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Tips for the Sudden Homeschool Parent

With the "safe at home" mandate and schools closing, a lot of parents are finding themselves in uncharted territory.  Homeschooling.  Maybe you’ve always wanted the chance to stay home and teach your kids but working and life have gotten in the way. Or, maybe you find yourself in the, "I did not sign up for this" boat.  Whatever your thoughts and feelings about it, and here in California, we are weeks into this and we are going to have to hunker down for the duration of the school year.

As a homeschool mom I have been homeschooling for the past 16 years.  My husband and I have 3 kids and we made the choice years ago for me to stay home and teach the kids.  It’s been a daunting task at times, and other times it’s been a joy, but it was always our choice.  I don’t know what it would be like to just be thrown into it all of a sudden not really prepared or knowing what to expect.  I imagine it feels kind of like the rug has been pulled out from under you.    

The following is a  list of a few tips from this homeschool momma.  Now, I do not consider myself a "professional" homeschool mom; not by far. But I will say, that over the past 16 years I have had many successes AND many failures along this homeschool journey.  My hope is that one or two of these things will help your family, or at the very least, make you laugh.  

Take a Breath
Take a moment at the start of your day and have a cup of joe, or tea, and do something you enjoy.  You can meditate, read, workout or watch the news or something on tv.  Whatever you do I would suggest starting your day without the kids.  This will give you some precious alone time in the morning to charge your battery. I usually get up, have a cup of coffee and read in the morning. Then I wake up my kids.  My kids are 13 and 17 (my oldest is in college) so they enjoy their sleep… a lot!

When my kids were little and one of them would try to get up with me, I would just task them with something that would last the 15-20 minutes that I wanted to myself. Like pick up their room or wash up and brush their teeth and hair, or get ready for their day. My oldest was able to read when we started to homeschool and she developed the pattern of getting up and reading quietly in her room. This was okay with me, as long as she wasn’t interrupting me.  

Eat Breakfast
I know this sounds elementary but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been coming completely unglued or yelling, "7 times 7 is 49!" at the top of my lungs, just to realize that I didn’t eat breakfast.  Teaching the kids while 'hangry' is no picnic, for anyone.  Also, teaching 'hangry' kids is no fun.  Making sure everyone has had breakfast is a simple way to set your family up for success.  Now I’m not saying you'll have a perfect day, but hey, you won't be hungry! I find breakfast is a good way to have a sort of "daily operations" meeting with my family. It is also a great way to combat the inevitable "but I haven't eaten,yet" that your child will try to use to get out of studying cell mitosis or better yet, fractions.

Give Yourself Grace
Adjusting from getting up and going to school to doing school at home is not easy.  Just like any new thing it's important to give your kids and yourself time to get used to the idea.  Like I mentioned before, we have several more weeks of this left, so you have plenty of time to ease your family into this transition.

Easing in could look like breakfast and then story time.  You could pick any book or even if you have older kids you could read a chapter book together.  If I'm being honest, my husband and I still love to read with our kids. They, however, are not so enthusiastic about it.

After reading, you can ask a few, 'who, what, why, where and when' questions about what you just read for comprehension.  Or, if your kids are older, you can have them write a few paragraphs about what they just read.

Another way to do "school" at home is baking.  There is math in baking (probably the reason why I don't bake) and if you have visual and hands on learners they will really love this.  I would suggest a recipe like cookies or bars that include several ingredients so they can help measure and mix. And then of course, you get to eat your assignment which is an added bonus!

Pace Yourself
If you are in the "I have always wanted to try this" category then I would caution you to not try everything at once.  There are so many great resources out there and you just can't try them all. If you find something you would like to try with your family I would suggest starting it on a Monday.  This will give you the week to see if it was a good fit for your kids. Also, don't be afraid to ask for your child's input on a new system or activity.  We all know that teenagers will voice their opinions without being prompted (God help us!) but even your kindergartener will be able to say whether or not they have liked an activity.  

If you find yourself in the I didn't sign up for this category then pacing yourself could look like starting with half days.  Or, tackling one subject each day of the week instead of doing all the subjects everyday.  Or even tasking your older kids to help you with your younger children.  This gives your older kids the chance to be your big helper.

Think Outside the Box
This is your kids chance to really do school the way they want to.  Currently my 8th grader is sitting across from me doing her math in her PJs and a snuggly blanket. There is no rule that your kids have to be "dressed" for school at home.  Also, there is no set time to do school.  If your child's teacher has given you a work packet or you get your child's assignments through email or online, he or she can complete those assignments whenever they want.  So if your child does better after lunch then start school then.  This is really the only time in a public/private school child's life that they will have the choice to start school whenever they want so let them take advantage of it. Remembering that every child has their own strengths, and celebrating those strengths, is going to give your child the push they need to get over this hump.

I think the main tip is allowing your child to adjust to the idea of doing school at home.  Up until now, home has been the place they come to after school, so getting used to the opposite could take time. If we as parents lean into this time with a positive attitude our children will have more confidence during these unfamiliar times.

I hope these 5 tips have helped ease you into the idea of homeschooling.  Next time, I will share 5 more tips about some unique ways our family has navigated these homeschool waters.
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Tammy Jack - April 28th, 2020 at 4:35pm

Thank you for these great tips! I’ve truly been thrown into uncharted territory, and now have a plan of action :)

Sarah - April 29th, 2020 at 2:28pm

Excellent tips!! I was told when I began homeschooling...its home school don't try and replicate what they do in traditional schools. Do what works for your family. We find ourselves many nights doing "night school"..I love the flexibility

Homeschool allows. We've been homeschooling for 4 years. It's hasn't been easy but it's been a blessing for our family!! I pray families find encouragement during these times! I 🙏🏼