Homeschooling can be hard on a regular day. Whether you have been homeschooling for 10 years or 10 minutes, the challenging days will come. How do you approach homeschooling through the hard times?
How do you handle the stress of homeschooling when things in your world are unsettled? Hard days can cause panic, fear, doubt, even for a veteran homeschooling mom.
Know this friend- homeschooling, true homeschooling, is a beautiful extension of parenting. You are your child’s first and best teacher. You are the one who helped them walk those first few wobbly steps. You are the one who taught them how to tie their shoes and make their beds.
You know your children best- and that gives you a huge advantage. You know what your children enjoy, what makes them happy, how they learn best. You know this because you’ve studied them since birth. You know every freckle and scar. You know every fear and worry. You know them best.
As their parent, you are uniquely equipped to teach your children, even when the world turns upside down. You are their guide, the one they look to for safety. Take a breath friend, you can do this.
When you are faced with homeschooling in uncertain times, what is the first step? What should you focus on? How can you manage it all?
The first step is to keep it simple. Go back to the basics. The basics of school are best known as the three R’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. These basic subjects, often referred to as the core subjects, are a good place to start.
Whether you have a curriculum you are following or you are flying blind, knowing that these basics are the most important can give you the confidence to take the first step.
Let’s Break It Down:
During uncertain times, reading aloud to your children is a great way to create a peaceful environment. Gather on the couch or in a pile on the floor, grab a book and just start reading.
What should you read? Sarah from Read Aloud Revival has a wonderful collection of book lists, which are a great place to start. I’m sure there are great books in your own home just waiting to be read. Look for books your children may have been given as gifts or check out your local library.
If your local library is not an option, signing up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program can provide you with endless read aloud options without costing you anything.
If you just can’t handle the idea of reading aloud yourself, consider an Audible membership. Amazon Prime members get 2 Free book downloads. It’s a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy reading out loud. It can be just as meaningful and so much fun to listen to stories with your children.
In addition to reading aloud, allow your children time to free read for fun. In our home, I allow my children to choose books they are interested in, rather than assigning books for free reading. That means we have several Dog Man books and a great selection of poetry among others. I don’t judge their choices, I’m just happy they’re reading.
Writing is one subject my children have never really enjoyed. I have one that likes to free write, but any writing assignment I give is met with groans of displeasure.
I suggest during difficult times to forego challenging writing assignments and just have some fun. Journal Buddies has a huge library of free journaling prompts for every age group and grade level. They are fun, short challenges that will get your children thinking creatively and using their writing skills.
Another option, especially during trying times, is to just offer the option of free journaling with no prompts. Some children need a way to express the fear or anger they are feeling and writing is a great way for them to do that. Allow that work to be private for them and do not attempt to correct or grade this work. The benefits come from the ability to express their emotions, not from grammar or spelling instruction.
Full disclosure- my children passed my mathematic abilities around grade 4. Teaching math was one thing I greatly feared when we began homeschooling. Thankfully, there are a ton of great resources for math online and many of them are free.
We currently use Teaching Textbooks for our children, but Khan Academy is a wonderful free resource that provides a full mathematic curriculum for every grade level. Whether you need daily instruction or just a way to brush up on math skills, Khan Academy is a great place to start.
Another great resource for younger students is ABCmouse. They offer a great selection of curriculum options in a fun and engaging way. You can get a 30 day free trial of ABCmouse as well.
Xtramath and Math Playground are also great free options for keeping math skills sharp. They are both interactive platforms that my children consider fun instead of work. Math Planet is a great resource for upper-level math classes such as Algebra and Geometry.
What About the Other Subjects?
There are so many ways children learn in everyday life. I’ve learned over the years that a walk to the park or a trip to the grocery store often lends itself to more learning than a science book ever will.
I am not suggesting that you forego the teaching of science, social studies, history, geography, art, etc., I would just say that during difficult times in life, these subjects are a great opportunity to learn what your interests your children most.
