We all started from somewhere but not all of us were able to get advice – well, good advice that would actually help us in our situations. So I wanted to make sure that the new homeschool moms who were forced into it due to the coronavirus situation are at least with help. The following list is my absolute favorite tips for new homeschool families. I created this list based on my failures and breakthroughs and hope that it will be an encouragement during these harsh times.
Tips for New Homeschool Families
1. DO NOT TRY TO SCHOOL AT HOME- it will not work. Meaning, your children are made to sit for 8 hours (sit and be quiet), learn in a room with lots of other kids, staring at the clock and wall, review many subjects a day, etc. For us homeschooler families, most of the time this does not work. It only will frustrate you to pieces to try to mimic a school setting at home. Your kids know that they are home just this fact will make them “not” want to do school at home if forced to review subjects and follow a time-based schooling system.
Instead, try to give your children grace. After all, it is not their fault that this virus has closed the schools. It is also not the job of any school or teacher to teach our children to “sit and be quiet” for 8 hours a day. When children were historically schooled at home by their families (before the institution of public schools began), they were in constant hands-on mode. Meaning, that your children’s brain learns better when he or she is actively learning- not just sitting still and staring at the teacher all day. This is ESPECIALLY important for families with children on the autism spectrum or ADHD children. They already can not cope with trying to sit for so long and most of them if in a public school are on medicines to keep them sitting still.
I have no problem with disciplining our children so that they can learn to sit and be quiet when they are needed. Like at religious sittings or special occasions, etc. It is very respectful when children can be quiet in these types of environments and is part of teaching them about respect, good manners, etc. But please do not go into this thinking your child will sit at home like he or she would at school. It will not work and I learned this very quickly with my own children. Granted each child is different so take the clues of your children and give them space to adjust. Which brings me to the next tip.
2. Each child is different and learns differently. Do not treat them all to the same or expect them all to finish work at the same time or pace. Remember that they are in a way forced to turn in work and assignments on the same deadline as their classmates at school. This does not mean that they understand that work, but that they were taught to complete the tasks. Sometimes children are scared to show that they do not understand something and will just go with whatever their peers are doing for the sake of moving along. This is one problem the schools have now because they do not hold children back anymore, they will keep them with their peers, passing levels until graduation- even if some can not read or write. It is very sad in my opinion. So as a parent that is new to homeschool or forced into it during the COVID-19 scare, just remember to set the pace per child with their work. They may not finish the same, it is ok- let them complete the work the next day. You may have a child that is quick to finish work- and you may be happy, but if you ask them what did they learn, they may not be able to remember because they are completing the task given and not necessarily learning. You may also have a child finish work very fast and they love it so much that they are on task and can remember everything. You may feel amazed that it only too an hour or two for them to learn. This brings me to my next tip.
3. Do not time school at home like a normal school day. Most of us homeschooling families can actually finish everything (all subjects) in half the time it takes for a school to finish. Remember, the classes at school may have 20 or more students. You may only have 2 or 3… or a bit more, so you do not have to divide up time to make sure that all 20 kids are learning. School time is set up this way to make sure everyone can at least get proper learning because there are a lot of kids. You can finish your homeschool by lunchtime or early afternoon and let the kids play outside for the remainder of the day. A normal time frame for my house would be the little learners start at 9am and finish by 1pm – which also includes break times, lunch, etc. My older one starts at 10am and is finished by 2pm. And at times when my little one with autism has a bad day- guess what….we barely do work and I have learned that he will do better the next day. I do not worry about it or beat myself up, we just stop and give the kids grace.
Because public schools are not able to give as much grace or take care of the individual needs of the many students as you can at home- your day is shorter and now you have time to spend with your children to do fun things. Or for mom or dad to rest for a while.
4. Give many breaks and lots of time outside or doing sensory time. Kids love sensory activities, playing outside or even watching nature documentaries on Netflix or Youtube. You can be cooking or cleaning something and let them have a break or two, or watch something education. It is OK, they are fine. Take breaks for your mental health and so that they can get up and move around, which promotes better focus and learning. Bringing me to my next tip…
5. Make your environment one that the kids can learn in. They can not learn in a place that dirty or a table that no one can sit at…they can not learn with toys on the floor or things all cluttered. I know that we are in hard times but being home and practicing social distance also means that you have a bit more time to clean or declutter the home. Doing a little each day will help. If clutter makes an adult loose focus or go crazy, what do you think it does to a small child?
