Like the Oprah Meme circulating on the internet right now, it’s a wild and crazy time… YOU get to homeschool. YOU get to homeschool… EVERYBODY GETS TO HOMESCHOOL!!
When public schools started closing, my phone started blowing up with texts from folks who are trying to figure out what to do with their kids while they’re home from school during this Corona-Virus + Homeschooling Pandemic. I immediately thought — hey! For once I have something useful to share related to a global issue! Maybe I can help some folks figure this thing out! I’ve been homeschooling our four kids for seven years, and have definitely made enough mistakes to have learned a few things on this journey!
I have a word of encouragement and ten practical tips for you today. Feel free to leave a comment with questions, and know that you, the person who taught your kids their ABCs and how to tie their shoes? You can crush this thing, too! You’ve got this.
First, the encouragement.
Take a deep breath and hear me out, okay? Last year, my second eldest son was in the hospital for 48 days. It was a heart wrenching crazy hard time complete with brain surgery and comas and a whole lot of heart ache, but — call me crazy — there are a few things I miss about that season. It was crazy hard, but life also got really calm in a strange way. We were completely focused on making it through this hard thing, closer than ever as a family, and overwhelmingly blessed with the support to family and friends to get through it. (He survived and is thriving and we are just about back to normal.) The close family time, the amazing medical team we got to know and love — these are things I miss, even about that hard place.
The lesson? Someday you’ll look back on this and “miss” it. Instead of seeing this as a super hard hand to be dealt, see it as an opportunity. This is your chance to do some of those things you’ve been wanting to, and maybe teach some of those lessons you have been wanting them to learn, but there never seems to be enough time. I hope the suggestions below give you some great ideas. Just know this: You’ve got time. This is an opportunity. You can do amazing things. Put on your big girl pants and get ready, sister!
Ten Tips and Ideas if You’re Suddenly Homeschooling
1. Schedules are your friend.
A schedule will do wonders for your child’s sense of peace, and for your sense of sanity. I will give ideas of how to fill that schedule in a moment, don’t worry, but know this: You don’t have to start at the same time every day, but it’s a great idea to create a rhythm for your day. Maybe your kids get to play for thirty minutes, and then everyone gathers on the couch for a story, and that’s the start of the school day. Maybe you start with chores. Just pick an order — a rhythm — tightly or loosely associated with the clock (see what works for you) and then try to stick with that for at least two weeks. See how it feels and tweak as necessary. You are learning. It doesn’t have to be perfect — it will be progress!
2. Start With What You Know.
Has the school sent anything home that they want your child to work on or advice or requests? If not, don’t freak out, and move on to number 3. If so, that’s a great place to start your schedule. Get those must-do’s out of the way.
3. Ask: What Would Benefit Your Child?
Is there a particular subject you’ve been longing to help your child make progress in? Are they struggling with division or handwriting? The internet is your friend. You can download worksheets related to a specific area of struggle, or even order some materials to help you on your way. For example, The Good and the Beautiful has great handwriting books. Shell Education produces 180 Days of Reading, Spelling, Math, Writing, and so on, and they’re all based on grade level. You and your child could do one or two worksheets together a day and you could really make fantastic progress without a huge investment.
4. Meet Books: Your New Best Friend
In our homeschool, I like to say if we’re reading, we’re learning. Put reading on that schedule of yours!! There’s nothing I love more than cuddling on the couch with a kid on my lap and one on either side of me while we dig into a good book. If you want to make your reading time last longer, consider allowing your kids to crowd around the dinner table or coffee table with crayons and blank paper or books that help them learn how to draw. (Ralph Masiello has some great ones.) And here is some FANTASTIC news. There are loads of free audiobooks just a few clicks away from you. You can save your voice, go wash the dishes or do the laundry and let your kids listen and color. They are still learning! Life is good!
Great hints: Your local library card should give you access to Libby, a fantastic app for finding ebooks and audiobooks. You can also look into Librivox, where tons of books in the public domain have been recorded by volunteers. All readers are not created equal — don’t be afraid to stop a book and look for a new one! I made a list of some of our favorite books on 2019 if you want to add some to your collection. Sarah Mackenzie has a list of some of her favorite read-alouds, including some of her favorite LibriVox, right here.
