Now that almost all the schools are closed, I would like to welcome any parent with a child in (or was in) school to the wonderful world of homeschooling! I say that with a smile, but I totally understand what that means and know it is not an easy thing at all for almost every parent who has been forced into this situation. It is not easy for us parents who have willingly put ourselves in it to begin with. – Oh, and you are already a homeschool parent? This is definitely different (keep reading – we all need reminders sometimes and hopefully there are few helpful tips even for you.) Activities are closed, many cannot even go outside. Just because we homeschool, we still take our children outside!
I want this blog to be helpful and give people chizuk – encouragement. There is so much information that one usually gets and needs before delving into homeschooling, but there is no time for that. So, to the best of my ability, I will try to give a crash course. I have written down 9 pointers to help:
1) Firstly, I want you to know that you are not alone! We are all there. Some of us have some experience, but most, none. Like anything else, it is not easy, but we are told that Hashem only puts us in situations that we can manage. You CAN do this. (Perhaps you want to put this message all over your house to remind you!)
Everyone’s family works differently and what works for one family – or even one child, does not mean it will work with the next family, or even the next child in the family. Treat it like an experiment. “Hmm…. Well, that did not work, I wonder why that did not work,” or even, “Wow, that worked! Let me try that again!” If we get into that mindset, even setbacks can be just a tad less harsh and easier to manage.
2) The second thing to note is that whenever a child starts homeschooling after being in a school, they need to deschool. Deschooling is letting the child learn to transition from a school learning environment to a home learning environment. The length of time is generally around 1 month per year in a school. Yes. I know what I just said. I said it takes, about 15-30 days for each year a child was at school to learn to adjust. Don’t try to rush it. This is something that most likely all of you need to adjust as well.
3) The next thing I find is most important, and what it really means varies from family to family, but you need to create some sort of schedule. This could mean that children get up, dressed, and eat at a certain time and then there is davening and everyone is going to learn for 1.5 hours and then that is all you can handle so the rest of the time is “free” time, to something else. You just need SOMETHING. Even in the summer when we are “off of school,” I found we have to do a subject of something each day – could be something really fun, but I needed to put that into our morning and then it did not matter what happened the rest of the day for we accomplished something. Our day was meaningful.
Many schools and yeshivas have transitioned to online schooling, which definitely helps, but comes with its own set of issues. Please, just make sure you check up on each of your children a couple of times during the day so you know that they are where they need to be. It is good for the children as well, so they don’t feel so isolated and know you are around and care. You don’t have to talk to them, but just walk by and pause for just a moment. If they are doing independent work, just a quick hi and asking how they are doing can do wonders.
4) What if a school is not able to provide online schooling, or you have younger children who are not in school and now your attention is taken from them? You can go to my previous blog where I list a few suggestions here as starting places that can help.
5) Don’t forget about You. You are important. You need time out. You might even find you need to hide in the bathroom, with the door locked, for it is all getting on your nerves. Believe me, probably every single homeschool mom knows that trick and has made use of it more than once. When you are the only adult in the home and no one is there to relieve you so you can take a 15 minute break, you resort to what you have. (And yes, it really does help!)
6) All the activities are closed. You are stuck in the house. Please follow whatever guidelines are found in your area at all times, however, here are some suggestions that might help.
– go outside the door (while staying on your property!!!). Take a chair or two and just sit outside of your front or back door. Even if you cannot leave your property, there is no reason why you can’t get some fresh air. It really helps everyone to feel happier.
– you can do jumping jacks, jogging in place, jump rope, sit-ups, and many other exercises and stretches while staying in one spot. Make a game out of it. Who can jog in place the longest, or do 5 minutes of jump rope? Make it as fun as you can. Get creative!
– if you have a bit more space like a backyard, you can expand to tossing a ball, running around the backyard, potato sack races, 3-legged races, wheelbarrow races, and a variety of other things.
7) Schedule Quiet Time. Have 30-60 minutes a day where everyone is quiet to the best of their abilities. Have a baby or young child that naps? Great! Everyone will have quiet time at that moment. They can read, rest, quietly work on a puzzle (jigsaw or puzzles on paper), etc. but it has to be quiet, and everyone should be by themselves. We all need time to decompress from our day. You can even call “Quiet Time!” whenever you feel the tensions rise and you find people need the break.
8) Assign one chore/task to each child, according to their ability, to be done at its proper time. Tasks can include wiping the table after each person puts their dishes away. One child is responsible for sweeping a certain room each day. Taking out the garbage, putting a bag in the garbage can, putting one load of laundry on on a certain day (older child), folding one pile of clothes, each child making sure their bed is made up, emptying the dishwasher, filling it up and putting it on, etc.
9) Tell everyone you love them. All the time. In the morning, when they have sent you to the ceiling, and when they go to bed.
Remember there will be hiccups and sometimes the day (or days) can get really stressed. It’s normal! Sometimes just surviving is the best that we can do. The internet is not working? Your children are getting way too much screen time – and that is the best you can do for YOU need a break? It’s okay! You are doing an amazing job. Tomorrow is another day.