Our family chose to homeschool and it was a great decision for us. But I realize many of you are now thrust into the role of homeschool parents without it being a choice and with very little warning. Several folks have asked me recently, “How did you ever do this for 20+ years????”
I won’t lie — it isn’t easy. Some of you feel like you’re drowning already and it’s only been a few days. I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts, ideas and encouragement. Some has to do with homeschool work, some with just having your kids around more than you are used to. Most of these ideas are not my original thoughts — just things gleaned from years of experience and listening to other homeschool parents who had gone before.
Before you read any more, let me be very truthful. I screwed up EVERY SINGLE DAY! When I look back on my time as a homeschool mom, I see that we did way more than I thought we did and I have a tendency to see only the good parts. But don’t think that I had great ideas every day and that we did tons of “work” each day. It wasn’t the facts we were learning that taught my children — it was spending time together and talking about stuff.
You are capable
Believe it or not, you already possess every skill you need to effectively teach your children. You began to homeschool your children the moment they were born. You taught them to walk and talk, which is no easy task. They probably learned their colors, letters and numbers from you. Every day you work on their social and relational skills. It does not take a teaching degree or even a college degree. It just takes persistence, flexibility and confidence. And since you love your children more than anyone else does, you have their best interests at heart and see the long-term goal.
This is a great opportunity
As with any situation, you can see your new role as homeschool parent as a problem or an opportunity. It’s all dependent on the attitude you choose. If you think back on your life, you’ll probably see that the times you learned the most were when you had to face and overcome a trial. This is a time for your whole family to grow in more ways than you can imagine.
One of the main reasons that folks tell me they can’t homeschool is that they don’t have the patience. Let me let you in on a little secret — no one does in the beginning. Not a single person gains patience by simply wishing for it, just like you don’t gain muscle strength without work and resistance.
I certainly did NOT have the patience to homeschool my children when I started out. I was freaking out about handling it all one day when I asked a friend about it. She told me she planned to take it a year at a time with her homeschool plan. So simple, but so brilliant! Don’t think in terms of “I have to do this for several weeks or months.” Just take it a day or an hour at a time. Believe me, you will have learned a good deal about patience by the end.
Adversity is not the enemy
I hate what I call “force field parents” — those who try to shield their kids from adversity. How often do you hear people say, “I just want my kids to be happy”? To do that, they try to do anything they can to keep out anything and everything that makes their kid sad or angry or whatever.
Folks, that is not in your control and you can’t make it happen. Not should you even attempt it. We live in a world that will always have problems. Trying to keep all sadness or tribulation away from them does no service to them or to anyone they will encounter in the future because they don’t learn how to deal with trials.
I’m not talking about things like child predators or drugs. Yes, you should absolutely do all you can to keep those away from your kids. What I’m talking about is not letting them take the natural consequences of their actions, or telling them to simply ignore the child at school who’s bullying them, or pretending that something like corona virus won’t ever affect them.
The key is not keeping your kids from ever facing trouble, but it’s teaching them how to handle it correctly. That is one of the greatest lessons you can teach them in the years you have with them. How do you want your kids to face troubles in their lives? Whatever that is, you need to demonstrate it. They will be watching you right now and seeing if you are panicking or not, being selfish or helpful, avoiding or facing things head on. I challenge you to wake up every morning and think, “How can we learn about LIFE today?” It does need to be age-appropriate, but don’t try to ignore what’s going on out there. And I’ll tell you this as a parent of 4 adult children — they will watch you with respect to this for the rest of their lives.
A sweet memory
One of my best memories with my kids started out as a not-so-good day. They were 1, 3 and 5, which tells you enough already. The baby had awoken from his nap while the others still slept. I sat down on the floor to play with him and my shorts got soaking wet. On the carpet. Not a great sign. The hose behind the washing machine had come out of the drain plug, so a whole washload full of water was seeping across the house.
I freaked out and called my husband in a panic. We didn’t have a shopvac, so I was trying to figure out how to mop it up and salvage at least some of the carpet. By this time, the baby was screaming. I plopped him in the playpen and kept attempting the cleanup, yelling at the other kids who were now awake (ya, mother-of-the-year here). It wasn’t working and we were all frazzled.
