Whether you homeschooled before COVID-19 or you’ve been thrust into it, we are all facing new challenges. Life as we know it has stopped. School is now in your home, as well as church and pretty much all of life. It’s uncertain exactly how long this will be the new normal, but one thing is sure—-> this is hard… for all of us!
I grew up in the public school system, spent 10 years teaching in both public and private schools, and have now homeschooled for over 16 years. As a single mom, I have worked from home while homeschooling for the past 10 years. I’m here to help!
But let’s clear up one thing first, while I do believe that I can share some tips and ideas with you because my experience has been so varied, I promise you I’m not the expert in your home.
So as you read this post (and all the other tips out there), evaluate each part for what will work for you keeping in mind that your unique family has a unique set of people, challenges, and circumstances. There is no one-sized solution because there is no such thing as a “typical” family.
But, that doesn’t mean new ideas are a bad idea! Try some new things, even if you think they seem crazy. And when things don’t work, reboot and try something different.
In the end, no matter what is mandated or suggested of you, you alone know what’s going to work best for your family and your kids.
This is a very long post and you don’t need to read it all, as some things won’t apply to you. So we pay attention to the table of contents below to find the information that will best fit your unique circumstances. I will be suggesting things for both people who have previously homeschooled and people who typically have their children in a traditional school setting.
We are definitely all in this together, but each of us needs a slightly different prescription to handle the current climate.
CRISIS-SCHOOLING Tips for everyone:
As mentioned above, this post will seek to cover tips and tricks both for those who homeschool and those who have children who are traditionally schooled, but there are a few things we all need to keep in mind!
Now is not the time for a color-coded schedule
For serious, even as a seasoned homeschooler, the idea of a color-coded blocked out schedule gives me the hives. Here’s a secret everyone knows, but no one bothers to share: IT NEVER EVER WORKS!!!!
Detailed schedules don’t work because we are living breathing humans who are DESIGNED to ebb and flow. We are designed to crave, wander, and explore. That doesn’t mean we should all go about as free-spirits who never take any responsibility. It just means we should keep in mind that life is pretty much never a set of predictable steps and we should learn to love that.
I highly recommend you seek to establish routines and habits during this time so you aren’t frustrated with the “schedule” that really isn’t working. Here are a few practical suggestions:
- A Morning routine should be your first focus, if you’ve never gotten one down pat. Stay simple, but consistent. This morning routine printable is free and comes with more tips for how to implement it.
- Here’s a huge list of Good Habits for Kids. There’s 21 things you can be working on while you have some extra time this month!
- Feeling like you’re hitting a brick wall with helping your kids develop good habits? We have a free habits for kids course in our membership community. Yep, I said free.
- Think of the day in “chunks” instead of hours. Designate certain activities for certain “chunks” of the day. This is HUGE in keeping kids moving. Here is a sample chunking homeschool schedule we used many years ago when all of my kids were little. It would adapt well for ANY kind of school at home.
- Checklists save lives. Yes, they do. And I’m not overexaggerating. Your kids need a checklist. You can draw one, list one, or even use an app. We love the streaks app, particularly for older kids. HINT: LET YOUR CHILD pick some things to go on the list. Don’t just make it all about mandatory school or chores.
Your family has a huge opportunity right now- don’t waste it
If you are failing to see the incredible opportunity your family has right now because you are so focused on all of the inconveniences and all of the things you lack… you are going to miss all of the blessings God has in store for us through this.
I do homeschool, but despite somewhat popular belief, we leave our house every day, socialize way too much, and have a VERY busy schedule. That’s all canceled and my kids are heart-broken at what they are missing, not to mention, our business is missing the most important sales season of the year. So don’t think I’m saying this because life is peachy here or because nothing has changed for us “homeschoolers.”
BUT- when life doesn’t go as planned, you have two options: whine and complain or CHOOSE JOY. Whether you do it purposefully or not, you’ll pick one and the one you pick will determine the outcome of this time for your family.
You can choose to GROW as a family. You can look for the little blessings, bask in the free time to eat dinner together and play family games. And you should. This time is a gift, don’t waste it.
God has equipped you for such a time as this
The temptation in times like these is to believe lies about who we are and what we can handle. I beg you not to do that. If nothing else, your kids are watching you. They are learning how to handle crisis and they will use what they’ve learned when they face their own crisis someday.
Don’t fool yourself, you can SAY anything you want to your kids. You can “hide” things from them and tell yourself they don’t know. But they know and they see. They are smarter than you can imagine. They WILL take to heart the reactions you think you are covering. They won’t listen to your words, but will instead mimic your actions.
