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.
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
- 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.