Then God gave me an idea. I think it was because a friend had told me how she had calmly reacted when her son had accidentally broken her entire collection of antique teapots in 1 fell swoop. (She had 4 kids and taught me TONS). I put the kids in their swimsuits and put on a Beach Boys CD. I gave the older ones each a towel, told them to sop up water, squeeze the towel in the sink, and dance. My husband says he was stressing the whole way home and and was not expecting what he found. We were having a blast with our own little beach party in the kitchen. And, bonus, the insurance company replaced the nasty carpet and 70s vinyl.
What started as an awful inconvenience turned into a sweet memory we laugh about now because I was able to take a problem and turn it into an opportunity.
Consider personalities and learning styles
By understanding your child (and yourself), you’ve already won half the battle. These things are in them with good reason, so learn to work with it rather than try to change them. It will make your temporary homeschool experience much easier.
Not every child is built the same way. Don’t expect each child to respond the same to this complete change in their lives. Look beyond behavior to what is behind the behavior. For example–
- Is your oldest child trying to be the parent to the younger ones and going crazy with it? When there are things in life we can’t control, we have a tendency to try to control what we can. My firstborn has always been like this. When I would see her going overboard trying to be little mama, I’d sit down and talk with her to see what was feeling out of control to her. Often just her being able to identify it and say it out loud would really help. I notice now that’s she’s an adult she’s better able to do that for herself.
- Is a child reverting to behaviors of a younger age? That may be an indication that they feel unsafe and want to be taken care of. It’s completely appropriate to do something silly with them for a bit like rock them on your lap or pretend you are babies crawling on the floor.
Learn about what’s normal for your child at their age and accept that you can’t make them act older. Pushing them to do so too quickly is a recipe for long-term disaster.
Knowing your child’s personality style will also help as you homeschool.
- If they are an introvert, they will need time alone each day to process things. It’s not that they don’t like being around people — they just need alone time to recharge. Their brains will be overloaded right now with all that’s going on, and having time to sit and think about it or even take a nap will really help. They will also learn best in a room by themselves.
- The toughest challenge in homeschool for an extrovert is being without their friends. Find time for them to video chat or find just 1 friend to play with. Get creative! Make letting them talk to one another through a glass door into a game. Start a pen pal friendship with a child in another part of the world. They like group projects, so see if you can find a way to do that. Even have them explain what they are learning to someone else. This helps it stick better in their own brain.
- Is your child a big picture thinker or a detail person? Take that into account as you work with them. Let the big picture kid be the leader in coming up with ideas, the detail one be the leader in fleshing it out. Help them understand it and learn to balance it, and to appreciate the other type.
By trying to approach homeschool learning in a way that is suited to your child, you will both survive more easily.
Visual learners respond best to pictures, diagrams and images. Let these kids draw or view pictures that aid in learning. These kids tend to be pretty easy to teach because they can memorize fairly easily. They also do well with writing things down. Most teachers are visual learners and gear their classrooms that way.
These kids like to use and respond best to words. They are the ones who like to write or give speeches. They can wear on your patience because they want to talk CONSTANTLY. That also means they process emotions best by talking them through. Consider allowing them to record answers to work instead of always writing them out.
This is my younger son. Let’s just say he started reading backwards at 6 and loved spelling bees. His exceptional verbal skills just might have gotten him in trouble in a classroom setting (a child who’s a combination of a social personality and high intelligence = one who gets in trouble for talking when he gets bored). We learned Biblical Greek and Hebrew beginning in 7th grade, using the books they use to train pastors at Dallas Theological Seminary. He even attended a few class sessions there. Because we homeschooled, he was able to go at an accelerated pace in all things related to language.
What’s he doing with that now? His undergraduate degree is in Linguistics. He is finishing his master’s thesis this semester and one of the papers is on the interplay between text and image in comic books. He’s reading books in Russian and Greek for 2 classes.
Auditory learners learn information best when it’s accompanied with sounds, music or rhythm. Put the states and their capitals in a song and this kid will never forget it. Put it to a tune you can easily remember. Or, give each thing they are trying to learn a sound. For example, when learning the 6 types of simple machines, create a sound for each. Put on soothing music or white noise while they are working. (Hint: classical music from the Baroque or Classical eras helps kids learn math amazingly well because it is very logical and ordered. Try Bach or Mozart).
