Over the years, for various reasons related to our children’s disabilities and needs, we have homeschooled our children. In all of our cases, it was sudden and unplanned because their schools failed to meet the emotional, physical, and educational needs related to their health and wellbeing.
This is all to say, we know what it is like to have to suddenly take on homeschooling while juggling work, caring for other children, family members and ourselves.
So here is our advice. Take a deep breath and focus on the essentials. Quite frankly, that will probably mean re-framing what you have considered essential about schooling — it was for us.
1. Prioritize Wellbeing: Be Flexible, Be Kind, Be Forgiving. We are all stressed right now, and that includes our children. If you find yourself getting into power struggles over finishing algebra homework, doing handouts, etc., stop and reevaluate (and do this as often as needed). Sit down with your child, and together make educational goals and discuss the ways that are best for both of you to meet those goals. Even small children have insight into what works for them and can listen to what works best for us if we take the time to ask, listen and share. Children need to understand that we have the same stresses, fears, and anxieties that they have and need a model for how to handle those emotions. It is important to normalize that we all make mistakes, we all need help and that we are all working to improve how we are in the world. In this moment, in particular, we need to model how to cooperatively and collaboratively live and work together, which means being able to change plans, try different things, and start over when needed.
2. Be Creative: Be willing to try different approaches, whether it is the time of day, working in short bursts or something else. Maybe it is moving to a certain part of the house. Don’t get caught up on replicating school. This is your chance to take advantage of what you can do differently (and better) to meet the unique needs of your child. For instance, does your child learn better when they are moving? Then let them move. There is no rule that learning only happens in chairs. For younger children, make games of learning. Here are a few examples that worked for us:
- Toss a ball back and forth, have your child dance, or run loops around the house while reciting a poem, doing spelling words, multiplication, etc.
- Learn a new knock-knock joke together each week. Have your child learn to “recite” it, write it and / or read it. (They can call Grandma to share the fun!)
- Read along with audible books and music lyrics. Have kids write their own recipes, songs, and poems. This is a perfect time to share your experiences and family stories with your child.
Allow everyone to have fun!
3. Take This as an Opportunity for Closeness and Bonding: For those of you working at home, to the extent possible, this is an opportunity to show your kids the work you do. This is like Take Your Child to Work Day – Home Version. This may work better for older kids, but keep in mind that all children like to feel involved in our lives. Who knows, you might find you have in-home tech support. Don’t try to replicate your work experience. Remain creative and flexible. This is a learning opportunity for all of us. You will be delighted and amazed at what your children are learning and you have a front-row seat!
All and all, be humble in this experience. The point is that the best thing you can teach your child right now is how to work with others to be creative problem solvers. Ask, “Together, how will we best learn this material during this pandemic while thriving as a family?” Your kids are wise and funny and fun. You don’t need to figure out the answers all by yourself. Together, you got this!