Homeschooling. It’s an epidemic that has been sweeping across our nation at an unprecedented rate this past decade. Who are theses people? What is it that they do all day? Do they wear matching rompers and drink electric Kool-Aid? Weirdos. Then you wake up one morning and the government says, “Thou shalt homeschool thy children.” Cold sweats, panic, your worst nightmare has been realized. You are now a government issue homeschooler. Welcome to my wilderness. Buckle up, partner.

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.

Mark Twain

Hey, don’t sweat it. I have 5 handy tips to help you get through this.

  1. Calm your butt cheeks. Jack used to say this when he needed to calm himself down and it’s good advice. We are in a state of global crisis and that is stressful all by itself. Don’t turn schooling your homebound kids into another reason to be upset. Chances are good that you don’t have the resources or the mental stamina to suddenly become Madame (or Monsieur) Teacher Extraordinaire. You suddenly have to be at home, which may mean missing income, you have to cook three (or four or five …) meals a day from odd food that you were able to scrounge up from the store, and to top this off you have some kind of vague obligation to educate your children for the next semester. Homeschooling is rough on a good day, surprise homeschooling is worse. Don’t worry! Now is not the time for perfection, it really isn’t. Your biggest job as home educator right now is to do your very best to keep morale high, be as soothing as you can summon the will power to be, and try to have a little fun for heavens sake. Think of it this way, when your kids grow up and tell their kids about those strange months of forced isolation, what did you want them to say? Maybe they will say how fun it was that you all made cookies together and binge watched Lord of the Rings. Maybe they will remember blanket forts and tickle fights and all of the family seated around the dinner table together every night. Hopefully, they won’t remember that you suddenly downloaded every printable worksheet known to man and turned their home education into a new reason to feel weird about life. Decide every morning to be okay with the direction the day takes, because it can take some really bizarre directions sometimes. So, please, for your sake and especially your kids, relax.
  2. Math. Math is usually the most challenging thing for kids and their parents to tackle. But it really is super easy to fall behind so I recommend that if you try to do some math every day, preferably first thing (before you talk yourself out of it). Do some math every day. Please note: cooking is math, legos can be math, hopscotch is math, try to think outside of the box on this. I have been homeschooling for the past one million years so I have books and resources coming out of my ears, but many of you have been suddenly thrust into it without textbooks or lessons plans. If that is the case, there are some online curriculum you can buy (since we are all just swimming in money right now). Teaching Textbooks is an online math class which teaches, grades, and saves lesson and test scores for your records. It is around $55 per class, but I think there is a discount for multiple students. In the past, when I was pregnant and knew I wouldn’t be able to teach math because I’d have a newborn in the house, I often used this curriculum. Upside, it’s very simple and user friendly and doesn’t involve a ton of outside help. Downside, it can be a bit too easy; taking the free assessment test to get an idea of your kids level can help avoid getting something too simple. But chances are, you aren’t really in the market to buy curriculum, so here are some resources worth looking into. I will be doing Khan Academy for my 7th grader but the rest are worth a look.
  3. Khan Academy
  4. Math Learning Center
  5. Helping with Math
  6. Wild Math Curriculum : this one isn’t free but the website is full of inspiring ways to take you kids, particularly your elementary grade students, outside to use math in nature. Math time + outside time + kill two birds with one stone. Maybe don’t kill birds though. If nothing else, the website is worth a look because the concepts are inspiring and the curriculum is around $20 a pop. I’ve not purchased these, but I like to peek at the website now and then for ideas.

3. Read to your kids. Read to your toddlers. Read to your teenagers. It doesn’t matter if they can independently read to themselves, being read to is a relationship builder as well as a literary tool. To hear a person read a story, to experience the cadence of the voice, the language of the author, the structure of a well-written story is such a boon to a young mind. They get all of the benefit of a good story without the need to detangle words on the page for themselves. I’ve always been a proponent of reading to my children and giving them the gift of words without the stress of decoding. I have been blessed with rambunctious boys and sitting down, decoding the letters on the page, and then getting the message behind those decoded letters is really not their strong point. Instead, I let them pile all over me while I read. Sit down with a funny picture book or a crowd pleasing chapter book and just start reading out loud as if to yourself. If your kids are anything like mine, then you”ll find that they all kind of wind up sitting around you and listening to the book. And if that doesn’t work, read a quick paragraph or two at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Words bring healing, and we need them right now when our world is so very broken. If you aren’t a book hoarder like myself and need some quality reading material then check out these online book resources:

Hoopla or Libby (if you have a valid library card)

Library of Congress

Barnes and Noble free nook books

If you have a mixed group of readers from all age ranges (we have a range from 2 to 13) it’s hard to find a book that suits everyone. Some of our favorite crowd pleasers have been: The Vanderbeekers of 141st St, The Penderwicks, Peter Pan, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Echo, Green Ember, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Sweep, The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (best for ages 8+), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Outlaws of Time (ages 8+), The Secret Garden, Little House in the Big Woods, The Willoughbys, anything by Ben Hatke, Mo Willems, S. D. Smith, N. D. Wilson, Andrew Peterson, Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter, Barbara Cooney, A. A. Milne, Oliver Jeffers, Kate DiCamillo, Madeline L’Engle, and so many more.

4. Play. You are all stuck with each other and this is a recipe for disaster. Put your terribly important things aside and play. Just sit thyself down on the floor and engage with your kids on their terms. Build a block tower for your littles to crash with cars 100 times in a row because as G. K. Chesterton said,

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

g. k. chesterton

Play with your big kids. Play with your little kids. Laugh as much as you can. And get thee outside. Play in the sunshine and even the rain.

5. Journal: These are some pretty unprecedented times. Historic even. Have your kids journal daily about what it’s like to be quarantined. If you have a reluctant writer, it’s more than okay to let them dictate while you write. Just designate a little time in the day to have everyone write a little till a timer rings. This is a sneaky way to get them to do some creative writing, work on penmanship, work on grammar, and share how they are reacting to what they are going through.

I really hope that you take this time to be a human being, not a human doing. Just “be” a little and leave the productivity for another time. Consistency, schedules, and continuity are really quite important during quarantine (believe me, we’ve lived through many quarantines) but being okay when those schedules fail miserably is ever so much more so.

P. S. You can do this.