Auditory learning like reading aloud or moving their lips as they read. Hearing their own voice say it helps them retain the information.
Kinesthetic kids often drive teachers batty so don’t be surprised if they do that to you. These children learn best when they are moving.
This is my older son — he started jumping in the womb and did not stop. His nickname was Tigger as a child and he started dunking a basketball in 7th grade. We found ways to help with the need to be active during homeschool time. When we sat to read a book, he always had an action figure or Legos in his hands, because kinesthetic learners like to touch or manipulate things, or would draw as he listened. We would do reading for 15 minutes, then I’d have him run around the house outside 3 times. Then we’d do 20 minutes of math and have him run up and down the stairs a few times. These kids learn by doing things like building something from household items or acting out history. So instead of writing a paper about a cell, he would make a model of one.
We realized when he was in high school that he would need a career where he wasn’t sitting at a desk all day. He is working toward becoming a physical therapist so he can help others, particularly athletes, keep their bodies movies effortlessly.
Logical or freeform?
Logical thinkers are going to approach problems differently than kids who prefer a more free-form approach.
Kids who are logical thinkers like order, sequence, routines. They are methodical and like to categorize things, keep them in separate little boxes. They can organize things well and can visualize an end product.
Free-form thinkers work in a circle rather than a straight line. They can jump from one thing to the other quickly and often see the connection between seemingly unrelated things. They do better with a loose schedule that gives them more freedom to decide, and with combining several subjects in one project.
If you are one type and your child is the other, that’s not a problem. You just have to recognize it and figure out ways to homeschool together effectively. Chances are you and your spouse are opposites as well, so bounce ideas off one another or off a friend of the same thinking type as your child.
Do NOT tell me that your kid just hates to learn. That’s impossible. We are inquisitive by nature. All people like to learn when it’s something they enjoy and feel good at.
Strengths and weaknesses
I once learned a very important principle from a speaker. “A weakness is only a strength taken to an extreme.” If you can view it in that way, you can learn to see it as a positive and help your kids balance it. Here are some examples.
- I take a long time to do things. That can be seen as a weakness. But it’s the strength of being careful and thoughtful. My husband makes quick decisions but doesn’t always look at all the ramifications. Together, we make a good team.
- I run habitually late. A friend with the same tendency put her finger on it when she told me, “I’m just always optimistic. I think I can get more things done in a certain length of time that I actually can.”
- My older son doesn’t think before he acts — just jumps right in (impulsivity). This makes him a good athlete (paid for college, by the way) and he’s quick to act in an emergency.
- He usually has to learn things the hard way, but learns them well. My daughter follows the rules, but then has a hard time making decisions on her own.
- This older son is also very laid back, which can make it seem like he’s lazy. He isn’t — he’s just not going to get all worked up over stuff unnecessarily. He’s able to keep things more light-hearted.
- He can distill things to a few steps instead of a bunch and is very conceptual. Once we went to the park and they were supposed to be drawing ducks. He finished in a suspiciously short time. But then I looked at his picture — he had created a clear image of a duck from above and behind with very few strokes. He was 6 at the time, and he still loves drawing today and is the child who uses Silhouette machines.
A friend of mine was watching him one day and let him loose with scrap wood, hammer and nails (not something I would have done). He made a nativity scene with 7 pieces of wood.
He wasn’t super academic, but that doesn’t mean he’s not highly intelligent. I just had to try to find ways for him to express that intelligence.
- I have a friend who had a very strong-willed child. She was a TALKER, so once spent half the night complaining to her husband that all she did all day was discipline her son. Her husband was a man of few words, but when he spoke you listened. He told her, “Becky, God put that in him for a reason. He will be faced constantly with challenges to his faith and will need to stand firm. We don’t need to take that strong will out of him — we just need to guide it in the right direction.” Oh, how wise!
School at home?
I know some school districts are having kids keep a regular schedule and do things in a specific sequence each day. But if you have the flexibility to do the work in your own way, think about your child’s personality and interests and let that guide things as you homeschool.
- Work doesn’t have to be done at a table. We spent a big part of most homeschool days on the couch reading and discussing together, usually in our pajamas. We actually had to get some furniture with footrests on every piece so each kid could stretch out.