That said- guess what you need to be doing right now? Trusting that God has equipped you to handle this, because that’s what He promised. Now don’t get me wrong- He didn’t promise that you can do all things or that you are strong. He promised that HE can do all things and that HE is strong. What does that have to do with you? He promises to help you. (Isaiah 41:10 is my favorite of many references to this.)
Can you teach your kids? OF COURSE, YOU CAN. You’ve been doing it since they were born. If you can potty train a kid, you can handle reading and math. I promise. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t qualified because your qualifications are backed by THE King of Kings. Ya know, the very creator or all of the things we could ever study. And again, He has promised never to leave you and always to help you.
Now I know that is possibly abstract to some of you, so please keep reading. Because ONE of the ways God uses to help us is through those who serve Him and I deeply desire to be one of those people who can pour into those who feel overwhelmed right now!
Don’t brush off the feelings of your kids
This is a really big deal. Even if you are the kind of person who doesn’t really think it’s a big deal to stop everything, stay home, and make such huge changes… your kids might be different. Don’t forget to address that.
Check-in with them often. Help them to see God’s truth in light of the chaos they feel. Of course, if you don’t understand that truth and are personally struggling to trust God with this, hop over and read this post about how to be #NotConsumed in times of Crisis.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- How are you feeling about the changes in your life right now?
- How can I pray for you?
- What specifically are you struggling with?
- What do you feel like you are missing?
- Do you feel like you are trusting God with this?
Resist the urge to preach and to impose your feelings on your kids. Let them think and feel for themselves, just direct them to the truth in love! One resource you might find incredibly helpful is our Bible study, A Content Heart.
Always, always focus on the basics
It’s likely that during a season of crisis you’ll become overwhelmed. Sometimes just the simple act of making changes can cause a person to feel overwhelmed. Perhaps you have to work outside the home and somehow still educate your kids? Trust me when I say, you will NOT be getting all the things done.
So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or like you can’t get all of the things done, cut back to the basics. Everything will be fine, even if you don’t get the extras done.
Wondering what the basics are? Here is our non-negotiable list even when all else is turned upside down:
Read something every day. This can be a read-aloud, a read together, or a read by yourself. But, whatever you do, read every day.
Once your child has read something, have them respond to it. They can draw about it, tell about it at dinner, act out the story for the family, or pretty much anything else! We also use the Reading Journal to record what we’ve learned. (Check below for a FREE one-week sample that you can use.)
Yes, audiobooks totally work. Here is a list of our favorites audiobooks.
Know your numbers. Even when we aren’t able to do a full math curriculum, we still need to do math as often as possible, hopefully daily. Practicing basic math facts until they are mastered, is crucial. We use this free website to do it in 5 minutes a day: Xtramath.org.
Use the computer. Kids today need computer skills as much as they need math and reading. Get a great filter and then let your kids explore. We love:
Help for Crisis-Homeschoolers
This section is for you if… you’ve never homeschooled your kids before. It’s for you if your kids are enrolled in a traditional school, public or private. It’s for you if you work inside or outside of the home.
All of these circumstances are unique and present some big challenges right now. So let’s explore how we can educate our children during this time.
KNOW THAT YOU ARE CAPABLE
I’m not against traditional school, nor am I trying to convince you that homeschooling is your solution, but it is your reality right now- and you need to know that YOU ARE capable to teach your child. I know I said it above, but I’ve seen multiple reports of teachers telling parents to just try and keep their kids alive because they aren’t qualified for much more.
You should be offended by such a statement. I have a teaching degree and two master’s degrees in education. I can promise you than 80% of more of my education came in the form of classroom management and large scale strategies.
When I got an actual teaching job, it didn’t matter if I knew what was best for kids or had any “skills” for teaching. I had to do exactly what the district told me to. This isn’t the time to knock the system and I’m not here to do that. I’m here to help you.
If your school wants you to think your kids will be trouble if they don’t have a “qualified” teacher, ignore them. NO ONE is more qualified than you are to teach your kids because no one knows your kids the way you do and no one will take whatever action they need to help them. Even well-meaning teachers are hindered by rules, time, and volume of students when it comes to doing EVERYTHING they can. So lay down that fear and walk bravely. You got this.
KNOW WHAT IS REALISTIC
Keep your view of the traditional school setting realistic. There are lots of interruptions, issues, and character training moments. You’ll need this at home, too. Just because your kids actually sit in the school building from 8-2 every day, doesn’t mean they are learning for 6 hours.