5. Activities Make Learning Fun
I’m sure you (and your kids) don’t want to hit the books all day! Here are a few ideas to keep the learning going when you’re setting the books aside for a while:
+ Art For Kids Hub. This youtube channel COULD be your new best friend. These step-by-step videos teach your kids how to draw things they are probably already interested in. (My Little Pony, Pikachu…) My kids can do this for hours!
+ Workout Videos Download the free NikeTraining App, or the Centr app (we love that one) — or get back on youtube and search for workout videos for kids. Move the coffee table and get some energy out!
+ Kiwi Co has loads of different lines of mail-order activities like Tinker Crate, Atlas Crate, Doodle, etc. These “STEAM” related activity crates are another great option for hands-on learning that is LOADS of fun.
6. Set a Crazy Goal (Like Learning a Language) and Go For It!
What’s something you’ve dreamed of doing with your kids? What if you spent this time trying to learn a language? And maybe you could research and plan a trip to visit that country someday! If your kids are home for six weeks, that is sooo many hours of opportunity for you to jump into a language and really make progress. Rosetta Stone has a discounted offer to allow you to learn unlimited languages with lifetime access to their materials. DuoLingo is a fun, free app you can access online or download to your phone that makes learning a language feel like playing a game. You may also have more materials at your fingertips than you realize: check the back of your kids’ favorite DVDs. Do any of them give you the option to watch them in another language? You’ll be amazed at how much you and your kids can pick up by listening to words in a new language when your brain remembers what is being said in English!! One of the most delightful thing about homeschooling is discovering you can chart your own course for learning something new. Be brave, be creative, start googling and see where you find yourself!
7. Embrace the Documentaries
You may think your kids will never sit through a documentary, but it might be that you just haven’t found the right documentary. The BBC’s Planet Earth II is one of our all-time favorites. (Available on Amazon.) If you have the Disney Plus app, look for movies like The Monkey Kingdom and Born in China — there are several masterfully done options where story and facts are woven together, so that you’re engaged with the “characters” of the story, but you’re learning about their lives at the same time. You can sit on the couch eating popcorn and learn at the same time!
8. Help Your Kids Become Better Humans (and Family Members)
Take some time to take stock of what’s happening in your home right now. Are there things you could work on to change your family dynamics for the better? Maybe a thirty-minute slot on your new daily schedule could be Life Skills or Activities for Daily Living. Take the time to teach your kids how to fold their own laundry and put it away, so that you can place your kids’ clean clothes in a basket and send it to their room with them. Teach them how to properly wash dishes. Get outdoors and dig up a patch of ground for a mini-garden, or put some pots on the porch and plant some seeds to grow something that will later become food on your table. Now would be a great time for them to learn to make their bed if they haven’t already. How to properly clean a toilet or clean out the litter box. Maybe your home needs a new system for organizing toys, and your kids could learn where to put things away when they’re done with them. There are days for us where homeschooling means hitting the books hard, but there are also days where it means learning how to be a good human being. Both are a beautiful part of the journey.
9. Take Your Classroom to the Kitchen
Along the lines of number 8, there is perhaps no better place for learning than the kitchen. Cooking is a life skill your kids will need for the rest of their lives. Cooking is chemistry. It’s math and science, it’s art and reading… it is so many things all at the same time. This homeschool opportunity could change your family for the better if you and your kids begin a beautiful kitchen relationship! You could even check out some of my favorite Instant Pot recipes that double or triple and find yourself cooking ahead and freezing meals! This will bless your future self when the school doors open again, the corona-pandemic has passed and life is back to normal again. (Subscribe here and I’ll email you that list!)
10. Begin With the End in Mind
One last idea I’d love to share. Every morning to start our school day, my kids and I are piled on the couch together. I give them a few quiet minutes to fill out prayer journals like these, I read from a devotional like Louie Giglio’s Indescribable or Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment. We say a prayer for the day. We often transition from there to the Jesus Storybook Bible. They can sketch or draw while I read, and my daughter’s artistic responses to our devotionals are often incredibly profound. Sometimes we move straight to the schoolroom after that, other times we linger on the couch to listen to Story of the World’s Audio CDs for history.
