With everything all a bit topsy turvy at the minute, there’s a whole lot of accidental homeschoolers trying to find their feet right now. Maybe your school is closed. Maybe you’ve chosen (like us) to self-isolate for the protection of those around you, or for the protection of your own family. While I am far from an expert, I wanted to share a few tips & tricks I’ve picked up after 3 years of homeschooling (and around 12 to go!), that I wish I’d have known from the start.
Firstly, BREATHE. You’ve got this. You’ve been given a magical, bonus four weeks (or more) with your babies, school is just an extra to tick off in between the cuddles and games and crafts and chats and,yes, movie marathons.
Do NOT try to do school at home. You are not required to sit with your children at a table from 9am to 3.30pm. Trust me, friends, that way madness lies. If your school has sent work home, spend some time getting it done, but remember that even at school, your child is not sitting at a desk working for 6.5 hours.
Part B of above – if your sleep patterns get a bit out of whack, that’s ok too. There are days we are at our lessons by 8.30, and days we haven’t even gotten dressed by 10.30. The school work all gets done eventually. Obviously if you have set times for online learning, these classes will limit this flexibility.
Part C – make the most of being able to do school in your pyjamas, or yoga pants, or your daggiest, grungiest trakky daks. If there are no video classes involved, go for what’s comfy.
Establish a rhythm. It makes your mental load so much lighter to not have to be thinking constantly “what’s next”. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Even something as simple as group time, worksheet time, play time, reading time, creative time – that’s a rhythm right there. Some days the worksheets will be done in 5 minutes, but the play will last three hours, and even as those times change, you (and the kids) will know it’s reading time once the games peter out.
Multiple ages at home can be tricky – on any given day I can be schooling up to ten different grade levels over the four children to meet their aptitudes & abilities. If your rhythm includes structured learning time that you have some control over (ie, worksheets rather than online classes), try grouping similar subjects together – but also consider break outs. For instance, my Mr11 & Miss 9 do maths together, as they have many topics that are similar, and I can just pitch the lessons to their individual lessons. Mr 13 & Mr6 then do maths together at a different time, as I need to work quite closely with Mr6, but Mr13 is more independant and only needs me for occasional clarification.
Make the most of your bonus time with your children! Write a list of fun stuff you would like to do, or projects, or things that interest them that they would like to research. Then you have a list ready to go when you are running out of ideas. If there is something they especially want to dive deep into, run with it. Not sure how to? Jump on pinterest and search “<subject area> unit study” and you will get a heap of ideas to get you started. Another favourite way of ours to start researching something is to search “kids videos <subject area>” – especially great for beginner readers or those who have learning difficulties.
Be gentle on yourself and gentle on them. The transition is hard, even when you are doing it by choice and with plenty of warning. Being thrown in the deep end is a less than ideal way to experience homeschooling.
Pay attention to their play. You would be surprised how much of it is actually learning, and consolidating previous lessons as well. Board games are also a great option for learning different and new concepts. Don’t be afraid to mix up the worksheets with some natural learning, and imaginative, open ended play is ripe with opportunities.
Go for walks outside, if you have pathways with very little foot traffic and it is safe to do so (unless you are under actual quarantine). Start a nature journal and paint and draw and write about the things you see. If you can’t walk around, hang out in your back yard. Go on a bug hunt. Look at the leaves. Stare at the stars. Google star charts and moon phases. Start a weather tree. Learning + fresh air, a magic combo.
Screentime will not kill them. If you have a day (or three) where you watch movies in your jammies, then so be it. In fact, I would almost guarantee your kids will look back in the future and consider it some of their best memories. If you are super worried, get them to build a blanket cubby to watch in. Built environment & maths, check. Tell them to write a sign for the outside and a menu for lunch, and bang, there’s your english. Learning is everywhere.
Need resources? There are so many companies offering free access to their online resources. I will link a heap at the end of the post. Pinterest is another that is fabulous for easy and fun activities – many of which also count as learning. Many museums have virtual tours, and even national parks have livestreams you can follow along with. Check out your local library too – ours (like many) offers BorrowBox and other online services to access eBooks & audiobooks, all completely online.
Finally, BIG DEEP BREATH. You’ve got this. You’ve totally got this. It might be an adjustment while you find your feet and a routine that works for you, especially if you also have to work from home at the same time, but you’ll get there. Know that the entire homeschool community is cheering you on. If you have homeschooling friends, reach out and ask if you are feeling uncertain. Have a chat to them when you feel lost. The first days are the hardest. It will only get easier. Breath, smile, enjoy your little people. This too shall pass, and they will be back at school. Either that, or you’ll fall in love with the homeschool lifestyle and keep them at home with you. Either way, you can do this. Promise.
Scholastic Learn From Home – https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
Audible Stories – free access – https://stories.audible.com/start-listen
Matific (Australian curriculum aligned) – free for 60 days – https://www.matific.com/au/en-au/home/complimentary-teacher/
A huge list of virtual field trips – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SvIdgTx9djKO6SjyvPDsoGlkgE3iExmi3qh2KRRku_w/mobilebasic?
Berlin digital concert hall – free for 30 days – https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/tickets?fbclid=IwAR00DWPhY8zUe7_lD5tWveTN_EmNVJDUa5H_qtFvtennUQm7SmP0vxPMum8
More virtual museum tours – https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours?fbclid=IwAR01NKbXhfw4A2jjRP-pJIzV0rZ7QU62EIyi_K8eywgoRU2ElSTKLnyRQIM
Environmental resources – https://rootsandshoots.org.au/resourcebox/?fbclid=IwAR1TY9ixhS1UqwxsD-k-lAAqPqeZQRibgg_73vX16Y38PE3v8MDbNurjbiw
Twinkl resources – one month free – twinkl.co.uk/offer with code PARENTSTWINKLHELPS