Long-time homeschoolers offer tips to newbies stuck at home

By Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood SentinelMarch 27, 2020

1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Children from various age groups gather to do their homework together at a residence at Fort Hood, Texas. Veteran homeschool parents said keeping a daily schedule is important for children to stay focused. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo by Kathryn Robles) VIEW ORIGINAL
Life Skills
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Children at Fort Hood, Texas learn important life skills, such as planting seeds in an egg carton in preparation for spring planting. Hands-on activities that also teach life skills are a good way to keep youngsters occupied during this time at home. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo by Lisa Redford) VIEW ORIGINAL
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Nine-year-old Merly Robles licks a spoon clean while helping her homeschooling mom bake a cake at Fort Hood, Texas. Homeschooling children allows parents to teach their children important life skills they will use for the rest of their lives. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo by Kathryn Robles) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas – It’s an unprecedented time, with school campuses closed and parents wondering how they can keep their children occupied, while still complying with self-quarantine guidelines.

“I think something important for parents to know it to not sweat the small stuff,” Liz Davenport, the school liaison officer with Child & Youth Services here, said. “Have fun with it and know that they are not alone.”

Davenport said during the students’ extended spring break, she has been personally working with her school-aged children to continue their education so they do not forget what they’ve learned. That small stride is something many Fort Hood parents are now doing, with some considering homeschooling their school-aged children for the first time.

“It’s definitely not an easy time for anyone, but embrace this time and grow together,” homeschool mom Lisa Redford advised parents. “Children are going to remember this time for years to come. What do you want them to remember?”

Instead of automatically considering the worst-case scenarios, Redford, who has homeschooled for 10 years, suggested parents remember that this is probably a temporary situation and urged parents not to overthink academics at the moment. She said parents should take this moment to do fun and productive things with children, such as planting a garden, doing a neighborhood clean-up, cooking meals together, using those moments to teach life skills.

While at home, parents can spend this extra time focusing on things they normally don’t have time for, such as teaching their child to read. Davenport suggested parents make reading more fun by letting the child read something other than books.

“I know when my kids were younger, getting them to read was not always an easy task,” she said. “I would have my kids read fun stuff like cereal boxes.”

A lot of homeschool parents said they try to make activities fun and educational, which parents can now emulate with their own children at home. Fun projects parents can do to keep their children busy during this time include scavenger hunts using math skills, converting cardboard boxes into robots or cars, creating dioramas, designing buildings from sugar cubes, molding things from salt dough, creating LEGO designs and making their own LEGO movie from their designs, among many other activities.

Redford advised parents to sit back and watch as their children create their masterpieces, without directing them too much. The reward is seeing the sheer excitement on a child’s face as he or she is excited about learning.

“There’s nothing better than seeing their joy when a new concept clicks,” Maria Page, homeschool mom of five years, said.

If, after the quarantine period is over, parents should decide to homeschool their children, Kathryn Robles, who is currently homeschooling six children in elementary and middle school, said keeping a routine is the best thing a parent can do, but first things first, breathe.

“Take a deep breath and know that you CAN do this. I get told many times, ‘I couldn’t do what you do,’” Robles said. “Yes, you can. These are your babies. You know how they operate. And you are smart enough, despite what you may feel.”

Robles and Page both recommend parents conduct a lot of research prior to making the leap into homeschooling. For new homeschool parents, Robles suggested an online public school, such as Connections Academy or K12, which will give new homeschooling parents the opportunity to have their students at home, while not putting the pressure on the parent to lead the instruction. Once the parent is more comfortable, they can transition to traditional homeschooling, if they prefer.

As a homeschool parent, the classroom is not confined to four walls, Redford said. The flexibility of homeschooling allows the parents to adjust schedules to meet the needs of their family.

“If my husband has the day off or gets off early, we can drop everything and have family time together. If the kids are having a really bad day, then we set school aside and go have ice cream because I know we can make up that school work later,” Robles said. “We homeschool year-round so we can have more flexibility for vacations and sick days.”