If you are new here, welcome! I hope you find the information in this post helpful and reassuring during this time of uncertainty.
Because of required social distancing, school systems across the country are closing for weeks or months, and parents everywhere are asking about how to homeschool or help their children learn at home. Short-term homeschooling is not new—it has existed alongside long-term homeschooling for many years, and parents may be reassured to know that this option has worked well for families for lots of different reasons.
Those of us who are already homeschooling may have the luxury of using this time to introduce a unit study on emergency preparedness. Those who are thrust into suddenly having kids at home may instead feel like they are experiencing trial by fire.
If you have kids at home unexpectedly, or if you’re advising a family member or friend with kids who are out of school, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Childcare is the critical element
Parents scramble when schools close for a few snow days, and they have to come up with child care and ways to occupy children’s time. School closings for the purpose of social distancing during a pandemic are an unexpected and new situation that adds an additional layer of stress to typical school closures.
Time out of school will be longer, and worries about contagion will increase the difficulty to getting others to watch children. Put energy into securing supervision and a safe environment first, as it is the most important consideration.
School is in charge of school
Although this unusual situation is being called homeschooling, it’s really not. It can be scary to homeschool even after much research and preparation; suddenly finding yourself in charge of your children’s learning may seem overwhelming or even terrifying. Breathe—the homeschooling part of the current situation need not add to your stress. If your child is staying connected with the public school during their time at home, just follow the school’s plan.
If you are using school closings as an opportunity to begin homeschooling that will extend past your school’s re-opening, you will need to follow your state’s home education law. Every state is different. Read Homeschooling 101 and our Quickstart Guide to Homeschooling if you plan to continue homeschooling.
Homeschool schedules come in all shapes and sizes
It can be confusing to decide how to schedule your child’s day when you have never homeschooled, and we are seeing a lot of inquiries about what a typical homeschool day looks like.
The truth is that there is no typical homeschool day; homeschool schedules are as varied as homeschool families. The linked post describes some of the possible ways to implement a homeschool schedule that works for your individual situation.
Homeschooling when you have babies and toddlers creates unique challenges, and supervising your child’s learning during a period of online schooling is no different. Rebecca has some helpful scheduling suggestions in her two part series Homeschooling with Young Children.
Sometimes the order of the homeschooling schedule is less important than the environment and method of implementing the schedule. The two part series Tips for Keeping Children Engaged can help you ward off distraction and boredom with schoolwork.
Contributor Vanessa Wright recently wrote about a day in the life of homeschooling her three teens. The post was written pre-social distancing, but the insight into her homeschool schedule is still helpful.
TheHomeSchoolMom offers a comprehensive homeschool and household planner to our newsletter subscribers that you might find helpful for tracking assignments, reading lists, meal plans, and more. You can sign up here and download the planner as soon as you confirm your email. You’ll also get access to several unit studies and workbooks with your free subscription.
Academics can be triaged
If you plan to permanently homeschool, or your children are young enough that they will not have a lot of work, you can focus on meeting their current needs now. Even when children will be returning to school, schoolwork at home usually takes less time than in a classroom environment, allowing more flexibility. Stay in touch with the school and your child’s teachers, and work together to meet your child’s needs.
With working at home being more efficient, you may find yourself with lots of time to fill. TheHomeSchoolMom has put together a list of 50+ free educational resources to use online during social distancing.
Many parents are concerned about making sure that kids are getting enough physical activity during this time; our ideas for homeschool P.E. can help.
You have needs that require and deserve attention
In addition to securing childcare or suddenly needing to supervise learning, parents may be worried because jobs and income are jeopardized. You may be unexpectedly preparing to feed a family with unreliable food availability (you may find these 7 practical tips helpful).
Don’t neglect your own needs. Whether you are trying to work from home while taking care of children full-time or are simply overwhelmed by the worries and challenges facing you, you have to take care of yourself first.
Your community can use your help
With so many financial and logistical needs created by closures, this is a good time to model compassion and responsible citizenship for your children. You can explain to your children that your decision to stay home unless your presence is needed somewhere else is a sign of your concern for those who are most vulnerable.
One of the H’s in the 4H program is Heart, and part of Heart is helping children grow spiritually or philosophically. Raising well-rounded and compassionate children encompasses educating the head, heart, hands, and health.
Consider how you can help families in your community, where there are children for whom “no school” means “no lunch,” and maybe also not enough responsible adults or usual services.
Do you have elderly neighbors who may not be able to get to the store or who do not have the ability to order supplies online?
Are there organizations providing lunches for at risk students who are out of school that could use donations or delivery help?
Many things in our lives are uncertain right now. No, we don’t know how everyone will manage. Yes, we want to pay attention to how we can help. Yes, we’ll reflect on how our institutions serve communities under duress.
As a society, we’ll get a whole new context for the phrase, “live and learn.” I am encouraged by the generosity of spirit I see around me, and the coming together of communities even during a time when we have to stay apart.