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So, you’re a homeschooler now …



Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 03/27/20

You might be pulling your hair out and feel like giving up, but be sure to read this advice from a homeschooling dad.

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If you’re a parent of school-aged children, congratulations! Chances are that due to your school shutting down, you’ve just become an involuntary homeschooler. You may be reading this while one child is hanging on your leg, a toddler is smearing yogurt in her hair, and the tween is complaining about being bored. If so, welcome to my world. As the father of a homeschool family, this is my reality every day.

My guess is that your children, having been given an unexpected break from the academic grind, are not at all interested in continuing their lesson plans from home. Further, I know that many schools have sent home at least some sort of lessons for the children, but some schools sent nothing. Not a single book. Not a syllabus. Nothing.

Suddenly, being a teacher is very intimidating. Suddenly, approval ratings for teachers everywhere are skyrocketing. How do those educational geniuses convince a group of children exploding with kinetic energy to sit still and learn? And how do they know, out of all the things in the world to learn about, what these particular children need to learn about, right now, at this particular time? I honestly don’t know how they do it. Teachers tend to be organized, structured, well-trained, and excellent at classroom management. We amateurs will never be able to match up. But the beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t need to possess any of those skills. You don’t have to recreate the discipline of a classroom. You only need to teach your own children.

The first step is being reasonable about what you’re going to accomplish. Children are capable of learning at home, but it may not be exactly what you think they’re going to learn. It may not be what your lesson plan instructed them to learn. Don’t get over-ambitious about lesson plans. Don’t over-organize the day. After all, with only a few children to wrangle, no commuting to and from school, and no standing in lines between classes, they have a lot more freedom to get everything done in plenty of time. If they do get behind or wander, there’s no reason to fret. Especially since the situation is only temporary. Once they’re back in school, they’ll quickly catch up. You can’t re-create school, but you can give them a unique and fruitful educational experience.

Having reasonable expectations will help everyone relax. You don’t need to hit the ground running. You don’t even need to set the alarm in the morning. Wake up at a reasonable hour, fully rested, and ease into the day. Homeschooling isn’t about irresponsibly wasting time, but it does lend itself to a stress-free atmosphere. Enjoy not eating a room temp Pop Tart while fighting rush hour traffic because you’re racing to get the kids to school before the first bell rings. Take your time. Make a nice breakfast. Talk a bit. It’s good to have a regular schedule and some structure to the day, but the pace can definitely be slower and everything is more flexible.

Remember that mastering life skills is learning, too. Cook breakfast together, measure out the ingredients for the muffins and show them how it’s done. Teach them about kitchen tools. Most importantly, teach them how to clean up the kitchen. Teach them to do laundry, sew, or draw. Send them into the yard to aerate the lawn. I may or may not have recently done this, but I promise I paid them! They learned how to do a practical chore, earned some money, and developed an appreciation for hard work.

Every child is different. Some will fight you all day and make the math lesson take forever. Some will sit down and quickly complete all their lessons well before lunch. For the ones who need breaks, send them into the yard, if you have one (or on a family jog around the block if you don’t), for 15 minutes to clear their heads and dissipate some energy. Send them out longer if you need to, it’s as much for you as for them. There can be as many recesses as needed. And speaking of that, boys especially will appreciate not being chained to a desk while learning. Personally, I don’t care if my son is standing on his head and juggling as long as he’s also reciting his multiplication tables.

If your child disappears somewhere with a book for an entire afternoon, builds an elaborate Lego creation, or plays board games for hours in a row — great. They find it fun but these activities are also promoting brain development. The only thing to be avoided in large quantities is screen time – video games, phones, and television. Personally, I would even recommend limiting time spent on educational computer games. This is a chance to slow down and enjoy being a family. If everyone disappears to their devices or school is shifted to an online program, an opportunity will have been lost.

Everyone’s homeschool looks different;that’s what makes it so great. You can balance exactly what works for you and your kids. If nothing else, it will be a great opportunity to have them around for a while and bond with them. And seriously, don’t worry, kids are highly resilient and learn in many different ways, often in ways we never expect. You may not have a professional teaching degree, but you’ve got this!


Read more:
12 Patron saints for homeschooling parents


Read more:
Why I homeschool badly

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