals simple. You don’t have to grind your own wheat and churn your own butter. I realize that this is the image that many have of “homeschooling.” We have made our own butter as part of an activity but I did that when I was teaching too. Most days I offer the same few things for breakfast and then a few different things for lunch every week. I do try and stay away from sugary cereal. You probably understand why. I went and saw a lecture from Temple Grandin one time. She said to feed your kids eggs and bacon. I try and take her advice. Many suppers are started in the morning in my crockpot. We do “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” in our homeschool. I guarantee your kids have heard that little ditty at school. The one thing you can do to make your meals memorable is to use your good china and have the kids set the table. Even canned soup looks special in a china bowl. 

·         Establish some self-care routines. You have to do it. You must be getting rest. You must be filling your body with good foods and plenty of fluids. I am in a couple of the high-risk categories for the coronavirus. It is important that I keep doing what I know to do. It has also been helpful for me to limit my views of the news and social media. Everybody is going nuts! If I spend my days and hours following all the Corona rabbit trails…let’s just say it’s not good. I personally love long hot baths, hot cups of tea, books, a little crocheting. We all have to have ways to practice self-comfort.

·          We are all struggling to remain on our best behavior. I have had my fair share of crying jags. And I’m an introvert! I don’t need to see people all the days of my life. but all of this is just so UNREAL! It’s important we give each other grace. Practice reacting in a way that will not bring shame to your household, your children and your children’s children. What you writes on the internets stays on the internets. 

·         Find a way to encourage your children to be a helper and an encourager. Even if it is to make cards for those who work at your local hospital or the seniors from your church. It’s hard to feel helpless. Being kind goes a long way.

·         Some of you will thrive during this time. You will grab the pandemic bull by the horns and get all the things done. Most of us will be lucky to make it through the morning without tearing up the house for at least one stale M&M. I have been known to hide in the bathroom. Don’t think about the long term. Take your day in chunks. Manage those chunks of time and worry about the rest as it comes. As Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day…”

Scarlett knows what she’s talking about.

 If you have any questions or just need to vent...I'm your girl. Take care! 

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