- Let your child do the subject they like best first if possible, or pepper it between ones they don’t like as well. It gets the day off to a better start.
- When possible, let them spend the most time with the subject they like best. My daughter spent a good deal of time each day practicing piano, and liked to start with that first thing in the day. Music is one of the few things in which the left and right sides of the brain work together and the effect lasts for several hours afterward. That means working on math next was easier. (Yes, she went to college on a music scholarship).
- If your child likes routine, keep one. If they like a more free-form approach, do that if you can. That especially helps them feel more in control and relaxed, which in turn keeps the home more relaxed and you all get more done.
Think outside the box
You’re likely going to have to work with multiple children, or work while supervising their education, or figure out how to do all the stuff you normally do while your kids are at school. You have to find ways to multitask.
Combine “school” with chores
- When my kids were young I still had to sort laundry. I would put the dirty clothes in a pile on the floor, then put index cards at various places around the room. What was on the cards varied by their age, but it was numbers, letters, colors, words, etc. When I had 3 little ones, each card had multiple things. I would look at the care instructions for a piece of clothing, give it to a child and say, “Put this in the blue pile,” or “Put this in the 7 pile” or “Put this in the pile with the word that starts with a “t” sound,” etc. I got the laundry sorted, and they were learning. Bonus — by middle school they knew how to do their own laundry.
- There are plenty of opportunities for spelling, math, nutrition and more in a trip to the grocery store.
- My youngest, the talker, was a very slow eater. While we sat at the breakfast table we practiced spelling words, or read a book, or did brain teasers, or sang through the names of the presidents. Ya, we spent a LONG time at that table.
- Your kids have to wash their hands for 20 seconds. Redeem that time. Young kids can learn to count, older ones can work on telling time, still older ones can memorize 20-second snippets, any age can think up songs to go with it or create a poem for it.
- Cooking together is a great way to learn science and math. You don’t have to do anything differently — just include them in the process. For example, you can say, “If there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon, how many teaspoons would I need for 4 tablespoons?” Or discuss what happens to water molecules when they are heated.
Combine different subjects
One of my hidden talents is fitting more in the dishwasher than anyone else. Another is finding ways to kill 6 birds with one stone. In other words, if I could find one activity that covered several subjects, we got more done.
- When we needed exercise, we’d play “run and touch” in the back yard. I’d say, “Run and touch something green/bumpy/that starts with a “p”/has 3 parts,” etc.
- We used spelling words or verses they were memorizing as handwriting practice for the day.
- If we needed to do a project, we tried to find ways to have it cover several subjects. For example, let’s say we were doing a news broadcast we video taped with a weather report. They would write the story, research the weather, work a camera, etc.
- My mother-in-law had back surgery once. We spent the day filming a video get-well card for her. 2 of my kids were operating on the 3rd in “Eckhoff Hospital.” They learned some computer skills, stuff about surgeries like keeping germs at bay, looked at the anatomy of a back and how the surgery would help, etc. My son who likes directing did that, while my one who likes writing did the script. My daughter came up with the costumes and props.
- Go outside and take a walk. Collect leaves or flowers, then take them home and create a collection book. Classify them by color, type, etc. Look up facts about them. Make up a story. Draw a picture of each. This can go from elementary age up through high school.
Combine different ages
You’ve already seen this in some previous suggestions, but I tried to find ways to teach all the kids at the same time.
- We’d read a book or talk about a topic, and then each child had a similar assignment but at different levels. The youngest would summarize to me what he had read. The middle child would write a paragraph about it. The oldest would have to research some of the facts more and write a full page. Or, I could let them do a project that would fit their learning style and interests. So my daughter might write a song, while my younger son might tell a story and the older son would create a game with the facts.
- My daughter from Russia was learning English when my older son was learning to read, so they did it together.
- She needed to learn the basics of shopping, so we got grocery flyers from the paper and the coin jar. We learned about money, food groups, graphic layout, spelling, names of things in English and Russian, etc.
Look for learning opportunities everywhere
- Create games to make your kids think. Pull out a broom and have them think of non-sweeping ways to use it. Give them a box of random things and find something they all have in common, or make something from them.
