In the face of quarantines and curfews related to the recent coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, many families are not only facing ‘typical’ problems caused by the quarantine itself, but now they must rethink their children’s education. Some are turning to home-schooling, even if just temporarily.
Perhaps you suddenly find yourself considering home-schooling because your local school is not currently an option. (And I understand that we are using the term loosely here, but thanks for humoring me for the sake of those who find themselves at home with children who are usually in a school setting. While the academics and curriculum freedom may not be the same, the parental involvement suddenly is.) Let me share a few basics that I hope will encourage and equip you.
When you make the decision to homeschool because it suddenly seems to be your only choice, where do you even begin?
Short-Term or Temporary “Homebound” Instruction
If your child will remain a conventional (public or private) school student and is simply displaced/quarantined for the time being, you may be pretty much obligated to comply with the suggestions or requirements of your child’s school, if at all possible. This may mean working on packets of school papers sent home or emailed to you . . . . or it may mean you are a bit more “on your own.”
On Your Own?
With these recent school closings, many parents are scrambling for some at-home activities to continue kids’ school learning, especially if the school hasn’t yet expressed a formal plan for learning-at-home. It’s okay to let your kids simply read, or learn about something they want to learn about, or take some virtual field trips, or work on a hobby, or cook with you, or have a dance party or movie marathon, or do a family project. (Translation: Learning can still happen just in the context of being a family– so enjoy!)
But if you’d feel more comfortable focusing on some core subjects, we’ve got you covered with some everyday activities that reinforce their academic skills, but that don’t necessarily feel like “school.” Another plus is that most of the activities cross the age ranges, so if you have multiple kiddos at home, they can do many of these activities together. And if you don’t do anything else, read aloud to build skills and relationships!
- Everyday Activities to Reinforce Language Arts Skills
- Everyday Activities to Reinforce Math Skills
- Social Distancing Sanity-Savers from No Desk Required — a regularly-updated list of freebies offered by companies for such a time as this
- Combat Cabin Fever! is a one-hour Facebook Live video with four HSLDA educational consultants/moms who share ideas for all ages
- Homeschooling and Working from Home is another HSLDA Facebook Live to highlight tips for working at your job remotely with kiddos at home
Please note: While you are teaching your child at home right now, this is very different from what everyday homeschooling generally looks like for the long-haul, so I encourage you to not judge “homeschooling” by this experience. Most already-homeschooling parents are also finding themselves quite challenged by the current situation, as they are not accustomed to being confined to quarters–they usually take advantage of social and educational opportunities within their local community, such as field trips to museums and parks, music lessons, library visits, clubs, sports activities, and much more.
But if you’re open to considering continuing this experience even after the quarantine ends and school-as-you-knew-it resumes, this can be a great opportunity to explore a learning lifestyle with your kiddos!
First Things First
If you would like to officially become a homeschooling family, the first step is knowing how to comply with your state’s law. (You can read HSLDA’s synopses of state laws at www.hslda.org/mystate). If you need additional legal assistance, members can call HSLDA at 540-338-5600. If you’re not already a member, I highly recommend joining – some of the many benefits include access to not only the legal staff, but also the educational consultant team, covering everything from preschool through high school, including special needs and struggling learners.
State and regional homeschooling organizations stand ready to help with how-to-begin info–you can find your local organization and state organization listed at www.hslda.org/mystate.
What Does Homeschooling Look Like?
Think of homeschooling as being purposeful and intentional, often with some goals set and then a (usually written) plan to help you move toward those goals. That plan will typically include some sort of curricular materials and/or community resources (from more formal to much less structured–lots of options!).
An hour of homeschooling is often roughly the equivalent of about three hours in a school setting because of the efficiency of the tutor model and the personal attention and focused learning/activities. (Don’t believe me? For an example of what a school might consider sufficient for remote learning/home learning, check out pp. 18-19 here.) Kids are more secure with a routine—a pattern to the day—even if you fit in your homeschooling at less-traditional times or in small increments throughout the day.
Homeschooling is incredibly flexible: you can homeschool anywhere! Kids can learn at a table, on a couch, on a bed or cot, on the floor, or even in your favorite outdoor space. You get to adapt the learning pace and environment to your child’s needs and your current living situation. We aren’t aiming for school at home–think more of a learning lifestyle.
