Homeschooling During The Pandemic - Encouragement for the Unexpected Journey

Let me start by welcoming you to the homeschooling community that you never intended to join. We all choose different paths for the academic development of our children. Some of us have chosen public schools, some have chosen private schools, and some of us have chosen to homeschool. These are all legitimate options and are up to the discretion of each family. But, let’s face it - the pandemic has forced families with children receiving instruction outside of the home too - with very little notice - join the homeschoolers club. It is stressful. It is an enormous change. You were not given notice. You did not have time to prepare. You did not have time to plan. You did not choose this option of your own free will. The closure of schools has turned the lives of many non-homeschooling families completely upside down. Be encouraged - we are all here to help each other. You are not going to ruin the academic trajectory of your child in a few weeks or months at home.
You have no doubt seen our family at MBC - my husband is a few inches taller than Mr. Saunders, we have 5 kids, and we sit front and center in the sanctuary - purposefully, to limit distractions during worship. My husband, Sam, is a public school teacher. Before staying home with my children, I was a teacher in Chicago Public Schools for 11 years. I also have more than 5 years of experience in homeschooling our children. I hope to encourage you and offer some resources that will help lift any burden you feel during this unexpected homeschooling journey. Here are my top 5 tips for surviving (and enjoying) this unexpected homeschooling journey.
  • Do Not Attempt to Recreate “School” - Homeschooling is a different approach to learning in many ways. In fact, our family has gone through many different seasons as a homeschooling family.  Learning from home does not require hours of “seatwork” or a strict schedule - you have the freedom to sit at the kitchen table, on the couch, even do schoolwork from the bedroom or the backyard. A strict schedule - especially at first - and too much time on “seatwork” - especially at first- will result in “pushback” from your children. Remember, this is a big change for them as well.

  • Do Not Underestimate Life Skills - We are always yearning for more time with our children. Normal, everyday life can be so hectic that we often do not/cannot find the time to slow down and make memories with our children. THIS IS THE TIME. Children love to be helpful, and they love to learn how to do things they see mom and dad doing around the house. Integrate your children into these daily tasks - washing dishes, cooking meals, folding the laundry, fixing something around the house, organizing a cupboard, hemming a curtain, etc. There are so many learning opportunities in just doing life together - maybe you need to measure something or estimate how much time you will need to complete a task, or you find yourself problem solving when you don’t have the right ingredient or tool to get the job done. ALL LEARNING. 

  • Relationships and Character Matter More than Academics - We all would like to see our children excel academically. Still, I would like to encourage you that character can bring people places that academics alone never could. More important than academic achievement is the character you help your children develop - a love for God and his people, compassion, humility, self-control, obedience, joy, generosity, and being a good steward - to name a few. This does not mean academics are not important, but during a temporary homeschooling journey - it does not have to be your primary focus. Encourage your children to find opportunities to serve and share the love of God with those around them. 

  • Create a Block Schedule/ List of Tasks to Complete - Depending on the age of your child, your schedule and list will look different. This is a GREAT opportunity to help your child practice self-control and self-discipline. Set a block schedule - divide your day into 2-hour blocks - and decide the focus for each block of time. One block of time might include personal hygiene and cleaning personal spaces (like bedrooms). Another block of time might include self-directed learning with the choice of puzzles, legos, reading, drawing, board games, etc. Yet another block of time can be devoted to academic review - spelling, math, cursive, geography, etc. Remember, you do not have to review every subject every day - you can choose 2 subjects per day if this works best for your family.

  • Use Technology to Ease the Burden - If your child has been in private school, chances are they have some E-learning to complete each day. If your child is in public school, the “assignments” provided by your child’s teacher are for enrichment. As of now, the Illinois State Board of Education has instructed public schools not to grade any of these assignments or count them towards report cards because these are not “instructional days”
My family uses several technology-based learning formats to help ease the burden in our home. My oldest children are enrolled in Acellus Homeschool online - they have daily lessons and practice provided by actual teachers on pre-recorded videos. We also use ABCya.com - there are some FABULOUS educational games that have helped my children practice academic skills and have fun at the same time. More resources will be listed at the end of this blog.

Brothers and Sisters, be encouraged during this time. You have some unexpected time with your children - what a blessing! Make memories. Find joy in the journey. Hold your child in your lap and read a book. Put on some music - sing and dance together.  Get out some art supplies and be creative together. Invest in these relationships. Even if you were to neglect all academics during this time…..your child will be ok. When you look back at this time 10 years from now - will you have wished you completed more worksheets? The time you invest in building relationships with your children will yield rewards that far outweigh ANY academic training they might receive from you during this unexpected journey. Make the most of this gift of time - focus on making memories and the academics - and life as usual- will resume soon enough.

To God be the Glory!
Melanie Carpenter

LIST OF RESOURCES MY FAMILY USES:
  • My family is part of the Classical Conversations community at Moody Church - click here to see a song our children have memorized to help them understand the timeline of historical events.
 
  • My children are enrolled in an online learning program through Acellus Homeschool. Currently, the pricing is $25/month per child to enroll in up to 6 courses which you can choose and change at any time, click here for more information. 
 
  • My children also use ABCya to supplement their learning and provide some FUN, academic, gaming time, click here for more information. There are a lot of FREE games, but we purchased a subscription which we think is well worth the price.