All over the world, people are calling the school closing situation “homeschooling.” We even called it "Suddenly Homeschooling" here at TheHomeSchoolMom, but the reality is that this isn’t homeschooling. It’s schooling from home. That’s right. Just like (I hope) most of you are working from home right now.
Why not just keep calling it homeschooling?
It may seem like just semantics, but there are several important differences between schooling from home (let's call it SFH for short) and typical homeschooling. (Pro tip: there is no such thing as “typical” homeschooling, but we’ll do the best we can here.)
First, planning. Some homeschool families had to make a sudden decision due to health, bullying, or other school or family situations, but in most cases, families take months or even years to think about whether homeschooling will be the best fit for their children.
SFHers had no choice and in many cases, little to no warning, no time to plan for a screeching halt to the normal routine. This brings with it a massive amount of stress beyond what homeschoolers typically experience when they come home.
Second, social distancing. Despite the fact that the number one question homeschoolers get is about socializing, it's really a non-issue. In most areas, there are several activities each week for homeschoolers. We have park days, co-ops, dual-enrollment for older kids, birthday parties, seasonal parties (we like parties), and field trips.
For most homeschool families, the challenge is to keep one or two days a week clear so they can stay home and rest/clean house/do schoolwork. SFHers don’t have that right now, so your whole family is stuck at home. Together. For potentially weeks. Of course, homeschoolers are in the same boat right now, but it's not the norm.
Third, curriculum choices. From what I’m seeing on Facebook, some school districts are sending home more work than others, but in most cases, as long as your child is still enrolled in their school, the school is handling the actual curriculum. You can absolutely homeschool without a formal curriculum, but for now, you don’t even have to make that decision.
Teachers all over the country are scrambling to set up distance learning programs, and in most cases, the school system will still be teaching your child. (Remember teachers are also SFH with their own kids now, on top of helping yours, so be gentle.)
Fourth, deschooling. The first thing we recommend to new homeschoolers is deschooling. (Not unschooling. I’m a fan, but they’re not the same thing.) Homeschooling is not public school and both parent and child need time to shift their paradigm. That doesn’t apply if you are suddenly schooling from home. If you’re planning to send your child back to school when it reopens, then it would be better to treat this time as more of an extended spring break. With homework.
However, you will still have a lot of extra time as you discover what homeschoolers have always known—school doesn’t take as much time when you don’t have to teach 20-30 kids. In all the extra time, let your kids spend as much time as they can outside, read, play board games, assemble jigsaw puzzles, watch some movies, and enjoy the list we’ve put together of things to do online. And remember that being bored is a good thing.
Your kids won’t be “behind” when school starts back. This is already a stressful time. Don’t make schoolwork another stressor. If the schoolwork is putting undue stress or anxiety on your child or your family, talk to your child’s teacher.
Your children will learn even without curriculum, and even doing things you don’t see as educational.
So while this is being called “homeschooling” all over the world, it isn’t a true representation of homeschooling.
You have much more time right now with your family than homeschoolers typically do (and probably much, much more than your family is accustomed to).
You don’t have to make any curriculum decisions, and the flip side of that is that you’re still accountable to your school system. And that's okay. We welcome SFHers into our fold and if you decide to homeschool when school starts back, we'll get you a new name tag. 😉