We are in some uncertain times right now! No matter where you live in the world, city-wide closures are undoubtedly wreaking havoc on your family’s schedule and routines. Possibly, your child’s school has been closed or moved to online learning. If you find yourself unexpectedly homeschooling your children due to school closings, read on for my best tips.
I am a former classroom teacher who has been homeschooling my own two kids for the past eight years. My passion is helping busy parents make learning fun at home for all kids. Be sure to click here for our FREE Resource Library, filled with homeschooling resources and TONS of activity ideas.
You CAN do this!
Here’s a secret: You don’t have to be a trained classroom teacher to be an excellent homeschooling parent. Staying home all day due to school closings might seem overwhelming at first, but you CAN do it (and do it well).
Short-term or long-term?
If your kids are only going to be home for a few weeks, there’s no reason to go out and buy curriculum. If your kids are older, their teachers will probably share learning resources for your family or continue working through their lesson plans online. They may share book lists for your children or websites for you to visit.
But if your child’s school has not provided any required materials, this is a chance to take a deep breath and discover new ideas together as a family. (I often say that ALL families are homeschooling families.) We just don’t know how long the school closings are going to last!
Make a plan! (tips for school-age children)
If your family finds itself unexpectedly homeschooling, there will be a steep learning curve. At first, the days will seem REALLY long for you and your kids. Learning how to use all those hours in a productive way will take a little bit of planning.
If you are working from home WITH your kids, you will need to create some sort of schedule. In our family, we like to start the day with schoolwork right after breakfast. Our minds are sharp, our attitudes are (usually) good, and we’re motivated to get working immediately.
Make breakfast ahead of time. Over the weekends, my husband makes egg and bacon breakfast sandwiches and a big batch of pancakes. That way, your kids can heat up their meal quickly (and independently, if they are old enough) while you set up the morning tasks and maybe get a little bit of work done. We also make a week’s worth of PB&J sandwiches at a time so the kids can easily put together lunch (just add a fruit, dairy, and a veggie).
We start the day with group subjects. In our family, the kids do history, geography, and science together. Right now, we are doing an American History unit study that takes about 30-45 minutes each day.
Then, we separate for a little bit of individual work. I do math with my oldest while my younger child does all of her favorite subjects. By the time I’m finished with my older child, my younger is ready for her one-on-time lessons. On a good day, we can be done with “mom subjects” in less than two hours.
My kids have a checklist for their daily tasks. Once I’ve dismissed them for the morning, they can get their work done in any order. They have fun subjects like music (piano/ukulele), stretching/P.E., and typing, along with their core subjects. They typically bring their work to me as they complete it, so they can do corrections immediately. Since we’re working for mastery, I don’t grade anything but math tests.
After lunch and schoolwork, they have free time for the rest of the day. If your kids are used to structure, you may need to make a “yes list” of all the things they CAN do without having to ask each time.
Of course, the BEST family schedule is the one that WORKS for your family. I recommend creating a flexible family schedule using our free weekly calendar template.
What about younger children?
If you have a toddler or preschooler, I recommend that you break your day up into 15-minute chunks. Young children have notoriously short attention spans, and switching things up frequently will keep them interested.
Make a list of ALL the things you can do with your child: meals, read-aloud, screen time, sensory play, “tot trays,” snack, quiet time/nap time, free play, outside time, etc. Write each of these activities on index cards to make a flexible schedule (with or without your child) each day.
When my kids were little, our daily schedule looked a little something like this:
- outside time
- screen time
- sensory play
- quiet time (naps!)
- tot tray/invitation to play
- free play
- bedtime routine
Of course, we would mix things up with errands, trips to the park, storytime at the library, playdates, etc. But if you’re quarantined (or just practicing social distancing), you might want to add in Skype/Facetime with friends and family.
And if you’re a work at home parent, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done in 15-minute segments. The trick is “sandwiching” those chunks of time between periods when your children have your undivided attention.
My most productive times for work when the kids were little? Screen time, naps and after bed! But setting up good independent play habits when the girls were toddlers and preschoolers has made it possible for me to work from home AND homeschool for the past 8 years.
Remember that this is temporary, and try to make the most of your time together! And if you’d like more ideas for setting up a ‘preschool at home’ schedule, this post will give you all the details (plus FREE calendar templates).
Homeschooling Due to School Closings — Dos & Don’ts
- Take some time for “deschooling.” Give yourselves a few days to ease into new routines without expectations.
- Talk about what you’d LIKE to learn about during this break. Write a list of questions or topics that interest each family member.
- Make a flexible family schedule with regular mealtimes and touchstones throughout the day.
- Focus on good books, learning through play, and family adventures — even virtual trips via Google Maps and YouTube can be fun!
- Choose one skill to work on with each of your kids during this season. Maybe it’s academic, or maybe you’ll choose a life skill like laundry or shoe-tying.
- Try to do too much, especially at the beginning. Pick a few subjects or activities, and then add to it gradually.
- Bring the school environment home. Homeschooling is completely different than “doing school” at home.
- Put schoolwork before the relationship. You will only be your child’s teacher for a short time. You will be their parent for the rest of your life.
Keep in mind that this season of homeschooling (even unexpectedly) is a blessing! You have the gift of extra time with your child to instill a true love for learning.
If you find yourself with more questions than answers, I’d love to hop on a free call with you. Just click here to choose a time.
Click here to access our FREE hub of resources for unexpected homeschoolers due to school closings.
More resources for you:
- Our Resource Library, chock-full of freebies and activity ideas for kids of all ages
- The Parent Resource Room, our private Facebook group with parenting tips & tricks
- Developmental Milestones Checklist, with 100+ skills for your child (birth-Kinder)
- Homeschooling 101 Course for brand-new homeschooling families