Homeschooling: Where to Start

Advice for parents during the pandemic
March 17, 2020 Updated: March 25, 2020
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So, 2020’s a regular laugh riot thus far, huh?

If you’re one of the countless parents who find yourselves suddenly home and wondering what to do about your child’s education now that school has closed for an unknown period of time, this article’s for you.

One of the interesting side effects of the pandemic we’re all facing is that many parents around the world are about to find out that homeschooling is not only amazing from an educational standpoint, but (whispering) it’s not even that hard.

Of course, being thrust into homeschooling is not the typical experience one hopes for. Given the fact that there are only a few months left in the traditional school year, considering the surrounding stresses of current events, and taking into account the lack of preparation afforded this particular homeschooling arrangement, here are some joyful, simple, and educational ideas to make the most of this unusual time.

De-School

For starters, take a moment to transition from school to homeschool. You’re not going to need to incorporate most (all, really) of the trappings of traditional school at home, but both you and your children may need to take some time to get used to the idea of learning in a totally different way. Homeschoolers call this process “de-schooling.” Look it up if you want to dive deeper.

Get to Know Your Child

The hamster wheel just came to a screeching halt. Take the time to reconnect with your kids and understand what they’re interested in, what activities light them up, and what subjects they’re curious about. You can spend the entire rest of your “learning” time diving deep into all of that through books, online resources, documentaries, creative projects, and more.

Cover the Basics

When you break down what your child has actually been learning in the typical public school, these days it’s mostly math and language arts. They may spend time in other classes with different names, but those two subjects make up the vast bulk of the core curriculum.

So, find a fun way to practice those a few times a week. You can wing it, making up fun projects that center on math concepts or grammar, writing, and spelling. On the other hand, you may find the security of a curriculum helpful. There are countless options out there. MathUSee and The Good and the Beautiful are two companies that offer easy to use and effective curricula.

Learn History

You probably think your child has been taught history. They probably took classes named “history” or “social studies.” Ask them, though, and they likely don’t recall what they’ve been taught and they probably don’t have a clear understanding of the overall progression of human history along a timeline.

What’s more, unless you had a highly unusual educational upbringing, you probably don’t know those things either. This is a major omission in most schools today and you now have the opportunity to fill this important gap.

Check out “The Story of the World” series by Susan Wise Bauer for the easiest way to learn chronological history from ancient times to the present. Their audiobooks would be perfect for this suddenly homeschooling situation.

Strew

“Strewing” is another homeschooling term that refers to scattering inviting materials in your home for your children to discover. Books, art supplies, science experiment materials, flashcards, toys, a game laid out and ready to play—anything that you think your child might enjoy can be strewn.

The idea is that you allow your children to discover the items themselves, without comment or instruction from you, and see what they do with it. Sometimes it will turn into a month-long project and sometimes they’ll hardly react at all.

It’s a practice that incorporates surprise and delight and can be done over and over. You’ll be amazed at how effective this practice is at inducing learning.

Go Outside

What better time than now to get outside with your kids and into nature? Pack a lunch, bring along a nature journal and portable art supplies, binoculars, and a camera and let them freely explore.

At home, allow them to plant a garden, build a birdhouse, and explore the creatures and plant life that are found in their own backyard.

Read

Most importantly, fill your life and your home with books. Read aloud, set aside quiet reading time, listen to audiobooks, discuss stories, and relish in a love of books.

Don’t make a chore of reading like school often does. Pay zero attention to what level the books are at, and don’t subject your kids to tedium-like comprehension questions when they’re done. Just read for the love of reading. It may be the greatest gift you give your children at this time.

Choose high-quality literature, beautiful stories, and well-written works of nonfiction. If they want to relive their baby books, let them. If they’re ready to tackle a challenging novel, support them and help them through.

Becoming competent and joyful readers will allow them to grow into self-learners for the rest of their lives. This is a priceless opportunity you have before you.

Reduce Screens

Finally, resist the temptation to pacify kids of all ages with screens. It may be a significant temptation under the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in. However, screen addiction is a problem I believe we haven’t fully grasped the gravity of yet. Too much screen time has been shown to impede focus and learning capabilities.

Homeschooling allows for a free learning environment, where students can explore topics of interest to their heart’s content. They can take as much time as they want to perfect an artistic or scientific creation, and they can become competent at the skill of learning itself.

You may not have ever imagined you’d do such a thing, but now that this opportunity is before you, you might as well give it a go.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza