Some Quiet Thoughts on the Homeschool Life
Over the past week, I have been inundated with links, information and a wave of educational resources that could overwhelm even the most seasoned homeschool veteran.
When I look back and think about how, when I chose to homeschool, the first day I opened the "how to homeschool" checklist and went through the list for my Kindergartener, I was overwhelmed and my stomach twisted into knots.
But, I was excited, and determined, and so I sat up straighter in my chair and began to look closer at the schedule.
It turns out, the schedule (about ten pages of checklists) that I thought was for an entire year of Kindergarten was actually designed to be completed in six weeks.
How was I supposed to do all of that? Much less get my children through subsequent grades?
And so, if I think back to when homeschool was new to me, and how overwhelming it seemed, I get anxiety just seeing all the recommendations that have flooded the Internet so far.
It's made me second-guess even writing anything about the subject.
I do not want to add to the noise.
But, if I can share a little of what I've learned along the way and it helps one family, I feel like it is worth it.
When the Camp Fire ushered chaos, uncertainty, and trauma into our lives, school as we knew it had to be postponed and then, modified for a very long time.
Trauma and uncertainty do so much to the heart and brain, and one thing is for sure, suddenly learning new skills is about 1000% times harder, focus for extended periods is next to impossible, and even things that were once loved (reading, Lego building, or painting) can be a trigger for grief.
To ignore this hardship, to attempt to push through like it is "business as usual" or to double down on the worksheets is the worst way to approach learning in this kind of situation (in my non-expert, yet very experienced opinion).
Also, "learning new skills" doesn't only mean learning geometry or how to add double-digit numbers. A new skill could be learning how to work in an environment different from what you are used to.
We went from quiet, kitchen table/couch/schoolroom learning to listening to audio books in the car, learning math skills at coffee shops and learning how to write at a spare picnic table. Before the subject could be successfully addressed, we needed to first learn how to learn in the new environment.
In the event of a family suddenly thrust into a homeschool environment, it is vital that you give yourself and your children time to adjust to this sudden change.
Your homeschool experience should have one goal:
Children are incredible learners, created with an amazing ability to learn and grow and catch up in unprecedented ways.
If during these next few weeks, or months, you work on that (potentially) crazy checklist, but you mostly find ways to learn and grow as a family, you will not regret it.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything so far it should be that life is short and that people are important.
There will be bumps in your homeschool days.
Expect them, work through them, and then do the next thing.
Read the next book.
Talk about it.
Write about it.
Draw a picture about it.
Pick one amazing link of virtual field trips offered and spend an afternoon exploring.
Since I know many people are trying not to make trips to the store too often, instead of baking a separate unnecessary food, have the kids help prepare dinner or lunch.
Check one of the items off of that official checklist.
Build something out of legos, out of pillows or out of the blankets.
Clean a cupboard that needs it.
Add a quiet time to your afternoon.
Our quiet time started when the kids stopped taking naps, but I didn't quit being an introvert.
Every day after lunch, they would spend 1 hour in their rooms for quiet play, reading, or rest.
My kids never picked rest, and "quiet" had a very fluid definition.
But it gave all of us some time to sit, to learn to think and to be alone, discover our own interests, and by the end of the hour, we all appreciated being around each other much more.
For a few years, when the kids really complained about it, I felt very guilty about this hour.
I thought that I was perhaps pushing my introvertedness onto them and into their extroverted days.
But, now that we are on the downhill end of this homeschool life, not only do my kids miss when we cannot have this quiet hour, but I can see the fruit that has come from the seeds planted in their days with quiet hours of play, creativity and innovation.
Warning! Sometimes innovation involved trying to find ways to sneak out of their rooms, or ways to talk to each other without me catching them, or other nefarious exploits ;) This isn't an hour where mom ceases to be mom (ha! from day one there never is that hour, right?!), but just an hour of intended quiet.
The last thing I will share on this subject in this post is how valuable a flexible yet set routine was to our family.
When life circumstances are uncertain, a schedule that dictates that we all are at the kitchen table by 7:30 for breakfast and that we finish our math by 10:00 is doomed to fail.
Even on the best of days, that kind of schedule is difficult to stick with, but if you throw other outside stress and uncertainty on top of it, it becomes a waste of planning time and energy.
Instead, I set up a routine of sorts that covers all the basics, helps me to remember what is our next thing to do, and also allows us to go with the flow of uncharted days.
A simple routine for older children could be something like this:
Brush Teeth/Get Dressed
Break (hopefully outside!)
Play (hopefully outside!)
Get Ready for Bed
This routine doesn't force a certain activity to a specific time slot, or a certain activity each day. It merely reminds each person what comes next. Having a routine like this, especially during times of upset, is very grounding and can eliminate unnecessary complications that arise from boredom, differences in expectations, and just the frustration of not knowing what comes next. Not to mention, it helps fight against decision fatigue!
I hope that you have found something helpful here!
If you are interested in reading some older homeschool posts I've written you can find them here, here and here.