For many of us living in areas where there are cases of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, we are under pretty strict orders to "shelter in place." School has been canceled, restaurants are take-out only, and "non-essential" business have had to close their doors.
So where does this leave our fellow parents who now have children stuck at home that are usually in school all day?
As a full time traveling family who has always homeschooled, I feel like there are a few things that we have up our sleeve that can help some of the parents now suddenly homeschooling their kids. Here are my top 10 tips...
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Don't Try To Do "School At Home"
There is a HUGE misconception among non-homeschoolers that those who self teach their children simply bring what is taught in the classroom to the home.
The truth is that homeschooling looks very, very different from a traditional classroom...including what is taught.
There are many different ways to homeschool and it looks different for every family. Some families follow a strict curriculum and do structured school 5 days a week, some families do lots of hands on activities and read lots of books but don't use a structured curriculum at all, some follow a method called "unschooling" or "child led learning."
The point is that no two families look the same, and neither does the way our kids learn.
I think the number one thing that we all have in common is that our "school" is not simply "school at home."
We do have several curricula we follow, In that way, it might look like we do much of what is done in a public school. However, what makes it so different is that we are able to customize our learning to each child and adjust based on their needs. We typically do "formal" school 4 days a week, with Fridays being set aside for a nature walk, playground day, or field trip.
Our school day consists of everyone waking up and doing chores around 7:30-8. We eat breakfast about 8:30 and finish up chores. School starts at 9:3o and we are usually done by noon. Our afternoons are spent reading, playing outside with friends, watching movies, or whatever else we come up with.
As you can see, we do not spend an entire 7 or 8 hours sitting around a table "doing school." Instead, we knock it all out first thing in the morning so that we can do what we want for the rest of the day!
Let The World Be Your "Classroom"
This may sound corny...but it really is true.
Kids can learn SO MUCH by just getting outside, getting dirty, and exploring the world around them.
We love to spend hours playing in creeks, walking on trails, or even just digging in the dirt at our campsite. What the kids don't realize is that every time one of them asks a question about something, we ALL learn something new. If it's something I can't answer, I pull out my phone, look it up, and we learn together.
One of the absolute best things about us being nomadic is that we get to learn in a new location every few weeks or months. We visit as many museums, National/State Parks, zoos, aquariums, and historic sites as we can. Sometimes, we will choose to do one of those over doing "real school" that day. And you know what...they learn SO MUCH!
We just so happen to be in a unique situation that allows us to be able to go to so many places, but any family can do the same thing in their own area. Go to a park, have a picnic, meet up with friends at a play space, take a nature walk, or visit a local lake. You'll be amazed at what you'll find to learn about.
Connect With Others
One of the things that was hardest for me when we first started homeschooling was the lack of support.
We lived in a small town that actually had a large homeschooling population. However, there were not a lot of homeschool co-ops or groups that got together. I felt a tad isolated and didn't have anyone to talk to, get advice from, or bounce ideas off of.
Finding a community is SO IMPORTANT.
If you are brand new to educating your child at home, having an experienced homeschool family to mentor you is a great way to get started. Luckily, I had a wonderful friend who was a 15+ year veteran homeschool mom and she was so valuable to me, both in mentorship, and friendship.
Now that we travel full time, our community has changed. We love to connect with other full time traveling families who are also homeschooling. We belong to several groups where we can meet up with others around the country throughout the year. We tend to meet up with the same families over and over and our kids have become lifelong friends.
Facebook is also a great place to find a community of like minded people. I belong to several homeschooling groups that revolve around the curriculum we use as well as one in my hometown. This is a great way to ask for advice, opinions, etc.
You Are In Charge
One of my biggest tips for new homeschool families is to remember that YOU are in charge of your child's education.
Unlike when you have your child enrolled in a public or private school, the curriculum (or lack thereof) you choose, how you spend your day, what extra-curricular activities your child does...it is up to you. No one can dictate what your child must or must not learn. (as long as you are following the laws of your state)
This provides so much freedom in that we can educate our children how we see fit...but it also brings a lot of responsibility.
When I first started homeschooling, I felt like I needed the approval of everyone. I wanted validation that I was doing the right thing. But ultimately, no one's opinion mattered except the ones of myself and my husband.
Don't Try To Do It All
Keep it simple. There is no reason to try and teach 14 different subjects in one day, or force feed your kids something they have zero interest in learning.
Homeschooling gives us the freedom to take it at our own pace. There may be some days that all you do is one lesson from one subject. Or there may be years that you don't even do a science curriculum. And that is ok.
If you try and teach every possible subject, every day, all year long...you WILL get burnt out!!!
My advice: When you're new...just do the basics! Find what method of homeschool works best for you before you invest into a ton of curricula only to find out that it wasn't for you. We only did reading, handwriting, and math our first year. I threw in some art and fun activities because it was kindergarten...but we kept it super simple! We only did school 3 days a week then as well.
As you figure out what works for your family as far as schedule, speed of learning, and the type of curriculum you prefer...then add things when your children are ready.
