Homeschooling Is About Organization
During this pandemic, not many work-from-home parents attempt the impossible task of “homeschooling”. It seems to be an additional added layer of complication that parents don’t want to deal with. I was that parent, too. At the end of the summer, I asked myself, “Do I want to send my child to school or have him sit in front of the Zoom?”
Even when Zoom was frankly an enticing option as I rationalized how it will force my son to master the art of “sitting still,” I couldn’t bring myself to enroll him in virtual pre-K.
Instead, I opted to “home school,” my son, like many parents in my district. I ordered teaching curriculums and bought workbooks. Then, I invested in the right learning materials so that he’d work on his academic skills through hands-on activities rather than over Zoom.
The first week was a disaster. We couldn’t manage the curriculum, and I opted to escape into my office.
Then, it came a revelation. School should be fun. School should be creative. I can tailor school to my son instead of the other around.
Here’s what I did that markedly changed how we approach our homeschool. Now, my son loves going to “school,” although it’s two hours of mommy class time in the mornings in our living room.
Write Down A Schedule On A Board
Organization is the key to homeschooling. You must have a curriculum. Order one online. You must have some workbooks. For younger children, you’ve got to get some manipulative toys. We ordered a Montessori curriculum online and got the initial set of toys to match.
Writing down each activity on the board is often not possible. We cycle through about 6 to 10 activities per day. Instead, we focus each day on one knowledge point. For instance, we learned the letters “G, D, F, Q” today and the number “7”. Then, we painted a picture, constructed a lego house, and baked some cookies.
I write down all the “skills” that he has learned from the activities. This way, we can interchange activities all the time based on skills he needs to practice.
Each day is brand new. Each day, we are practicing new skills.
Stagger Academic/Creative/Physical Activities
With children less than six years old, it’s essential not to expect them to sit still during the activities. Some children, who are 4 or 5 years old, may finish a few activities at the table. But they need breaks.
We have a well-planned schedule of cycling through the following in this sequence.
- academic activities at the table (puzzles, letter tracing, spelling, counting, etc..)
- creative activities (painting, play dough, drawing, craft, construction, etc..)
- physical activities (playground, riding a bike, riding a scooter, hiking, gymnastics, etc..)
Once your child can anticipate what’s coming up next, they will make efforts to finish the activities. You will hear me say, “Let’s finish up the drawing so that we can go to the playground.”
Use Electronic Device Time Wisely
I work from home. I’m very well aware of how much time my son spends on an electronic device. Every day, I try to minimize it. However, going through educational apps on the Ipad can allow my son to absorb the knowledge or the skill he just learned.
Each evening, we spend some time on an educational app, reading an ebook, or watching a kid’s show on PBS.
Time well-spent on the device can allow a visual learner to internalize the knowledge truly.
Work and Homeschool Can Go Together
When you start to look at homeschooling as a part of your day along with work, you begin to feel like it’s merely a “work” project. I start my day with homeschool. Then, I move on to work after my son’s lesson is over.
I will work at night to extend my workday to make up for the morning hours. But, by starting my day taking care of and meeting my son’s needs, I’m much more emotionally available for work.
My son has learned that when mommy shuts the door to the office, she will emerge and have a snack with him. He has also learned that those 5 minutes here and there between my meetings are precious. Sometimes, I even take a 15 minutes break to draw with him.
There’s a set of emotional skills that children can learn from homeschooling. An important one is to understand the concept of “space”. For younger children, this means that school space, mommy space, and sleep space are all separate and must be respected.
Intentional Socialization Can Be Managed
Homeschool does not mean that your child is alone all the time. We’ve been capitalizing on playground time in the summer to establish a small group of playmates (who thankfully) also decided to homeschool. At around 11 pm each day, everyone’s on the playground decompressing from morning lessons.
With Covid-19, you have to be intentional about going to public spaces. Still, if playdates are possible, or having a pod of other children over several times a week, socialization can be managed.
We’ve found that a quiet hike in the woods with a few 3 to 5 years olds can turn into a nature classroom where the older children collect specimens from nature to create stories to tell the younger children.
When children are bored, they naturally lead one another by creating games. Children can be teachers for one another when the conditions are right.
Capitalize On The Freedom To Follow Your Child
We’ve always taken the “follow the child” motto seriously. But, now is the time to capitalize on the freedom of homeschool to play to your child’s interest. We have all of this free time that our one to two hours of lessons don’t cover.
What will keep your little one occupied during those hours that they don’t have school lessons to work on?
I’ve found myself to be more in tune and more observant of what my son needs. Does he need more practice in counting, or does he need to learn to put on his jacket all by himself?
Sometimes, your child’s weakness is glaringly apparent when you are home with them all the time. That weakness may not be academic. It could be that tantrum that’s thrown in the middle of every afternoon. It could be the inability to say goodbye to a playmate on the playground. It could be that they can not work on any activity that they deem boring.
Homeschooling your child does not have to be complicated. With some organization, planning, and some creativity, you can capitalize on the time that you spend indoors with your child.
There’s no better time to build a connection. There’s no better time to find out what your child’s interested in. There’s no better time to customize the curriculum to what works for your child.
If you are wondering whether going back to school is right for your child, then consider homeschooling. Spend a month trying it out to see if it will work out for your family.