We’ve been homeschoolers for 5 years now.
I came into this with a full toolbox – schedule, resources, & ideas. And the ability to pivot well; homeschooling is all about flexibility, creating an environment where learning isn’t performative or looped in with punitive tools, but is engaging.
This Homeschooling post is written by Autumn Meyer of A Whole Story, a homeschool expert. I admire her openness and adore her little family, anything I say about her is most definitely going to fall short.
Read more about Autumn below and be sure to check out (I mean, STALK her on Instagram because she makes every.single.one of you feel WHOLE & loved!).
“We have to be real deal homeschoolers now. I can’t teach them… everything?!”
I practically wept these words to my husband, kiddos teachers, and my close friends. The magnitude of trauma, stress, and fear that was pressing in, felt crushing.
All our structures gone, friend groups gone, and our unending fun social calendar was squashed. But the catch? We were already homeschoolers. I should be great at this!
We’ve been homeschoolers for 5 years now, my kiddos are technically in 2nd and 4th grade (though, we often do work spanning a few grades based on needs and aptitude). And this pandemic? It threw us for an initial loop too!
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Just before our stay at home order came through and school was canceled for the duration of the school year, my kiddos had settled into their homeschool (math and reading) routine, and their second-semester classes at a local homeschool supplemental program (these are often called Parent Partnership Programs, and are a facet of local public schools; Imagine college for homeschool kiddos – register for just for what you want, classes taught by registered teachers, and curriculum purchased by the school for you to use at home).
Sports and art classes in full swing, and several fun friend outings a week were part of our norm. So this came as a big transition, but one we were thankfully pretty prepared for.
As we’ve made this transition to being full-time homeschooled, we’ve gleaned some solid magic along the way.
And I’d love to share what’s worked, what we already tried (hey, 5 years of trial and error!) that didn’t work, and what we’re doing now that’s helping us find our best educational experiences ever (yes, ever!).
I came into this with a full toolbox. And the ability to pivot well; homeschooling is all about flexibility, creating an environment where learning isn’t performative or looped in with punitive tools, but is engaging, and also? Right now? It’s about lowering expectations so everyone can feel some physical relief from all the stress.
Here are the three spots to start your thinking and planning with, three things to avoid, and three resources we’ve loved.
BEGIN YOUR HOMESCHOOL PLANNING HERE —
1. Get to know your child(ren). And their learning style.
I know, you know your kiddo well!
But this is getting to know them as a learner, and chances are if you reflect a bit on your relationship, positive experiences together, and what they like to talk about most with you, you’ve already got some clues as to what kind of learning, topics, and “school” will resonate most for them.
This includes thinking about their learning style.
Are they visual, learn best through images, pictures, ( think about how they respond to books, are comics higher on their list than a novel)? Auditory, enjoy music/sound, and can focus well (think about if they’re fans of audiobooks and podcasts!)? Verbal learners, they like to write/talk and work through problems with words (notice how they resolve conflict, are they journalers)? Physical processors learn best through movement, hands, touch, sensation helps them grow (do they wiggle/fidget/ move a lot? PE their favorite class? Often feel hard to “tire out”)?
2. Brainstorm (with your partner, kiddos teacher, or on your own with a big piece of paper) what do you want your child to come out of this season with.
There aren’t wrong answers here, it’s just brainstorming.
You can write a list (for example: Family connection, no loss of math or reading skill, a new skill like a language, cooking, gardening, something practical) and then alongside those, write down what ideas you have for how to make this happen (for example: family dinners, cooking together, trying out a language app or sign language show, dedicating X amount of minutes to the math curriculum you’re being sent OR trying out some new forms of curriculum or math learning, reading time all together (your devices plugged in and put away too)).
This list is one that can help you start to focus on what homeschooling looks like for your family right now.
3. Cut your expectations in half.
Your kiddos aren’t used to homeschooling.
You aren’t used to homeschooling.
Attention spans are short, and shortened even more by all the mental gymnastics kiddos brains are doing as they work to process their own greif, loss, and fear. As they work through these feelings and anxieties, it won’t look like an adult, they don’t have appropriate words to describe their feelings, but they’re going through a HUGE transition, pivot, and heartache just like you are.