There are some WONDERFUL and educational games on the market. All you need to do is go to Amazon and search "educational games" and see what comes up.
We play lots of games with cards, dice, and anything else we have laying around too. Sometimes, we come up with our own silly games!
One of our all-time favorites though is the OSMO! You can ready my in depth article about Osmo HERE but just know that is is awesome for any family if you own an iPad, iPhone, or Fire tablet.
It's basically an interactive learning game that keeps kids ages 6-10 ( I say more like 5-12) engaged and learning for hours! There are many games that you can add to go along with the Osmo Genius kit and we have almost all of them now. We use it with our iPad and iPad mini...just be sure that if you order one, get the right base for your device.
They even have an ALL NEW Osmo "Little Genius" Kit for younger children!
Go To The Library!
We go to the library weekly whenever possible. Most libraries have awesome children's sections and offer many activities for kids of all ages.
We don't just check out books either. Most libraries have DVDs and audiobooks. And some even check out games and musical instruments!
When we are traveling, we still try to visit the local library. Many will still give us a temporary card and let us check out books for school.
Some libraries offer toddler time. This is a fantastic way to give your littlest ones something that is tailored just for them. Many times, you'll see homeschool families with older children there. The older children can use this time to browse books, use the computer, or they can even bring some quiet school work along with them.
Since I am writing this at the time of the Coronavirus crisis...I will add... going to the library right now is not possible. BUT...our library is actually allowing you to reserve online and they are doing curbside pickup!!!
Most libraries also have loads on online resources including books and audio you can access from home. Usually all you need is a library card!
Shout Out To getepic.com!
Epic is an online library for parents and educators. They have THOUSANDS of books available to read online, as well as read alongs, audio books, and educational videos. We love Epic!
There are SO MANY resources online for homeschoolers.
Just a few of the ones we have tried, currently use, or have been recommended by friends are;
I love this resource. Years ago, I purchased a lifetime membership to their site. We go through times where we use it a lot, and then others where I just print a few coloring sheets for holidays. Since we purchased our membership, they have added thousands of printables, activities, and lesson plans for teachers. I use it mostly for printing activities and coloring pages that pair well with our main curriculum. Our youngest loves that she can have a page to color that goes along with what the older two kids and I are reading about.
They also have something they call "guided lessons." It's basically math, reading/spelling, and keyboard games that monitor your child's progress. We mostly use it for the typing program and it has been a great way for the kids to get familiar with using an actual computer vs their tablets.
The Step-by-Step Learning Path presents the full ABCmouse.com curriculum in a carefully designed program of more than 850 lessons in ten levels. As your child completes each lesson, he or she is guided to the next one and is motivated to continue learning by ABCmouse.com's Tickets and Rewards System.
*Adventure Academy is from the same company that created abcmouse. It is their online program for children who have outgrown abcmouse. We are signing up our oldest child so that he can try this as a "rainy day" something to do other than playing Minecraft.
Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool
A complete, free, online, christian homeschool curriculum! Use it as your only curriculum, or use it as a supplement...it's up to you. I love that this option is a complete curriculum that doesn't cost anything and makes homeschooling available to anyone!
Math, Science, History, Oh my! Khan Academy is a free curriculum that is completely online and easy to use for any age. We have not personally used Khan but it has ben highly recommended by many homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike.
Yep...there are TONS of ways to use YouTube as an educational outlet. No matter what age, there are many videos on almost any topic you can dream of. Our kids LOVE watching goofy science experiment videos. They are always begging me to replicate what they've learned.
*There are so many great resources out there that we could not possibly mention even a small percentage of them. These are things that we have found to be simple, and effective.
Make Time For Fun
Everyone needs to learn how to read, write, do arithmetic, and more. However, we all get burnt out from time to time. Make sure you take time to do something FUN!
One of the main reasons for homeschooling is that you have to freedom to do other things!
We really like that we are able to get out and do fun things while most people are in school. In the middle of a weekday is the best time to visit a museum, take a music lesson, or just go to the trampoline park!
Or keep it simple and just take a day off to have a movie day. Eat popcorn, watch movies in your pjs, and have fun.
Make Time For Mom & Dad
If you are going to homeschool, you will be spending A LOT more time with your kids than if they were in a school.
I both love this fact, and also wish sometimes I had more time to myself. And that's ok. Parents need a break. Don't feel bad if there comes a time that you just want to throw in the towel and send everyone to bed. It WILL happen.
You have to make time for yourself. And you have to make time for your marriage.
Have a date night. Take a walk around the block after the kids are in bed. Or take an entire day off, get a babysitter, and spend the day pampering yourselves.
Last thoughts; Homeschooling is an awesome, incredibly fulfilling, and amazing journey! I wouldn't give it up for anything! I love that I get to watch my kids light up when they learn something new. I love when they finally figure something out after struggling with it. And we love that we get to spend so much more time together as a family, making memories that will last a lifetime.
It isn't always easy...but it's ALWAYS worth it!