- Teach your kids to be creators like you. You can teach lots of math, art, science, spatial relations, engineering, mechanics and more in the craft room.
- Have them draw pictures and write stories about what’s happening in the world. It helps them process it and have a record they can look back on when they’re older. Covid-19: how viruses work, the numbers of how they spread, how quarantining helps, geography lessons on where the worst outbreaks are. Panic buying: why it happens, how supply chain works, how much do you really need (math there), tracking how much prices change. Earthquake (we had some here today): how they affect things, what causes them, how to prepare for one, what the Richter scale is. I still have the projects like that my kids did after 9/11.
- We were having breakfast with our kids one day and saw a squirrel outside. My son said, “Shhhh — don’t scare it away.” We talked about how the squirrel wouldn’t be able to hear our voices at a normal level through the glass. That started a discussion on sound waves. We had a room without furniture because we were replacing the floors, so we took a tennis ball and bounced it around to demonstrate sound waves. Pancakes gave way to talking about frequency and amplitude.
- A friend of mine has a message board and has her kids take turns putting a new quote on hers every day. They’ve learned about spelling, encouraging others, sharing humor, random holidays, and more. Brilliant! See this post for how to make one yourself.
- Once we were at a campground with friends for a weekend and found tadpoles in the pond. We took some home, made habitats for them, researched their diet, learned about the life cycles of frogs, drew pictures and took photos each day, and after they grew into frogs released them into a pond. It wasn’t planned — we just made a lesson from the circumstances.
Read with them
One of the best things you can do at any time is read together. There is an incredible wealth of information in a good book and it makes learning fun. Have your kids summarize what you read. I can’t remember what you call that, but you’ll figure out quickly if they understood and it creates avenues for discussion.
I remember a particularly rough time when all I could do was the bare minimum in our homeschool. We would practice instruments for lessons, do a little math, and then just read — for an entire semester. We just sat on the couch and read all the Chronicles of Narnia. But then we’d discuss it, or draw pictures, or talk about what a badger was and what they ate, or talk about the words the British use for things, or try to spell “Eustace,” or play hide and seek, or look up where England was on the map, or talk about the time difference, or figure out what the weather was like there, or talk about World War 2, or whatever. And guess what? They didn’t get behind.
Some of our favorite picture books were Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and The Story About Ping. In the former we talked about steam engines, respect for older people, time and the location of the sun throughout the day, working hard, squares, encouraging others versus teasing them, the rhythm of language. In the latter — ducks, rivers, China, obedience, learning from your mistakes. You can even pick out books you know have a lesson your child needs to learn. Stories are less threatening ways of teaching those.
As they got older, we liked historical fiction by G.A. Henty. His stories are THRILLING, but they are also packed with facts and good morals.
Talk with them
Kids are very perceptive. Even if you don’t say anything, they will pick up on how you are feeling. So if you are overwhelmed, fearful or exasperated, don’t try to hide it. Talk through it with them. They will open up to you about what they are feeling if you show them how. Sometimes it takes awhile before you figure out what it is that’s bothering them. Some kids process things by thinking about them, others by saying it out loud.
Timing is everything
I have found that teens and young adults seem to only begin to open up past 11 at night. Several of my kids just come alive then. Even when it means being tired, I try to take that time to listen whenever it is they are ready to talk.
Recently, my 23 year old son called me after midnight. We talked for almost 2 hours, and I didn’t really find out about what he called about until about 90 minutes in. He had been discussing families with some of his friends and wanted to tell me about some things he appreciated in our parenting (yep — you get the good stuff when you take the time to listen). It took him that long to get past the small talk.
Be aware of their interests
I find it’s also critical to let your child talk about what’s important to them. By being interested in what interests them, you are affirming that you like who they are.
My younger son can talk for literally HOURS and in great detail about movies and comic book characters. Often I get lost and forget what he has said. But he’s at the point now where I can see how he is thinking very deeply about these things and we have great philosophical and faith discussions. For example, one of his thesis papers is on the hero’s journey as a theme from the Greeks through modern times, particularly superheroes. His professors are encouraging him to write a book about it. He’s the TA for a professor who had him teach on it in class because he had studied it more in-depth than she had. When I listen to him talk about these things, he’s much more likely to talk to me about other things.