My biggest piece of advice surrounding elective subjects- allow your children to ask questions, then find the answers together. Do you have a child who is obsessed with dinosaurs? Hop on the computer and explore. Google can be your best ally when researching topics with your children.
Do you have a child who loves to bake? Find some recipes in books or online and let them bake away. You’ll get yummy treats (hopefully) and they will learn fractions, nutrition, science and reading comprehension all at once.
The sky is the limit when it comes to interest-led learning with your children. This is not a time to worry about grades or perfection. This is a chance for you to gain precious time with your children learning with them about things they love. There is no greater educational experience than that.
What about a Schedule?
In our home, we’ve found that rigid schedules often don’t work so well. I’m sure there are homes that operate seamlessly with an hourly schedule system, but ours is not one of them.
That’s not to say that our days are a free for all. We do have a daily rhythm and we work by blocks, rather than hours. This builds structure into our days, yet allows for flexibility when needed. With four children, flexibility is often needed.
Below I’ve posted our daily blocks, these are just an example to get you started creating your own.
Note- I’ve added times next to the blocks- please note that these are just an approximate time that we use. They often vary by minutes or hours- my children don’t see the times, they only know what to expect in each block.
Our Daily Blocks:
Morning Block- 7 am- 9 am
- Wake Up
- Morning 5:
- get dressed
- make your bed
- feed pup
- eat breakfast
- brush teeth and hair
- Outside time after everything else is done
School Block A- 9 am- 11:30 am
- Core subject work:
- Outside PE time
Lunch Block- 11:30 am- 12:30 pm
- Eat lunch
- 15 minute quick clean/ chores
- Read aloud
School Block B- 12:30 pm- 2:00 pm
- Interest Led Learning:
- Nature Study
- Geography games
- Art Journaling
- Outside Exploration
Free Block- 2:00 pm- 4:00 pm
- Free time
- Electronic time for the day (1 hr)
- Quiet time for younger children
- Quiet time for Mom- Yay!
Afternoon Block- 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm
- Additional learning opportunities
- 15 minute clean/ chores
- Dinner prep
Dinner Block- 6:00 pm- 7:30 pm
- Eat Dinner
Family Block- 7:30 pm- 9:00 pm
- Family game time
- Movie time
- Read aloud
- Bed prep
Bedtime for children- 9:00pm
What about Motivation?
Depending on the age of your children, motivation may be an issue. For older children, there are many things that can affect their willingness to do the work they are assigned. Social Media distractions, stubbornness, or frustration can play a large part in the success of older students.
We choose to limit social media and all electronics during school blocks. This decreases distraction and increases motivation to complete their work. Frustration with workload or difficulty of work can be remedied by breaking work down into smaller chunks with more frequent breaks in between.
We also use a reward system to keep our children motivated throughout the day. In addition to allowing screen time after work is completed, our children can earn tickets for work completed well, without complaint, and when assignments are completed quickly, but correctly.
These tickets can be traded for things such as small candy or toys for our little children and gift cards for our older children. It is surprisingly effective in keeping the motivation levels high and keeping the complaining at bay.
Think about what motivates your children most. Is it outside time, family game time, a movie night, or a small toy or treat? Being creative with your rewards can be fun as well. Cook a favorite meal or let a child choose the dessert that night. Rewarding hard work and good attitudes is a great way to keep morale high when homeschooling.
The most important thing to remember when you are homeschooling during hard times is to have grace. Have grace for your children and have grace for yourself.
Your children are naturally curious and born with the desire to learn. You are their first and best teacher and you know them better than anyone. Together you will get through this- and you might just enjoy the journey.
Final note- please know that I am not an expert on homeschooling. I have been homeschooling for over 12 years and each year I feel like I’m just beginning again. I hope this has been helpful to you and please know I understand how difficult it can be to homeschool when life turns upside down.