Bottom Line: There’s no one “right way” to do this. An online search can give you some examples of what a typical day looks like for a variety of families. Here’s just one “day in our homeschool” example for you.
What about Curriculum?
Curriculum is more than just books—it can include hands-on activities and interests and everyday skills. You can incorporate games of all kinds, storybooks, life skills, and even research or pursuit of a fascinating topic. Have your child retell his day or adventures—or make up a story and write it out or tell it to you. Let your child learn some basic math, physics, or chemistry by helping you measure for repairs or cook a meal.
For a slightly more structured curriculum, online may be your best option right now for a quick start and easy access. (It doesn’t have to be shipped, you can use it anywhere, and you can get started very quickly.) There are online programs that offer a complete curriculum and programs that offer supplementary or individual courses and resources.
Here are a few examples of some computer or online schooling options (not in any particular order). All are online & many are live/interactive; some are available piecemeal as well as total school; almost all are Christian-based:
• Bridgeway Online Academy — live, online (they offer both secular and Christian options for homeschoolers)
• Discovery K12 free (secular); private
• Time4Learning www.time4learning.com
• Schoolhouse Teachers a la carte online offerings
• Memoria Press live online classes
• AIM Academy (Debra Bell) available as live online; Christian
• Apologia online live: Christian; most subject areas (not just science)
• Bright Ideas Press online academy (Maggie Hogan’s company) Christian, live interactive
• Logos online classes – Classical Christian, live
• Wilson Online Academy – Classical Christian, can do one subject or all; live
• Monarch $399 for the year, no books needed
• Alpha Omega Switched On Schoolhouse – computer-based learning
• Power Homeschool (secular) Acellus
If you have mail delivery and would prefer real hard-copy books, you could order a packaged curriculum (or specific courses) from companies such as Timberdoodle, My Father’s World, or Sonlight, or Bookshark, or you can choose from a large “menu” of options for each subject, depending on your preferred approach to learning.
And for an idea of what concepts the average student might cover in a subject in a particular grade, check out “What Should I Be Teaching” (but hold those checklists reeeeallllly loosely because children don’t all learn at the same rate in all subjects).
Regardless of what you choose, remember that your curriculum is simply a tool—use it, adapt it, modify as needed. The bottom line is that there is no one “perfect” curriculum—no one “right” way to homeschool. That’s the beauty of home education—you can tailor the plan to your child’s needs!
Finding a new normal: start with a routine
My friend Vanessa shared this bit of wisdom after going through trials of her own: “When life broadsides you, the most important—and difficult—thing to do is re-establish ‘normal.’ ‘Normal’ provides a framework for healing.”
Wherever you are, a routine can help–even if it’s just a temporary adjustment. One of the great things about homeschooling is that it fits around your life—and whatever you need to do in this season. So work your school schedule around your life schedule right now. When you feel incredibly overwhelmed—just start with the basics of normal.
Make a short list of what has to be done. Right now, this probably consists of meals, hygiene, and basic housekeeping, with homeschooling coming alongside. (That means you can homeschool at any time of day that it works for your family right now.)
In our experience, children whose parents have had to slow down for a period of time on the textbook studies because of family crises often do remarkably well on standardized achievement tests. Not only do they usually do just fine on the tests, they have learned valuable lessons in how to be resilient and resourceful during crisis, how to help one another when under stress, and how to connect and communicate with the people around them.
(And to be honest, right now, even the we’ve-always-homeschooled families are likely leaning toward delight-directed learning, baking a few more cookies than usual, and enjoying those virtual field trips, online ballet lessons, and a Lego marathon. It’s okay–remember what we said earlier? Learning still happens in the context of family–this is not about recreating school at home!)
A Final Note
I understand that you probably have more questions, and I don’t want to overwhelm you! This short post is designed just to give you the basics of starting homeschooling–you can then build on these basics, and I’m happy to help encourage and equip you through:
- Our Facebook page at Everyday Homeschooling
- Free 1-hour video: So You’ve Decided to Homeschool–NOW What?
- Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers (6-week online mentoring course)
- Everyday Homeschooling exclusive, interactive, membership-based community
- Personal one-on-one consultation
Parts of this article were adapted from these previously published articles by the same author: “Homeschooling after Hurricane Harvey,” “Starting to Homeschool after Conventional School;” and “When Life Broadsides Your Homeschool” at www.hslda.org.