Plus, there are many children in a classroom. When your kids are working at home, things will go faster most of the time and you won’t need anywhere NEAR 6 hours to complete the expected work.
Two hours of focused education a day is more than what your Elementary child gets in the classroom. I was a first-grade teacher for ten years. Now that I’ve homeschooled 5 children through the elementary years, I can tell you that we seriously redeemed a lifetime of hours spent at a desk with little gain.
At home, kids get focused attention, which means they need exponentially less time to learn.
Even my high schoolers, typically don’t spend more than 3-4 hours a day on “book work.” So don’t panic if things are going faster and your kids have more time to freely explore. This is precious time that will GROW them more than you can imagine!
KNOW YOUR REQUIREMENTS
Speaking of hours, let’s talk about those requirements. Right now, lots of schools have NONE. Run with that my friend- your kids will be all the better for it. They don’t need books to learn amazing things. When your school does assign work, there are a few things you should evaluate.
Optional or supplement means just that. You don’t have to do it. So don’t feel obligated. Do what works for you. If your school is making demands, you should follow them as much as you can, BUT if there are reasons it won’t work, don’t hesitate to write in and let the teacher know why it isn’t working.
KNOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT
I hope that you’ve been clear on my stand on education up to this point, but just in case, let me clarify. Education is important. But, traditionally defined education isn’t the only way.
If your kids spend the next 8 weeks never cracking open a school book, they will be fine. They won’t be behind in life and they will still be successful and valued human beings. (By the way, they do this every summer, don’t they?)
There is so much your kids can learn right now from routines, habits, life skills (yes, they should learn to cook and clean). Those will prove EVEN MORE valuable than dividing fractions. Trust me, there will still be time for that.
Think of how amazing it would be if your kids emerged from this crisis with a better relationship with God, their siblings, and you. Imagine if they emerged with new passions, hobbies, and a greater knowledge of what it takes to keep a home functioning. Wouldn’t you love that?
You’ve heard it said that the 3 R’s are the most important thing to work on. I agree… but I have a different set of R’s!
Work on RELATIONSHIPS, RESPONSIBILITIES, and READING.
Time spent on those three will NEVER be wasted! For more ideas for how you can work on these three, click over to our post about GROWING in times of crisis.
Help for Homeschoolers by Choice
This section is for families to do not have their children currently enrolled in traditional schooling and chose to homeschool prior to our nation’s crisis. As mentioned above, many are saying that life for you is “normal” but we all know that’s far from true. While homeschooling itself may be a part of your routine, lockdown and crisis are not. Let’s look at ways to improvise during this time.
Pretty much everything above applies to you as well, so go ahead and read it if you need some encouragement about why academics are NOT the holy grail in your family’s life.
If I may loving encourage you on a few things though. First, it’s likely you are home a TON more right now. Think ahead. can you bulldoze through the curriculum and take even more time off in a few months? Why not?
Alternatively, there are so many free things being offered for kids right now like Science lessons from Answers in Genesis, live talks at zoos, and such. My friend Erin even did a cooking show for kids this week and plans to continue it. (You can always watch it late, too!)
Here at Not Consumed, we plan to have weekly challenges starting 3/23 that I know you’ll love. Let’s just say that SIBLINGS will be our very first topic. You won’t want to miss that now that everyone is home ALL.THE.TIME. Haha (Be sure you are on our email list to hear more about them!)
Aside from that, remember that this time is a gift. It’s the perfect opportunity to do some of those things you always say you’re going to do, but never actually have the time to do.
Here are a few quick ideas:
- Invest in teaching your kids to have a quiet time.
- Start a family devotional time together. Free family devotional printables here.
- Write letters to family, friends, and missionaries.
- Facetime, Skype or Zoom chat with friends and family. We’ve been doing piano and some Bible studies this way. It’s awesome!
- Work on heart issues by doing a kids’ Bible study together.
- Take a random dance break and sing something fun!
- Work on HABITS and responsibility.
Final Encouragement for Everyone
My friend, I pray this post was an encouragement to you. But I’m painfully aware that crisis is fluid, ever-changing, and unpredictable. I’d love to support you further! Please consider joining our community.
We have a FREE group just for crisis support, many awesome resources, and even some cool upgrades should you want to dip your toes in those. Come chat with us!
We will be sharing challenges, live chats and other helps in the community, so be sure you join us!