Welcome to homeschooling!
I’m sorry you were forced into this. I recently heard someone compare planned homeschooling and your situation to the difference between a planned home birth and an emergency one. I think it is a fair comparison.
Personally, I chose both to home birth and to homeschool. I got the benefit of having years to read about each before I started. I planned, debated and thought about the choices I was making. You didn’t get that chance. You got thrown into the deep end. And while an emergency home birth is usually a single day of your life, emergency homeschooling may last much longer. I used to say, “I can do ANYTHING for one day.” Anyone can really. But this isn’t just a single day we are talking about now.
So I’m here to share some secrets and tricks of the trade with you. Don’t worry, I won’t get kicked out of the club or anything.
The Secret to Homeschooling is So Simple, You Won’t Believe It.
What you need to know, the real honest truth that no one says out loud, is that 90% of homeschooling is actually parenting. It’s about talking to and living with your child. All day. Every day. And while it sounds easy, it isn’t. Parenting is the hard part. Setting boundaries, keeping order, dealing with hungry, tired and cranky kids who are human, is the hard part.
Your goal, for now, needs to be keeping them alive. Making those extra meals you didn’t have to make before. Cleaning up the messes that happen when everyone is home all day. Doing extra dishes. Managing the day-to-day things that you used to be able to put off until the weekend. Just focus on that.
Once you get into a rhythm …
If your school sent homework, I wish you well with that. But if your kids don’t get it all done don’t panic. Even if they do no more school work this year they will be fine. Really. Schoolwork isn’t the only way to learn. As a long time homeschooler, I can tell you that most things are actually easier for kids to learn later. “When they are older, it makes more sense,” to misquote Olaf.
If you are left to figure it out for yourself, all you need is to set some goals to keep you all sane. Setting aside time to read, journal or play board games are all things typical homeschoolers do. We get our kids to help with projects like digging a garden, cooking dinner, and doing laundry. Keeping them busy with building blocks, working puzzles or playing in the yard are also all valid choices.
My favorite part of homeschooling has been reading out loud to my kids. So, if that appeals to you, I highly recommend it. Get your favorite book from your childhood, and set aside time each day to read it to them. At breakfast, just after lunch or during the afternoon lull are all good times. If the book is now dated, like Ramona Quimby or set in another time like The Secret Garden, it can lead to great discussions. Just talking to your child, and listening to them, can be an amazing educational tool. Discussing big ideas leads us to be able to write about them later.
The Most Important Lesson
My other big advice for you is to stay positive. Praise your child’s efforts, and be specific. If they work on learning cursive this month, point to the very best letter on the paper. Give it a star (you can draw it). Praise it for how it is the right size or shape or faces the right way. Ignore all the mistakes. Your child will work hard to make all of their writing good enough for a star.
You will get through this. Be patient with yourself and your kids. Do things together that you both enjoy. Whether that is playing video games, watching Disney+, or baking cookies. Try to enjoy them. This is going to be the most family time you will ever have, so make it good.
They will remember this for the rest of their lives. But no pressure, just keep them alive.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.