I know a lot of you are at your wits’ end right now. Some of you are enjoying your kids being home. You’re loving (almost) every minute with your children because you’ve been starved for it all of these years. Maybe you’re a working mom who’d prefer to be a stay-at-home mom, or maybe COVID-19 has released you from an overly busy schedule and this mandatory downtime is exactly what you needed. But some of you are creeping from the bedroom to the kitchen on tiptoes hoping to goodness that no one hears you because you just want a cup of coffee without anyone asking you a question. I get it. I’ve been a work-at-home homeschooling mom for eight years. I totally get it.
Here’s what I want you to know about homeschooling during the Coronavirus: This isn’t homeschooling. It’s not even close.
Homeschooling is a cooperative effort between your family and the surrounding community. Our typical week involves a co-op day of classes with hundreds of other homeschoolers. We have soccer practice four days a week and private French lessons once a week. We go to the library and hang out with friends and neighbors. We go to museums, and we travel often. We also choose our curriculum and amend the pace at which we follow it. We speed up, we slow down, we take longer breaks when we need to.
We absolutely do not stay home all day every day staring at computer screens, nor do we sit at the kitchen table for hours of instruction. Equally, we aren’t all suddenly work-at-home parents who have to log in to conference calls and Zoom meetings while simultaneously teaching the Pythagorean Theorem and photosynthesis.
Let me release you from thinking that what’s happening in your home is what homeschooling looks like.
We are all in crisis mode with much greater worries at hand, such as financial stability and maintaining our physical and mental health. Hear me: losing two months of the traditional school year will not hinder your children’s long-term academic abilities.
Instead of trying to mimic traditional school at home, which you’ll never do, release yourself from that fantasy and consider these tips:
- Reinforce what your kids have already learned this year. Ask them to explain the water cycle to you or some other science concept they’ve learned (Check Khan Academy if you need help). Have them write a short story or do some math drills. Encourage them to journal this experience, not just for writing practice, but also to have as a keepsake for later. Don’t worry about teaching new material. Other than high schoolers who have to take an AP Exam (and we all feel the worst for seniors right now), no student is learning new material in April and May that can’t be covered in August.
- Show them how to run a household. If your kids aren’t doing any chores during social distancing, get them started immediately. Every child, tween, and teenager can do something, whether it’s folding towels, picking weeds, or washing windows. They are fully capable of contributing to the running of the house in addition to being responsible for their bedrooms and personal belongings. There is plenty of time for screens, of course, but have them unload the dishwasher and take out the trash first.
- Talk to your kids. Answer their questions about COVID-19 with age-appropriate answers, but also tell family stories. Ask them what their earliest memories are and fill in the gaps with details. Ask them how they slept last night and what they’re thinking about, and what they’d like to eat for dinner this week. Do this over a board game or puzzle, or chat as you take a walk in the neighborhood. It is easy to retreat to screens and stay disconnected from one another, but doing that misses a huge opportunity. Many families are starved for connection, and now is the perfect time to dig in and get to know each other again. The connections you make now are valuable investments for the future.