My other son is very into sports. Fortunately, I am too. So, I ask him for help when picking out my fantasy football team or ask him opinion on the topic of paying college athletes. Since he’s a man of few words, this is a way to get him talking. We recently had a great discussion on the latter topic and he brought up points I would never have thought about.
Laugh with them
It’s so true — laughter is a GREAT medicine. If you can find things to laugh about together throughout the day, you’ll all feel better. Is your child into jokes? Challenge each other to come up with a new one each day. Do you have a boy that’s at that whistling phase? (they all go through it). Play “Name That Tune.” Watch a funny movie together. Play a silly game of charades. Set a timer for regular intervals and each time it goes off have everyone make a funny face.
Exercise is also a great way to keep spirits up. Find fun ways to work out together — race up and down the stairs, try to walk the block wearing something silly (each others’ shoes?), march to some music while banging pots and pans.
Celebrate the successes
When your child knows you will cheer them when they do well, they are more likely to try harder. You create more of a team atmosphere and it’s easier for them to take correction on other things. Find something that speaks their love language and reward them as often as possible.
Find something, anything, to encourage
Sometimes that’s hard. I remember clearly having had a hard day with my older son once when he was a preschooler. I was trying to find SOMETHING to be positive about in the day. It was dinner time and I felt like he’d been in timeout all day long. I was chopping vegetables so I got out a little plastic container. Every few seconds, I would give him the end pieces to throw in the trash. He would toddle over, empty the container and bring it back. And each time, I cheered like crazy. It’s a small thing, but at least I felt better.
We adopted our daughter Toma from Russia when she was 15. The others were 2, 4 and 6 at the time. (Yes, absolutely insane). She had a hard time learning how to function in a family after being in an orphanage most of her life. She did NOT like the homeschool life and fought me every step of the way on it. Let’s be real — she fought us on pretty much everything.
I had been trying to get her to find meaning in literature and she just refused to look any deeper than the surface. It wasn’t that she couldn’t — she wouldn’t. One day we read a poem about a family picking blackberries. They got all their protective clothing on (the best blackberry bushes have thorns) and still got scratched, and they were sweating like crazy because blackberries ripen in the heat of summer. At home, they put the berries in cream and declared them delicious. I asked her what she thought the author was trying to say. She said he was talking about how sometimes things are really hard to do, but they are worth it in the end.
I about fell out of my chair! She probably thought I was crazy because I went ga-ga telling her how great an idea that was. That day we turned a corner — she began to think instead of just wanting a “give me facts to memorize and I’ll spit them back to you” educational approach.
(Fast forward and she is now 36. She let go of the bitterness of her past and is a complete joy to every one she knows, and has thanked us many times for not giving up on her and being firm when needed. It was a hard road, but oh the blackberries are sweet!).
Give yourself freedom to fail
Let’s be honest again — you will screw up. You will lose your patience and yell at your kids. Learn to say, “I’m sorry” without blaming them for it. Your kids will fight. That’s normal. You will have times when you don’t know how to do their math. Help them learn to figure it out by, gasp, reading the text book or googling it. Sometimes (often) you won’t get everything done in one day that you’re supposed to. They will still learn. The internet will go out and they won’t be able to finish their work. It happens to everyone.
I can’t tell you how many days I felt like I was a total failure as a homeschool mom. Probably about 360 days a year. We all feel like that at times. It’s okay — just keep plugging away. You get to start fresh the next day.
Get used to the fact that you WILL have to say and teach them things multiple times. None of us hears something once and remembers it, or learns to get along with others after one fight. Did you learn your multiplication tables the first time you practiced them? You are working with them step by step, and it takes repetition.
I recall one day when my kids were bickering even more than usual and being very selfish. They were not willing to do what I told them to do. So, about 11:00 a.m., I said, “Fine — you don’t want to follow rules today? You don’t have to.” I gave them permission to do whatever they wanted for the rest of the day and and eat whatever they wanted. The only rule was that they couldn’t come to me to settle any disputes. I put my headphones on and did my own thing all day.
At first, they thought that was the most amazing thing ever. But they quickly realized that if they had 100% freedom, so did their siblings. That meant LOTS of fighting (don’t worry — I would have stepped in if it looked like blood would be spilled). They ended up separated most of the day. They were also crabby from having eating only junk food. By 5:00, they were over it.
