‘You are being asked to substitute teach without adequate training or preparation. Do not try to copy school at home.’: Mom of 7 reminds quarantined parents ‘there’s no right or wrong here’

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“I am a homeschool graduate. I was homeschooled from first to twelfth grade. I taught music in elementary and middle schools for 7 years.

I have homeschooled five of my children. I have sent all seven of my children to school at some point (though never all at the same time).

I have homeschooled suddenly without much warning or preparation.

I have homeschooled with time and opportunity to prepare and budget.

I have been homeschooling at least one child and as many as five full-time, seven part-time in some fashion for the last 13 years. I have two children that have graduated from homeschooling. I have one child that is currently still homeschooled.

I have three children that are currently in public school. I have a toddler that does not go to any school.

I work full time and am self-employed/own my own business. I have been a full-time homeschooling parent. I have been a work from home, full-time, homeschooling parent. I have been a full-time work out of the home homeschooling parent. I have been a host home to other’s children and homeschooled five children total that were not my own children.

Those families that suddenly are homeschooling, I understand. This is a lot.

As a homeschooling family, I find this a lot, as resources, routines, and opportunities are limited. As a public-school family, I find this a lot, as my kids are suddenly home and resources, routines, and opportunities are limited.

Particularly for my extroverted children who will miss their friends 20 minutes after they are home from school. The lack of social stimulation WILL make them anxious and antsy. My introverted self already feels tired.

Some things that may be helpful:

If your child is in school normally and will be returning to school when this crisis is over, you are not really homeschooling. You do not need to pressure yourself to make it such.

If your child is given schoolwork during this time and you are supposed to monitor and ensure they are doing school time, then you are being asked to substitute teach without adequate training or preparation. This would not be allowed in our classrooms. Have reasonable expectations or no expectations at all.

Children learn. They just do. Even if they don’t get through the list of assignments and log in for online classes, they are learning.

Caring for their community (or their home, in this case) is part of good citizenship and is an important part of their education. Chores, cooking, etc. count as learning time.

Screens are not going to kill their brains. You may find it helpful to limit screen time to later in the day, as it can impact behavior but frankly, this is survival time. They’ll be fine if they OD on screen time for a few weeks if that’s what it takes. Turn screens off 30 minutes before bed so as not to mess with their sleep.

Everybody is going to come back from this time at a different place. ‘Keeping up’ isn’t possible, so don’t make that a goal to stress over. There will be those students who return with all the work done and those who never touched any of it. Do what you can and recognize this is a crisis. Crises do not care about what you needed to get done.

Do not try to copy school at home. Nobody wants that. It will breed resentment, frustration, and ultimately, failure. Work with your children to find a unique path for your family.

The ‘school day’ takes 6.5 or more hours because of parts of the day that AREN’T about education. If your child has to do school at home while quarantined, keep in mind they may be able to get it all done in 2 to 3 hours, easily. OR they could feel more comfortable for their brain to do it in 8 with lots of breaks and distractions in between. Don’t try to force something. The environment is completely different and that will have an impact. It’s not good or bad, it just is.

Be careful not to fall into the trap that ‘school’ or ‘learning’ is only written work at a desk. That’s actually the least like learning. Fully engaged activities that utilize as many of the senses as possible with multiple learning styles (aural instruction, hands-on experience, kinesthetic involvement, creative exploration, student-shared instruction, observations) are the most effective for learning.

Create a bucket list of what you want to do in this time you’d normally not be able to do: fill the tub (or kiddie pool) with water beads, make a different type of cookie every day, take an old computer apart, design and build a clubhouse, plan and plant a garden, create a progressive family art project, make a family film together (or have them do it on their own), learn to knit, start learning a new language through online sources, write a novel, science experiments.

Some people will say maintain a schedule. Some will say to let kids relax. My experience is that some thrive with a consistent schedule and some do better when they can self-lead what works for them. There’s no right or wrong here. There are as many ways to be productive as there are people. My suggestion would be to have set ‘alone time,’ though to give your family breaks from each other.

Change the scenery. Work outside. Work sitting on the floor. Read in a tree. If you only sit in one spot physical fatigue will set in.

Be physically active. Create an obstacle course, go to the park (and wash hands), go for a scavenger hunt, try a new sport (badminton anyone?). Every day, have some physical activity. It helps overall mood, health, and clears the mind.

Play. Pretend, board games, tag, you name it. Play with your kids and have them play without you too.

Consider letting the days flow and look at the week overall, rather than each individual day. Was there a day where all one child wanted to do was read and they read through three books in 8 hours? And the next day, all they wanted to do was be outside and climb trees and move constantly? Cool. It all balances out in the end.

Break for meals. All of you, together. At least twice a day, stop and eat together. Don’t work through lunch.

Everyone struggling? GO OUTSIDE. Or do something with water, play bath, shower, mud pit. They’re like a reset button.

Resist the urge to plan every minute. General goals for the day are one thing, but a rigid schedule can be stifling.

Have a general rhythm but be flexible.

It takes WEEKS for a classroom to settle and find their rhythm, establish guidelines, and learn their school and class culture. That’s with an experienced and trained professional, a building designed for learning, and support resources — not to mention someone who is focused just on leading the class and not having to do another job at the same time. Do not expect to find that at home within days. There’s a lot of upheavals, it will take time. 

Get your child’s input. This is the best buy-in opportunity. If they can help plan and have their ideas valued, they’ll be more into making the time meaningful.

Ask your kids what they’re curious about. Want to learn about volcanoes? There’s a documentary for that. Curious about WWII? Let’s take some time to google together.

If you have to work from home during this too (you have my empathy), set your hours and communicate them. Even the youngest will understand this is your job. If you have to use some screen time to get your stuff done, cool. Congratulate yourself on doing what you need to do. You’ll all make it through.”

Courtesy Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber of We’re All Human Here. Follow We’re All Human Here on Instagram here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

Read more stories from Jessica and Jeremy here: 

‘She came to us asking why she felt so much anger. Jeremy gave her a hammer. The slightest thing sets her off, boiling just under the surface.’: Daughter ‘relieved to know she wasn’t alone’ after parents help her to ‘release anger safely’

‘She growled that nothing was wrong. She skulked off. ‘Would you like a hug?’ She paused, and moved closer.’: Mom’s heart aches for daughter whose friends ‘never have time for her’

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