Homeschooling in not quite the same as what parents with homebound students are facing during the COVID-19, but our family is finding some of the lessons we learned from our homeschooling days helpful while our students are going to school-away-from-school.
First, some backstory.
When our family transitioned between jobs in different states two years ago, my wife and I decided that I should homeschool rather than put three children into a new school system and one toddler into daycare. I wasn’t working at the time.
I quickly realized that homeschooling is a delicate balance of organizational skills and hanging on to some things while letting other things go.
My first attempts to regiment every minute of the day and to detail every assignment created such bureaucracy and infighting in our household that even the toddler was ready to move out by day 3.
I had to learn to set some strict rules, but tailor others, depending on which child I was dealing with.
For example, we would start a morning routine with mantras like, “The foundation of a good day begins with a made bed,” “Chores get done before you eat,” and “Do yourself and everyone else a favor by brushing your teeth before you come to the table for class.”
These and a daily hard start time of 8:30 a.m. were pretty much all that I required for the morning ritual.
We then let the habits of each child determine how involved we would be.
Our first and third child were self-starters who needed little to no supervision. In fact, they consistently worked further in their lessons than required.
Our second child, however, proved to be a challenge as she had no motivation to do school work until absolutely coerced. This quickly changed when we began letting students who had completed their assignments to standard have the rest of the school day to themselves.
We seldom saw children doing homework after the lunch hour, as a result, and there were many times that the older children tutored their siblings to ‘spring’ them from the prison of class on a beautiful day.
To be sure, though, it’s a good habit to check some balances to make sure that each child is getting the knowledge they need to stay on top of school standards.
We found that a reward system and healthy peer pressure did the trick for our kids. A family outing was the order of the day when all students did well. This worked to great effect on many occasions, and some children even took to keeping study questions on their bedside tables so they could review each night before bedtime.
Another great tool was using a short day trip to explore the world or some topic they were discussing in history or social studies. While these trips have been curbed by COVID – 19, our family is still discussing all the trips we’re planning after the health crisis passes. There are of course some subjects, like science, that can easily be explored in the home or in the backyard.
This brings us to the latest educational opportunity trending in our household: life lessons.
Our oldest children are learning the life skills they’ll need for college and beyond. So far these skills have included cooking meals, patching holes in siblings’ pant knees, paying bills and growing their own food in the garden.
What we’ve learned from this whole experience is there’s no perfect mold for the homeschool or homebound school experience. However, it is relatively easy and fun to produce an environment that promotes a lifelong love of learning.