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7 Helpful Tips for the Unexpected Homeschooler

All over America, moms and dads are suddenly waking up to find themselves home school parents. 

As a homeschooling veteran, here are some ideas to make your life easier (no jean skirts or large cloth bags required).

1. Start with What You Love

For all its challenges, this is a unique opportunity for your family to learn together and for you to introduce your kids to the things you love.  What were your favorite parts of school as a kid?  What activities do you enjoy now?  If I could provide my children with an entire education based on craft projects, I would. I love the painting, gluing and cutting.  My husband, on the other hand, would rather clean just about anything then do a craft project, but the man has stamina for story reading that is truly astonishing. 

My point here? 

You do not have to do all the things, but you can build a fun and educational day based on your interests – be they the outdoors, board games, crafts, storytime, tea time, or dance parties.  Conversely, if glitter makes your skin crawl, you can rest in the knowledge that I have never seen an adult come for counseling because their mom didn’t do crafts with them.  The bottom line here is that you’re not just plowing through math sheets, you’re teaching your kids what you think about learning and knowledge.  Model the curiosity and enthusiasm you want them to have, not just in these weeks, but in life.  

2. Channel Your Inner Mary Poppins

Who was your teacher or caregiver as a kid (real or fictional)?  Take a minute to think about that person, and when you’re feeling haggard by this whole situation, pretend to be that person.  The more over the top and dramatic you can be the better.  On looonnnnnngggggg days with my kids, I sometimes ask myself “what would Ma Ingalls do,” and suddenly the road seems clearer.

3. You need a Schedule. Or a Checklist. Or Maybe you Don’t. 

One of the great human variables is how much structure people thrive on.  I know home school families that thrive with a clear schedule and a lot of structure.  Sample schedules are all over the internet right now. If a clear agenda for the day is life-giving to you, please make one immediately, and stick to it. If that kind of thing feels oppressive on your best day (or honestly if your children are tiny, and this is just gonna be a set up for frustration), lose the schedule.

I myself am a checklist gal. I love having a clear idea of what we’re trying to get done in a day, both educational and fun. It gives my day enough structure to feel contained, but not so much to feel overwhelmed. If you’re more of a free spirit, there’s no rule that says you need a checklist or a schedule. My point here is that you know how much structure your family thrives on, and that is exactly how much structure you should bring to your school days.   

4. Decide What Matters

You’re not going to be able to recreate your child’s school experience during this time, but you can teach them the things it’s important they learn. And it won’t take all day. For young children, staying caught up on math and getting their reading done just might be enough. With buy-in, you can get this done in about an hour a day. I promise.

For older kids, figure out what projects or upcoming tests are non-negotiable and work back from there. Every homeschooling parent can tell you that overwhelmed parents do not make good teachers and that less is sometimes more when it comes to what you cover.

5. Nurture Interests

Are there topics your children love?  This is a great time to teach other skills through those interests. One of my kids did not like reading at all, until I let her “skip” reading and spend her time researching different cat breeds instead. She loved this, felt like she was getting a huge treat, and read more than ever. 

Another one of my kids struggled with math, but is all about that baking life, so I let her increase recipes if she did the math on how the ingredients would need to change. Suddenly fractions were a lot more enjoyable. Home school parents know that teaching from a place of joy and interest (theirs and yours) is not only more fun but also exponentially more effective.

6. Five Minute Pick Ups will Change Your Life. 

Every home school parent can tell you that teaching your kids at home is messy. Extremely messy.  If you can make peace with this, your life will be so much happier.  But, to prevent a descent into total chaos, I strongly recommend the 5-minute pick-up. Several times a day, blast some music you love, set a timer, and see how many things can get put away before the timer dings. Non-participants are welcome to rest in their beds until you are done picking everything up. You will either have a clean(ish) house or time alone. Either way you win.  

7. Lower Your Standards on Everything but Love. 

These are strange times we’re living in. Be good to yourself. It will help you be good to your little people, and happy people learn more. It’s okay if your kids watch more TV then they normally would or eat more snacks then the USDA recommends. If frustration starts to build, find the things that nurture your love for your little people. Dance parties, snuggles, a cup of tea, or even looking at baby pictures can all help.  

You’ve got this. And I’ll be cheering for you.  

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