I’m not sure I thought I’d ever see the day when half of the United States population was homeschooling*.
But here we are!
Welcome to the group, everyone. 😉
*A reader pointed out that perhaps a better name for this is “distance learning”. Still. You are doing school. At home. So, it’s kinda similar to homeschooling. 🙂
I’m sorry you had to join us under such unfortunate circumstances; this is not the way anyone wants to make a huge educational change.
If you decided to homeschool and you had time to prep, plan, and prepare, it would be one thing.
But to be suddenly thrust into it with no choice? Well, that kind of sucks.
I feel for all of you!
Plus, you’re homeschooling in isolation without the benefit of tutorials, group field trips, playdates, and more.
It’s like the worst of the worst, and you guys are bravely getting through it. High fives to you.
Some of you have been sending me, “HELP ME I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!!!” messages, and I wanted to write a post to offer assistance.
But, I needed some help figuring out exactly what you guys are struggling with, so I asked on social media yesterday.
And in today’s post, I’ll answer your questions as best I can.
What do you do with younger kids while you homeschool?
This is tough, I know!
When my kids were still in the napping stage, I chose to tackle school right after lunch, while the smallest people were down for a nap.
I personally prefer to jump right in after breakfast, but nap time just flat out works better when you have several small children.
Children in early grades don’t need hours of instruction, so we could usually manage to knock it all out during sibling nap time.
Related: Here’s how we did kindergarten
- Use the TV or other screens (it’s gonna be ok. Do what you gotta do.)
- Go outside, let the small kids run around where you can see them, and do school on the deck/patio with the older kid
- Give the younger kids some busy work (coloring pages, stickers, etc.)
- Do some schoolwork at night when the other parent is home
- Do school in small chunks of time; 20 minutes, take a break for an hour, do 20 more minutes, etc.
- Give a snack to the smaller kids
- Give them a toy/game that you only bring out during schooltime
- Invite younger kids to sit with you and listen while you read aloud. Reading aloud to kids is so, so good for them (even fun books like fiction), and littler kids can often enjoy listening along.
How do you help multiple kids at once?
This is an easy answer: I don’t.
Maybe some moms can do this and remain placid, but I cannot.
Jumping back and forth between multiple children and multiple subjects drives me NUTS.
So, when all four of my kids were in grade school, I handled it like this:
At the start of the day, Joshua and Lisey could work on whatever they could handle on their own, and I worked with Sonia and Zoe (who, at the time, did mostly the same work).
The rule was that Joshua and Lisey could not interrupt us; anything they were stuck on or had a question about just had to wait for an hour or two while I focused on helping Sonia and Zoe.
That way, I could focus and get Sonia and Zoe’s school finished pretty early in the day. After that, I was happy to help Joshua and Lisey.
Aaaand, I did not try to help them both at the same time.
NOTE: The situation you all are probably currently in is a little more difficult than mine ever was. My kids, once they could read, were pretty accustomed to doing some of their work on their own. So, when Sonia and Zoe were in K and 1st grade, Joshua and Lisey were already used to being fairly independent, and just coming to me when they got stuck. It may take your older kids some time to adjust to working on their own.
How do you handle fighting?
If it’s between kids, I think the quickest and easiest solution is to separate them. Send ’em into different rooms to do their work.
It doesn’t matter if you have a desk in each room; kids can do schoolwork on the floor or on the bed or outside or in the kitchen. Spread them out!
You could also try having a no-talking-to-each-other during school rule; it’s hard to fight if your mouth is shut.
Of course, you can also just handle the fighting in whatever way works for you guys after school and on weekends.
It’s just that sometimes, when you are trying to school a bunch of kids, you don’t have time to carefully work through and solve every fight; in such cases it’s easier just to avoid fighting by keeping some distance between the kids.
How do you handle subjects your kids hate?
I don’t think there’s a super fantastic way around this; there are just always going to be some subjects we don’t love, despite our best efforts to be enthusiastic and choose great curriculum.
So, here’s what I try to do.
- Be calm. This is not the end of the world, and your kids will key off of you. Spread good vibes. 😉
- Empathize (“I understand! I felt the same way about algebra.”)
- Validate (“I know you don’t enjoy this subject, and that’s totally ok.”)
And then? We just push on through, and celebrate when we’re done for the day.
You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.
Adult life is full of things we don’t love but have to do anyway, and I think experiencing some of that as a child is good prep for adulthood.
How do you get a break?
Allllll the homeschool parents feel you on this one!
A few ideas:
(These will not all work for everyone. Customize.)
- Get up earlier than your kids
- Put your kids to bed early (older kids could read in their beds, draw, etc.)
- Have a mandatory after-lunch quiet time (again, older kids can read, draw, play a quiet game)
- Send them outside
- Allow a movie after school is done and don’t watch it with them 😉
- Tag team with the other parent. If you’re home all day and they’re not, hand off kid duty after dinner for an hour or two.
How do you manage household chores + homeschooling?
- Have kids clean up after themselves
- Give kids chores in addition to cleaning up after themselves
(Here’s a post on how I assign chores.)
- Do some housework during schoolwork (fold laundry while your kid reads to you, clean the kitchen as your kid does math at the nearby kitchen table)
- Lower your standards (you are sort of in survival mode here; it’s ok if things aren’t pristine. No one’s coming over, after all!)