Starting calm, quiet and together is a beautiful way to begin that can create such a sense of peace and calm for us. I highly recommend beginning your day with something peaceful, centering, and together. Maybe for your family it’s poetry or meditation. Start in a calm manner, and sometimes that calm can influence how your kids feel for the entire day. I bought blank journals for my non-readers/writers to scribble their responses in. You can see my daughter’s lovely response to one devotional below. I wrote the sentence she wanted to draw a response to, and then she drew what was in her sweet little six year old heart!
I hope those ideas have your wheels turning, and instead of thinking OHMYGOODNESS, WHAT ARE WE GONNA DOOOO, you’re thinking… Gosh, there really is so much we CAN do! This is an awesome opportunity! Your next step is to create that schedule we talked about based on what will work for YOUR family. Do you need a few hours for work each day? Maybe one hour can happen while your kids watch a documentary in the morning, and another can happen while they listen to an audiobook and color in the afternoon.
Remember: you get to create the schedule. There is no right or wrong here. Enjoy the freedom in that, friend! Below I’ve included a sample schedule to get your creative juices flowing. I’ve had comments closed on my website for a while, but I’ll be opening them today so that you can ask questions, and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. Savor these precious moments, friend. Yes, it may feel overwhelming right now, but someday you might look back and say, “Gosh, I really miss those days when we were home with the kids…”
Are you encouraged today? I hope so! Homeschooling isn’t what I normally write about around here, but I sure hope this was an encouragement to you today! If so, you can subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here and never miss a post by clicking right here I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox once a week! I’ll also send you the awesome Meal Plan with lots of Instant Pot recipes I mentioned! Definitely a win/win!
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Sample Homeschooling Schedule
- 7:00 Breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, make beds and enjoy some free play time
- 8:30 Gather in the Living Room for Morning Time (as above, perhaps with devotionals, prayer, etc.)
- 9:15 Math Time Whether you have a full-out curriculum or are just downloading color by number multiplication worksheets from the internet, we typically feel like reading and Math are core pillars to our schoolday.
- 10:00 Snack time. Take a breather and let everyone have a few minutes to get up and stretch their legs.
- 10:30 An Alternating Hour: Science and History One great way to fill a slot is to have two or three subjects you rotate through during that time period. Look up the life cycle of the frog and draw a picture about it today. Google Alexander the Great or read about him tomorrow. If you are ‘winging it’ without a curriculum to guide you, just starting with a ‘subject’ and a question is a great idea. How are crayons made? What happens to tadpoles’ tails when they become frogs?
- 11:30 Quiet Reading Time or Come Help Mom make Lunch
- 12:00 Lunch and a little free time
- 1:00 Memory Time We memorize lots of information as a part of our Classical Education method and you’ll be amazed at what your kid can stuff into their noggin with a good bit of repetition. How about they memorize a Shel Silverstein poem or the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence? A song with a chapter of the Bible, or a list of the American Presidents. There are songs online from memorizing the Periodic Table… complicated science definitions… consider this brain training time!
- 2:00 After all that challenging Memory Work, let your child relax and listen to a story. If you don’t have lots of books on hand at the moment, use the suggestions above to find ebooks or audiobooks online. Your kids can color and draw while they listen to great stories and get exposed to exquisite vocabulary.
- 3:00 Activity time! Now’s a great time for Art for Kids Hub, a Tinker Crate, watching a tutorial online to make slime, pulling out the play dough — end your school day with some fun!
- 4:00 School can be out now if it isn’t already! If you want a little help with what to do next, how about getting your kiddo into the kitchen to peel the carrots or do something to help with dinner. Could they help fold laundry? At the end of the day, if they’re not ready to have some free time to do what they want, give them some chores that will actually help you out — they’ll get the idea and start finding ways to entertain themselves very quickly!
Feel free to ask questions below. I intentionally leave lots of time for each activity so that a) you never feel ‘behind’ and b) you have time to tidy up one activity before moving on to the next. Remember: ENJOY this time with your kids. Please share this with a friend who could use it, and HAVE FUN!