We sat down and talked it over and they agreed that having some rules was a good thing. They learned the valuable lesson that Rousseau taught — we are willing to give up a few freedoms in order to protect the rest of them. They didn’t get math or spelling done that day, but they got a great philosophy/history lesson called “learning to live in a society.” And yes, they still fought after that.
You’ll never get it all done
I can guarantee you there was not a single year that we finished the math book. I never kept great records. A world history curriculum that was supposed to take us one year took three and we still didn’t finish. But we acted out the Battle of Thermopylae, tried our hand at bridging the Hellespont by creating a pontoon bridge out of plastic containers over a stream (we would have been killed by Xerxes — our first one was a failure), built a scale model of the Hebrew tabernacle, made Greek vases and hieroglyphic tablets out of clay, and on and on.
It’s okay to not get it all done. Just by being around you in an atmosphere of learning will teach your kids a ton.
We learned quickly that success and intelligence isn’t measured by GPA or test scores. The three of my kids who wanted to went to college, all on scholarships. The one who didn’t is just as beloved by us (and everyone who knows her) as those who did, and she has a wonderful job that really helps people.
You aren’t trying to help your kids learn every fact or get everything right. You’re trying to help them learn how to learn for themselves. And how to fix things that are wrong, and how to handle it when they mess up, and how to handle it when unexpected things happen. Showing that you aren’t perfect helps them realize they don’t have to be either and that their worth isn’t in what they do. Those are much more valuable lessons.
Another homeschool mom gave me great advice. She said, “Define your main goal as a parent early on. Filter everything you choose to do through that goal. Ask yourself, ‘Will this help me toward that goal?’ ” My main goal as a homeschool mom and parent in general was not to have happy kids or prepare them for college. It was more about helping them become the people God created them to be and teaching them to love Him. That may not be your goal, but find your own and keep it in mind every day. It really helps you prioritize.
Help others and ask for help yourself
Times like this bring out both the best and worst in people. That makes it a prime time to talk to your kids about service.
- Find ways to help elderly neighbors or a single mom. Get creative with it! I have a friend who’s a physical therapist working in care homes. She was concerned about some of her patients who normally have family visit every day, but now all visitors are restricted. She says that statistically that’s when alot of them begin to die — when they lose that interaction. So they’ve had folks who will come by and talk to the patients through the window. Or donate smartphones and help them figure out FaceTime.
- Don’t have kids at home? Consider giving a break to a mom who does. Run errands for her or watch the kids so she can. Take her a cup of coffee or a cooked meal. Make her an encouraging card.
- There was one year where we were learning about death — not by choice but by circumstances. We had SO many family members and friends pass away, and even had to put one of our dogs to sleep. A family we were close to lost their 2 year old suddenly to a brain tumor (a week from diagnosis to death). Once in awhile the mom would call and say, “We need a distraction. Can y’all come over and play?” or “I need some time to to have a good cry by myself. Can you take the kids for a few hours?” And we would drop everything and go. Finishing the homeschool math work or taking the spelling test just didn’t seem very important on those days.
Be real yourself
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself as well. Find just one person who can give you a 30-minute break so you can take a hot bath. Give your kids free reading time for 30 minutes, then put on your headphones and tune it all out for a bit. Believe me, if anyone starts bleeding they’ll get your attention. Go on a walk by yourself after they are all asleep at night. And they won’t die from watching TV for an hour so you can read a book in peace and quiet.
- Sometimes both you and your kids need a day off. Call it a sick day. Go do something fun or just be lazy. A little of that helps all of you have more energy when you get back to the homeschool stuff.
Share you ideas and questions
I hope I’ve given you some ideas and encouragement. I absolutely believe that every single person reading this post has amazing abilities to help their kids in their education right now and at all times. You will survive this temporary homeschool journey and it will become part of who you are and who your children are. You can choose to let it make you stronger and closer as a family. And you’ll probably be ready to give your kids’ teachers a MUCH bigger “thank you” present.
If you’ve got other ideas or encouragement, please share. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or defeated, ask for some more encouragement or the battle stories of your fellow soldiers. Have a question about how to turn something into a homeschool learning experience? Feel free to ask.