I’ve been reading all sorts of stories and comments about the homeschooling challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of it has been how hard homeschooling is, how ill-equipped parents feel, and how it is not going so well.
When I heard that one parent was ripping the “my child is an honor student” bumper sticker off her car, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.
We homeschooled our two children in the 80s and 90s, back when it was still rather new to the post-60s American scene. Back when eating out as a vegetarian or wanting to eat organic foods was much more challenging than it is today.
Back when arts centers and dance studios did not offer classes during school hours, just for homeschoolers, like they do today.
We were paving the way for today’s homeschoolers.
I should note that, unlike some homeschoolers, our reasons for homeschooling were not religion based. Our reasons were two-fold: we were sometimes on the road as musicians (singing for children in libraries, church basements, and school assemblies), but mostly because we wanted a more child-directed education for our children, and we felt homeschooling was the best option for that to happen for them.
So, here are a few tips to keep in mind while you are homeschooling your children during these challenging, stay-at-home coronavirus times:
1. Lighten up.
What your child(ren) do or not do relative to academics during these weeks or months is not going to damage their educational careers. Try not to worry about their falling behind academically. They will catch up. In fact, they will probably learn things they would never have learned in school.
2. Don’t get stressed out.
These are stressful times for all of us, including children. The last thing kids need is more stress from parents being the strict schoolmarm.
3. Let go of creating a home classroom.
Put way less emphasis on worksheets and long lists of math problems and lots more emphasis on reading to or with your kids, playing board games, doing science experiments, and doing fun activities with your kids. Many of us have such full lives with so many distractions and commitments. Enjoy this opportunity to spend more time with your kids.
4. Bake and cook together.
Preparing food can be such a wonderful experience, and it often involves real-life opportunities to apply some basic math through measuring. And, the result is some home-prepared food to enjoy together.
5. Spend time outdoors.
The “stay-at-home” policies that many of us are abiding by do allow for time outside for walking, hiking, jogging… As long as we maintain the appropriate physical distance from others, being outside, especially if it can be in more natural setting, is so good for all of us in so many ways – physically, mentally, emotionally.
6. Expand your outside activities.
Try birdwatching, learn to identify wildflowers, figure out what kinds of clouds are in the sky. These activities can be enriched with on-line resources and can bring a nice connection between screen time and outdoor time.
7. Consider less screen time.
As much as I hate to say it, this may be a time to consider easing up a little bit on screen-time limits. Temporarily! Maybe not. This can be a tough call. But it is good to remind yourself that there aren’t screen-time police monitoring you as a parent.
8. Be easy on yourself, and your kids.
Looking back on our many years of homeschooling, it is now easy to see how so many of the things I worried about relative to their education were a complete waste of time and energy. Twenty/twenty hindsight tells me this.
9. So, lighten up. Have fun. They are children only once!
A couple more points. I am not a parenting or homeschooling expert. The above thoughts reflect our approach to homeschooling, which was rather eclectic, laid-back, and was filled with lots and lots of books and lots and lots of outside time in Nature. Take or leave any or all of this.
A bit more about my homeschooled children. They are both grown up and are happy, well-adjusted, contributing members of their communities. They are avid readers, they are good friends to each other, and they are kind people. My daughter, who turns 41 in a few weeks, homeschooled through her freshman year of high school. Her first day of traditional school was as a sophomore, she did fine! She is now a registered nurse, is married and has two teenagers. My son, soon to turn 38, homeschooled until 6th grade. He is also happily married and has three well-behaved dogs. He is an organic farmer who knows more about the chemistry of healthy soil and how to grow the most amazing vegetables than anyone I know.
Dave Van Manen is a father, grandfather and the founder of Earthkeeper Nature School and creator of music for earthkeeping families. He lives and is staying close to home during The Great Pause in Beulah, Colorado and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org