Suddenly Schooling at Home
Updated: Feb 21
Many families are finding themselves suddenly schooling at home for the next 3 weeks or more. I’m Midwife Tiffany and have been homeschooling (on purpose!) for the past 3 years. We started out with our kids in public school and made the switch a few years ago, and like you in some ways I NEVER planned to be a homeschooling parent- I’m sharing my 5 best tips to embrace the transition as a new schooling at home fam. YOU GOT THIS!
1. Lower Whatever Expectations You Have:
Whatever you are imagining for your homeschool time together, give yourself and your children even more grace. It’s easy to take all the novelty, the pressure and the anxiety of this endeavor and make it more than it has to be. You are not creating a typical school day in your home, you are having a normal family day with some learning sprinkled in. The operative word here is ‘sprinkled’. Tamper your expectations and your kids’ abilities. They will not be able (nor should they be expected) to do 7 hours of work, especially at first. Start slow, start fun, start together and build on the time and work output as you both get more comfortable with the rhythm of learning at home.
2. Minimize YOUR Distractions:
Do yourself a huge favor and put your phone away. Your day will go so much smoother if you do not have your phone out with all its distractions. (And this is coming from a perpetually on-call midwife who is used to being strapped to a phone, so I fully understand the sacrifice in silencing that sucker- do it!) Your kids are going to need all of your attention, even when they are working well independently- fight the urge to multitask. I’ve noticed that going to the garage to push the laundry leads to checking the mail real quick, which reminds me there’s an email I have to send and then I have fully pulled out of the present moment with my kids. I use a small piece of scrap paper to make a list of things I need to do on the next schooling break so I can capture them when they come to mind without pulling myself away from teaching. (More about breaks in #4.) It also helps to plan to wake up before your kids each morning to get a grip on what needs to be done in your personal and schooling lives. You’ll find that when doing this you start your day with your cup more full and willing to be poured out for your kids.
3. Create Routine, Not a Schedule:
Don’t get sidetracked or preoccupied with needing to keep a schedule to keep your day on track. Time limits often create more stress than time management for homeschool. Routines are a more natural fit for family life. Make a general list of the order you would like to move throughout your day and share it with your kids. They will enjoy knowing what is going to happen too. Once you get a few days under your belt, you’ll have a general idea for how long each thing takes you guys. How will you know when to stop an activity and move onto the next thing? Your kiddos will lose interest, attention and willingness. You will feel tempted to pressure them to keep going, work on one more problem, or finish the page or passage. This is a rookie mistake, trust me- the best thing is move on and come back to it later in the day or tomorrow. Having this approach allows a lot of flexibility to lean into what your child is interested in and will keep peace in your relationship, which is some of the real life magic of homeschool!
Here is a sample routine of how we spend our days (4th and 1st grade):
Reading aloud (a calm way to come together and get ready for learning)
Math (we choose this first because it’s the most challenging subject for all of us and we like to use fresh brains and be done with it early)
Break (snack, play time, chores)
Language Arts (reading, writing, grammar and spelling)
Lunch Break (longer time for eating and playing outside)
Science / History (alternates every-other day)
Break (snack, playtime or resting)
Family Learning (interest-based activity done all together like cooking, craft or art, field trip, time in nature etc)
Most of the school portion of our days begin around 9am and end around 1 or 2pm. Sometimes we dive deep in one or two areas and don’t get to all subjects. Sometimes we take longer breaks and don’t finish until dinnertime- be flexible with how this comes together for your family.
4. Take Lots of Breaks:
You’ll notice from the sample schedule above that we take lots of breaks. You’ll be tempted again to skip the breaks and just crush out all the work to finish faster, but again this will backfire. Kids need a lot of movement and time for creative play to keep their brains engaged all day. Kids also need a lot of snacks and brain fuel- we often serve even more food during lessons, it works! If a lesson is going south, or someone starts crying or is having a particularly hard day (yes, even you), the answer is always to take more breaks. We usually do keep time on breaks, and set a timer so everyone knows how much time there is and can use it how they need to recharge and come back to learning. End your day with the best break of all- decide as a family how you want to celebrate a day of schooling accomplished together. Any type of reward big or small works here; something for everyone to look forward to and work towards. Sometimes it’s a favorite show, treat or prize. We collect points at our house that can be used for bigger rewards at the end of the week.
5. Embrace Alternative Learning:
The best moments in homeschooling are made on the fringes of your days together. Your kids can learn the core subjects from anyone, but you have the most unique opportunity to dazzle them with more. Brainstorm with your kids about what their interests and passions are. Make an additional family list of things you’d like to learn and explore as a family. Work through the lists together and think outside the box on how you will create learning experiences. Get curious with them, mama!
Some ideas of how to dive deeper into interests:
Utilize YouTube for how to’s and art lessons
Look up recipes and cooking shows
Explore a new area outdoors
Check out library & audio book apps and podcast
Use Prime and Netlix for documentary viewing
Write a letter or email to an expert Learn to make and edit home videos
I’ll end with a sentiment that I seem to need often and that is- YOU GOT THIS! You are completely equipped to come alongside your children in this way and shepherd their minds and hearts. You have done it in every other aspect of life for them since they were born, and you can use all the tools of motherhood applied to homeschool as well. You are also not alone, you have friends, you have me and you have the internet- DOn’t be afraid to ask questions, to learn something new, to be open to how these challenges enhance your bond with your kids- YOU GOT THIS!
Here's a list of tried and true homeschool resources to check out:
Smithsonian Natural History Museum
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