Today’s reality of Covid-19 is forcing many children to stay home, despite the remaining months they are supposed to attend school. With the summer options of day camps and daycare not available, many families are wringing their hands not knowing what to do.
Welcome to my world of homeschooling!
I don’t want to be insensitive and ignore the fact that many parents have to work outside the home just to make ends meet. The pressure of needing to work and have the unexpected all-day care of your children suddenly dumped in your lap must be overwhelming.
What to do?
As in any emergency, you focus on the next step. Pray, prioritize and just keep doing the next thing on your list. You can’t do everything, but you will do a lot if you keep taking one step at a time.
For those of you thrown into the realm of educating your children, let me encourage you. It’s not as difficult as you may think. In fact, keeping them on a school type routine will give all involved a sense of normalcy and keep little hands busy. Busy hands are happier and get into less trouble.
Your school may have sent some resources home with you. If not, or if you feel like you need more help, let me suggest some resources our family has used over the years.
My feeling about school is that you have to focus hard on the basics. Faith, reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.
Faith: While this should be a daily part of each our lives anyway, take advantage of this time to read with your children. Read Bible stories and discuss what you read. I discovered from very young, my children enjoyed being read straight from scripture—much more than me reading from simplified bible story books. I did tend to skip the heavy sections like the chapter after chapter of laws or begats. That focus is better when they are older. It helps if you read with enthusiasm and inflection. I always imagine an old Jewish storyteller waving his hands, shrugging his shoulders (imagine Papa in Fiddler on the Roof) and telling his tale to the wide-eyed audience at his feet. Reading the Bible in a bland, monotonous tone, or insisting little people remain perfectly still, may create more of a dread than enjoyment of the subject.
Reading: Yay! This is such a great opportunity to read, read, read! Read articles about animals and other world sciences. You may pull up a YouTube video to show what that animal is like in real life. Read age appropriate history stories, including biographies and historical fiction—this is by far the best way to teach history. We are wired to remember stories, not just facts. (I also enjoyed using history documentaries, but keep them short and sweet depending on what age you’re working with.) History textbooks are probably the most boring and easily forgotten ways to learn this subject. Don’t forget to read just for fun. Read rhymes and silly tales. Give them a variety. Help your child discover that reading is a pleasure.
Writing: Oddly enough, this is my favorite subject. Lower grades need practice with basic words and spelling. Flashcards and drills are great. There are many resources online to get these. If you have more than one child at home, have competitions like spelling bees. FaceTime spelling bees with your child’s friends. Competition is a great motivator for getting a child to try harder. Of course, use harder words for older kids, etc. to keep the playing ground fair.
Allow them to create stories from their own imagination without feeling the need to correct each misspelled word or erroneous punctuation. (This might help provide words for your next spelling practice.) The higher the grade, the pickier you can get. Remember, for every correction, try to find two things they did well and encourage them with that.
The internet is full of writing prompts that can get the creative juices flowing. Encourage them to try different styles of writing. One day see how silly they can be, another day to write as though they are reporting for a newspaper, another time to try and be exciting or scary. If you have other friends in the same or close grade, talk with the parents and see if the kids can share their stories via emails.
Math: Math, particularly higher-level math, is my nemesis. Khan Academy is my friend. As a parent you can make accounts for each of your children and keep track of what they are doing. Beginning with preschool math and going all the way up to high school trigonometry and calculus, Khan Academy has it covered. Short videos explain a specific concept and is followed by a series of practice problems. The child can practice until he reaches mastery of that topic. Through the years, when we hit a part of math that I couldn’t explain (a frequent occurrence) and my kids weren’t grasping, I had them go to Khan Academy and look up that specific topic.
Along with math, Khan Academy also covers high school sciences as well as computer science and practices for SAT.
Remember that our young ones need to move! Being pent up in doors all day for days on end will drive the entire family into a mental breakdown. Create silly competitions—running around the house perimeter five times and timing themselves to see if they can beat their own time the next run around. (This keeps smaller children from getting discouraged. They are competing against themselves and not against older, faster siblings.) In bad weather, the same running and timing can be done going up and down stairs. Good old fashion jumping jacks and push-ups come in handy for that break in the middle of a class when Jr. is getting restless. Laugh. Make it fun.
Take time to do simple science experiments. There is so much online you can either watch or copy.
Just today I got a bit of news in my feed regarding one of my favorite storytellers, Tim Lowry. For as long as schools are closed, he will be posting a YouTube video everyday geared toward kids ages 8-12. He is not only a master storyteller, but a great historian and Christian. Every one of his videos will be worth the time watching.
Most of all, enjoy your kids. The next few months may radically change how your family does life. Our homeschool journey started out as a temporary venture and ended up lasting twenty-two years so far. Our youngest is planning to head out to college a year from now.
Has it been a perfect journey? Far from it. There is no perfect journey at home or at school. I have learned so much and made many mistakes, but each of our children remains thankful for the chance to learn from home, and each wants to do the same for their children. The biggest advantage has been how it’s affected our family. Being with them so much on a daily basis enabled me to know their heart so well I could pick up on subtle mood changes and catch issues they were struggling with very early. We never had a typical angry, rebellious, and withdrawn teenager. It kept us close.
But it’s not for everybody.
If you decide to make this a permanent part of your family’s journey, there are many resources available to help you as a parent teach your children. You don’t have to create the wheel on your own.
I know families who have entirely developed their own curriculum and others that do online classes entirely. Especially as our kids have gotten into the older grades, I found the online classes to be a wonderful resource. My younger two did a large portion of classes through a faith based, classical school called Veritas Scholars Academy. They met twice a week with a live class, a live teacher, and top-notch college prep courses. It’s not cheap, but neither is private school. My youngest is now doing dual enrollment through Liberty University, an option that is also available through your local community college. He will graduate from high school having completed the first two years of college.
Hope this has given a few helpful pointers to alleviate your stress over the next few months. God bless you and stay safe!
If you have some suggestions you want to share on working with children at home, please share in the comments below.
Smiling through the stress,