Trust that you have LOTS of time. Your children’s teachers will help them in any area they aren’t “caught up” in when they return to school.
Kids learn WAY faster and in shorter windows at home. So lowering expectations and finding a groove helps to eliminate power struggles and gives you time to have a BIG burst of learning once you’re all more settled into the new routines.
THREE THINGS I TRIED WITH HOMESCHOOLING THAT I PROMISE YOU DON’T NEED TO —
1. Recreating school at home.
EVERY homeschooler goes through this.
We try to make a classroom, a desk, a learning station. We try and create a perfect schedule that mimics school… except this isn’t a fun big classroom full of kids. This is your dining room.
Do yourself a favor, invest in fun games, art supplies, and software that you *know* your kiddo will enjoy and that YOU enjoy.
And then? Do those things together.
This isn’t a traditional school, you can sit down and paint and label your paintings with your k-3rd grader and that’s an AWESOME language arts project. You can play battleship together and call that some stellar fine motor, letter and number recognition, and relationship building! Toss the brick and mortar school concept, make your dining room fun!
2. A full curriculum.
It’s ROUGH to find one single curriculum where all the subjects will engage your kiddo, make sense for their learning abilities, and will be in your price range.
The amount of money lost from buying a LOT of sets of curriculum will be huge, and frustration even higher.
Prioritize what you REALLY want your kiddo to learn and retain, focus only there to start (for us that’s typically math and reading, but history is high up there for our older one too).
3. Classroom Management.
Time-outs, “red light/green light” behavior charts. Literally any punitive based classroom punishment. This is a quick road to power struggles, a child who “can’t learn from you” (this is the #1 thing parents say!) and creating some very hard to break out of relationship grooves for not only your schooling but your all day. This is the spot to call upon your inner school therapist/guidance counselor and think of THAT school role as the one you want to embody most, not the sitcom version of a principal.
THREE HOMESCHOOLING RESOURCES WE LOVE —
1. BEAST ACADEMY
We’ve tried out a lot of math to find one that resonated for my two kiddos who bumped up against and struggled with several curriculums.
The one we’ve landed on and loved most is Beast Academy (2nd grade +).
Word of warning, let go of your feelings about what grade level your child “should” be in, Best Academy is notoriously “advanced”. The homeschool curriculum is ALL over the map with level. What one book calls 3rd grade, another may cover in the 2nd-grade book.
The indicator that it’s the right level for your learner is that they’re consistently able to move forward. Struggle is a part of learning, but success should feel bigger.
Math is the one subject we (my husband or I) sit with our kiddos and do alongside them. We help them slow down, try different tools, and read the instructions/ watch the videos with them. This helps their attention spans stay longer, we can celebrate with them, and it’s magic to watch new skills click!
2. StarFall Online
For young learners, we’re big fans of StarFall online.
This has math and reading curriculum for k-3, it feels like a fun game, is interactive but basic and not fast-moving or incredibly flashy.
It’s our go-to when a kiddo feels frustrated with what they’re learning and needs a “brain break” but we’d like them to still engage with something educational.
OK HEAR ME OUT. There is a WORLD of free easy downloads here.
Whatever your kiddos are into (sloths drinking coffee? Just mine?) you can find a coloring page, print it out, and color together. Whatever spelling words you want to pop into a list for them?
Search and ye’ shall find. Literally endless fun curriculum, learning ideas, and printables here that you can use to customize based on what your specific kiddo is into.
Homeschooling isn’t’ what we’re all doing right now. We’re crisis-schooling in the middle of a global pandemic.
The ultimate goals are connection, care, and empathy teaching.
Sure, we can find a lot of that in some nature walks, math games, and reading together. But that will be most found through talking and playing, dinners shared, skills learned together, and openly sharing the heaviness that each of us dips into sometimes.
This time of nation-wide homeschool will be history one day, and the magic that we’ll all come out of this with a giant shared experience is intense and beautiful.
Let go of some of the fear around doing enough, and keep showing up for your child in the ways that make you both feel the most cared for.
You can do it.
We can all do it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, AUTUMN MEYER
“Homeschooling allows you the freedom to step off the highway of learning and take a more scenic route along a dirt road.”