In the current global crisis, you may be looking at the possibility of having to start homeschooling your little loves.
This can be super daunting in any circumstance but when you’re rushed into, it would feel so overwhelming.
I have been homeschooling my 6 and 3 year old kids from the beginning. I’m not an expert but hopefully, I can help you even in a small way to get started and remain sane.
Here are my top tips on how to start homeschooling:
1. Don’t try to recreate the classroom at home
This is one that I think all new homeschoolers think they have to do. You might be feeling like you have to set up a classroom, spend a crazy amount of money on resources and have your curriculum all sorted.
Please know that this is not the case!
You will create your own flow that might include reading at 6 am or art at 6 pm. Every house is different and homeschooling is going to look different to everyone.
We find that we do our more ‘school-like’ activities in the morning or after dinner (this has just always suited my eldest). The rest of the day we’re playing, getting out, going to the beach or playing with friends. (Obviously, this is vastly different during COVID-19. We are not getting out and about and are probably feeling very similar to you in terms of being locked at home)
Be flexible, use resources that you have and think outside the box. You’ll be surprised where that takes you. It will be vastly different from the classroom and hopefully much better!
2. Know that learning happens all day, every day
Even if your kids are in school, learning doesn’t stop the second they leave school. They’re always learning! That also includes when they’re playing.
There’s this belief that when kids are playing, they’re just doing it for fun but there’s so much learning that happens during play.
A few months ago I was chatting with someone that just found out that we homeschool. Her comment was ‘my kids would just play all day’. My response was ‘That’s what I hope that my kids do all day’. Very different perspectives!
When you first start homeschooling, just watch what they’re doing. Listen to the questions they ask. You’ll start to see that learning is everywhere!
Online resources we use:
Dino Ling0 – this is our resource of choice for learning languages. We are all learning Japanese together and loving it! There so many languages to chose from. This is a paid resource but well worth it.
Masterpiece Society – they offer free classes but there’s also more that are paid.
3. Their emotional wellbeing is just as (I think more) important than grades
Particularly during this time, we need to make sure their emotional needs are met. We are all stressed at the moment and it’s easy to see that it rubs off on the children.
If you’re feeling the same, then just prioritize being present with them. Be there. Play with them. Learn with them. Experiment. Try new things together. Cook together. Get out of your comfort zone and learn something new with them.
There are so many ways that you can support them emotionally but essentially start by slowing down and being present with them.
4. ‘Schoolwork’ doesn’t take long
If you are starting homeschool and are using a curriculum (or are doing distant learning during COVID-19) then you’d be surprised how quickly you will get through the work. When you take out all the distractions and work one-on-one with your child, you will get the work done and have plenty of time for play.
Think about all the distractions that happen at school. There’s behaviour to deal with. The teacher is attending to 20-30 kids so it takes longer to get their attention if needed. There’s the resettling that happens after every break. There’s waiting for other students to finish (or your child being pushed along too quickly). There are assemblies and announcements.
If they’re all taken out, they’ll get so much done.
5. Don’t force a routine
Don’t feel like you have to create a routine and stick to it. You’ll find that when kids have time to do what they’re interested in, each day will look different. You might find that your child goes deep into a particular topic. It might be the only thing that they do for days and that’s ok. Give them the time and space to explore and learn in their own time.
From experience, trying to create a routine always ends in tears. Instead, I recommend that you create a flow or rhythm and let the children lead. The more freedom you give them to learn at their own pace, the happier they’ll be and you’d be surprised just how much they’ll retain.
6. Deschool and have a break
Deschooling is a term that homeschoolers use to describe the adjustment period that you and your children go through when leaving the school system. It takes time to adjust for all of you to adjust. As deschooling happens, you’ll start to see that education is happening all the time and the desire for formal learning and testing will decrease.
Just know that the longer the child has been in school, the longer the deschooling process takes.
My kids have never been to school but I’ve heard the advice that when you first start homeschooling, let go of having to do work and just let them adjust, play and explore the world in their own time. I think this is especially true when dealing with social issues at school such as bullying.
Enjoy this change in the pace of life and adjust together!
7. There are plenty of opportunities to socialize (except during pandemics)
You might not be surprised that I get asked a lot about how I deal with socializing with the kids. You might, however, be surprised that no one has ever asked me if I worry that my children aren’t getting the best education.
It always boggles my mind that this is the biggest concern that non-homeschoolers have. I think if they really knew how much time we spent socializing they’d criticize how much ‘schoolwork’ actually gets done!
If homeschooling is new to you, then this might your biggest concern too. The best place to start is looking for a local homeschooling or unschooling Facebook group. There are usually so many other families that are so excited when a new homeschooler comes along. Get along to one of their meets and see if that group of people suit you and your kids. It’s all trial and error and if they aren’t compatible, then look for another one.
With my 6-year-old, her strongest friendships have come from friends she’s met at dance classes. Find something that your child is interested in and get them to join in. They’ll make friends that have very similar interests.
The other thing to consider when thinking about socialization is that fact that the word social comes from society and that every interaction with people within the society is an opportunity to be social! Not only that but they get to socialize with and learn from people of all ages, not just their specific age.
I truly hope that those tips on how to start homeschool help you in these crazy times. Just know that you can do it and it can be an enjoyable process for all.
Enjoy time together!