In addition to decluttering and cleaning, you can practice aromatherapy and find out what scents help us focus. You can also light scented candles or have relaxing music on in the background. My kids love to listen to classical music when learning or lo-fi beats in the background. Having a clean, relaxed place to learn will help everyone remain calm. Once you are stressed or they are, learning will no longer be fun.
6. If you are spiritual. Practice this in the morning before learning time. Better yet, before you begin- maybe during breakfast, have a devotion or affirmation time with your children. The best thing to do every day is to start the day off with your creator and teach your children the sacred art of gratitude. Read to them while they are eating, engage them into what you are saying. Ask them how do they feel. Get them involved and I guarantee your day will be off to a better start.
7. Plan ahead and wake up before your kids. If you can plan a day or two in advance for your kids’ learning and your tasks at home and work (if you are now working from home as well), you will give yourself an advantage over your day. If you do not have a planner, you can grab a notebook and plan.
8. Use what you have at home. The best way to teach is to use your resources up. There is no need to go buy lots of stuff. If you have a computer or laptop, use that. Paper and pen, colors and markers, fine. Whatever books you have at the moment, let them read. Try not to be so formal until you have a plan to be. Amazon is also a great resource during this time for workbooks in different grade levels. I also use a site called TeachersPayTeachers.com where you can go to support teachers who build their own worksheets and pdf files. Just pay for a digital download if you don’t have a workbook, print it and that is it. Be resourceful, if cooking- bring the kids in. If cleaning, bring the kids in. If playing outside, let them play. Teach them living subjects- nature, math through cooking, space through exploring, etc.
9. Use online sites such as ABCMouse or Khan Academy, Readingeggs, Homer, Teachyourmonstertoread, etc. There is nothing wrong with online learning. Let them do it. I also have used a great site called Outschool.com, where you pay for Zoom classes for your kids. You can pick any subject and most teachers will have different times or days to pick from. These classes are great because they encourage social interaction, even though it is online.
10. Establish good routines and habits while at home. I believe that it is better to use a routine than a time schedule. If you have a routine, your kids know what to expect. They know what they should be doing and by doing so teaches them good habits. They should not be running around the house during a time frame you have for school. If video games is at 3pm, then they know school is before games. I let my kids wear pjs to homeschool unless we go out. However, since we are all on social distance right now…pjs every day is the new motto lol.
In addition to establishing a good routine, I suggest beginning homeschool a bit later than what they know from school. I do not get my kids up at 7am, I wait until 8am and then I let them have free time until I am finished cooking breakfast. Breakfast in my house is a time indicator that we need to be ready for school after. This way, my kids do not fight with me to begin, they know that our routine is to eat breakfast first. Even if we start later due to oversleeping in, if they don’t see breakfast, they know they are still on morning free time.
Also guess what, sometimes I don’t feel like teaching!!! Just like teachers who grab the movie tv or projector for class at school and give the kids a movie day- you can do this too. You are sick? Guess what, free day. The kids are sick- free day. It’s ok. Grace is given. Trust me, if you use these tips and learn to be a bit more relaxed in your homeschool journey, your children will show you just how much they can learn and RETAIN better than when we force s harsh schedule on them. This is one of the reasons why homeschool kids often out-perform children of the same age in certain tasks, even test-taking. They are able to do so because they were in a loving environment that was one on one and they were encouraged to grow on their own time. When children encourage this, they are able to boost their own self-esteem and confidence. This is what I have seen in my kids and in other friend’s children who were homeschooled.
I encourage you all today to try my tips and share them. If you find yourself struggling with this new situation of having your children at home and teaching them- you are not alone. It took me a year and a half to get it and it was hard at first because one of my kiddos is on the autism spectrum. Go to Youtube and type new to homeschool and listen to all of the other moms there giving you this same advice. It works and I believe it will work for you. Be blessed. -Keturah
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