How do you get teens to be self-motivated?
I don’t know that you can actually make someone be self-motivated (if you were like, “BE SELF MOTIVATED!!!” and your kid started doing their school promptly, that wouldn’t exactly be self motivation, you know? That would still be parent motivation.)
So, I’d worry less about that and more about just helping them get their work done.
That said, I think you have to know your particular teens because different things work for different kids.
I was chatting with Zoe about this question and she said she thinks phones are a distraction for every teen. So she suggested taking away their phones until their school is done. 😉
Or if you have parent-controlled screen time apps, you could allow only certain apps during certain hours.
Other things that could help:
- Have electronics set to turn off at a decent hour at night (our laptop and Sonia and Zoe’s phones both have this set up). Unlimited screen time enables super late nights, which make mornings hard.
- Get the teens up in the morning. Schools could be closed for weeks, and getting into a bad sleep schedule (say, sleeping until noon) is probably not going to help your homeschooling at all.
- Try giving them a schedule or a daily to-do list, or collaborate with them to make one.
I feel inadequate. Am I doing enough? Help!
I think a lot of homeschool parents have felt this way at times and I imagine a lot of school teachers have too.
You are not alone!
A few thoughts on this:
- The homeschooling you are doing is probably temporary. You can only mess it up so bad in 8 weeks. Your kids will be ok.
- One of the best predictors of educational success is parental involvement. You’re very involved right now!
- Kids in early grades do not need 6 hours of instruction a day. Kindergarten for my kids usually took an hour or less each day. Grade school always took less than 6 hours. Getting work done in less than 6 hours does not necessarily mean you aren’t doing enough.
- Remember that learning can happen outside of formal schooling. Your kids can learn while helping you cook, while doing household chores, while playing in the woods, while watching YouTube, while using their art supplies, and so on.
I think I covered most of the questions you all submitted. Thank you for helping me know how best to help you.
If I missed your question, leave it in the comments here!
If there are enough new questions, I can do a second homeschool Q&A post next week.
P.S. A reader compiled a list of 13 free online resources/activities (such a streaming museum tours), and I put them all together on a page for you. See it right here.
Monday 23rd of March 2020
I've been homeschooling a long time, and some things that are always good reminders for me after summer break:
1. Add in subjects slowly. Start off with math and reading (especially for younger kids). Those are the most important. Then, add in something new each week as you and your kids adjust. But honestly if for 8-12 weeks "all" you manage is math and reading, your kids will be fine.
2. Attitude is not less important than academics. If everybody is stressed or cranky or just never listening, which happens here once in a while, sometimes we will take a week where school gets a backseat to attitude issues. We do a little screen detox (sometimes totally screen-free, sometimes just very, very firmly enforcing the normal limits), and we do read alouds, and I try to have a basic routine in place (like, read aloud in the morning, then kids play, then lunch, then some quiet reading time, then outside play, etc.), but the main focus is just on helping everybody get back to a place where I actually can teach because they actually are listening.
3. Playing audiobooks while your kids color or play quietly can be a really good way for them to do some learning while you can rest. If your library has Hoopla, they have a whole homeschool collection. Audible has started a free streaming site of children's books and classic literature. Put on a book after lunch or after dinner, hand out paper and crayons on the kids, and then chill on the couch while they listen.
Friday 20th of March 2020
Research has shown that children reading aloud to dogs improves the children's reading ability. Seems that having a live, not-critical, one-on-one audience, makes them more confident. (Not sure about cats; they probably declined to participate in the study....)
Friday 20th of March 2020
Cats only listen to books when they decide to. ;)
Friday 20th of March 2020
My kids' schools didn't have time to prepare anything official for them, so teachers are sending things piecemeal, but they're not required and don't count toward grades. My kids are in grades 6, 9 & 10.
I've instituted a loose schedule on weekdays. Everyone hast to get up, get dressed & brush teeth, just like normal, and I have set hours when the kitchen is "open" for meals (otherwise my 12 year old tends not to eat until 3pm & bedtime, and I'm not playing that game). They have to do something educational for an hour around 11am --- we all sit at the table together, and duolingo has really been a big help! In the afternoon, we have a big family chore (so far we've cleaned out the garage and washed the cars, to name 2 --- I expect my house to be very clean and well organized within the next month). Time to put away phones and bedtimes are at set times as well. Weekends will be more relaxed, as usual. So not a lot of "school" time, but something. And my kids are very big readers, anyway. I just think some sort of schedule and routine is helpful and reassuring for kids (and adults) of all ages, especially in a time of uncertainty! A doctor on the front lines that I know says we're looking at 8 - 12 weeks of this . . .
Thursday 19th of March 2020
Just a message of encouragement. It’s going to be OK. Do what works. Go with your child’s passions or interest areas. Be kind to,yourself. Not only are you suddenly homeschooling but we are in the middle of a world crisis. All of life is learning! We all learn all day long. Pinterest has lots of great idea, youtube has great educational videos, there are books online to read. Don’t forget to have fun!
Thursday 19th of March 2020
Thank you so much!! My husband and I are teleworking and schooling the children. These are amazing tips and validation that we are on the right track.