Phew! What a whirlwind 2020 has been. Just when we get used to #pandemiclife and how to live semi-productive lives in all of this, it is time to consider fall and our kids’ educational needs. Every parent around the world is thinking about this. There are so many innovative ideas coming to the front of this conversation. COVID-19 is not just changing the way school looks. For many of us, it is also changing the way homeschooling looks. However, many of the principles stay the same and I want to help you know what to do now.
For the Love of All That Is Good, Please Deschool before You Start Anything New!
You can read a little more about my plea for every family to deschool here. Every change needs a transition. Every transition includes shaking off the habits of the last thing. In this instance, it is school. Deschooling is starting the process of letting go of what you think learning should be. You want to find the natural flow and interest of each person in your family. How do you all fit together without school interjecting?
This can include:
When do you naturally wake up?
At what time do you all get hungry?
When does it seem downtime is needed?
How do your kids spend their time when not being told what to do?
Once you feel like you have reached a natural flow, you can start to build on that. It is the beauty of homeschool. Your family can craft the day to function how you need it to.
Homeschooling Is NOT School at Home
I know it is easy to be confused. The name is very confusing. It should be called Home Education or something that entirely removes the term school. You do not need to plop down a desk and chalkboard in your kitchen. Homeschooling can take on lots of forms and this is your opportunity to figure out what best suits your child and family. If you just try to duplicate school at home, you may find it hard. The dynamics are different, the teacher-child ratios are different, almost everything is different.
A Six-Hour Homeschool Day Will Make You Go Bonkers
Yup, school is for six hours. It is six hours with 20-30+ kids in a classroom, every transition is its own lesson and lunch is its own extensive social exercise.
If you have one to four students at home, you will have none of this. You will however, have the ability to have real-world experiences be educational. So, two hours for young children is the maximum that you would do direct instruction. If you choose philosophies like Self-Directed Education, you will allocate even less time. This makes it completely doable for most families. If you have different childcare needs, you could homeschool successfully outside of work hours.
Side note: nobody says kids only learn weekdays from 8 am to 3 pm. Kids actually learn all the time, but if you feel the need to designate time for specific lessons, you could do them earlier in the morning or after dinner.
More importantly, what are you doing with the other nine or so hours in your day? Still Learning! But through experiences, community classes, chores or responsibilities around the house and enjoying the company of your family and community.
Speaking of Philosophies, You Don’t Have to Pick Just One!
This goes for curriculums as well. You can read all about unschooling, Waldorf, classic school-at-home, Charlotte Mason, and many more curriculum styles. They can easily overwhelm you, but realize you absolutely can have it all when it comes to homeschooling. For example, I would say we are like 80% Self-Directed Learning. However, we are sure to read and do math consistently.
There is no curriculum, but we do a mix of real-world experiences, videos, online learning, and workbooks as part of how we learn. We also picked up some habits from our days in the Waldorf preschool that help with our flow and incorporate nature and spirituality.
Learn how your child learns best and create opportunities for them to learn in that way. Take what you love from different philosophies and curriculums and make your own unique blend!
Involve Kids in Discussions and Decision Making
These are significant changes and big choices. Our kids may not get to choose every aspect of how this shakes out, but they can have a voice.
Discussing what they want, why they want it, how their wants can be met or why their desires are not possible, will make all of these changes go much smoother. Give choices as often as possible. Some days the kids can choose when and what they do; some days our commitments will navigate our day.
For books and materials, I usually research a few choices and then discuss them with the kids. I will also purchase some items without discussion as a surprise for them! Before signing them up for classes, we look at all the options together and talk it out. Yes, it adds a few steps and requires some patience. However, the pay off is enormous when having children who are excited to learn and feel connected to what they are doing. Also, fighting with kids to do things is the WORST. If we can find a way to avoid a fight, we will.
The Internet Can Be Your Friend
Virtual classes, videos and apps are all excellent tools in a homeschool toolbox! It feels strange to feel gratitude for COVID-19. Still, the pandemic has made so many educational companies step up their game when it comes to online content. Seeing the online opportunities that existed pre-coronavirus versus the massive expansion now, I am grateful to have so many more quality choices. Especially as a traveling family, having these online opportunities to learn and connect is so important.
Tap into Your Personal Network and Community
A constant realization while homeschooling is that we are not limited to a curriculum, even if you choose to use one. Also, for everything you think you don’t know, I bet you have a connection to someone who does know it. Use this to your advantage. It expands your child’s community and experience, but it also puts learning into a context that they can connect with. I have rarely seen a business owner or entrepreneur who was not eager to share their expertise with a child.
Change can be good! Transitions can be hard. Finding your family’s pace and path while homeschooling may be a challenge. However, hitting your stride has such a payoff. The flexibility that homeschool has given our family can never be measured. We have the flexibility to change how we are presenting learning opportunities, as well as to live and travel on terms that fit us. It all just takes a lot of creativity and tolerance for trial and error.
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