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How quarantine-schooling is much harder than homeschooling

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A few tips to ease the stress …  

At the very start of the pandemic, I wrote this piece about how the coronavirus is teaching me about happiness – about finding contentment; blah, blah, blah, something like that.

A month later, it would be more honest to write about how coronavirus has taught me about loneliness and frustration;  how I’ve realized my own weakness for scrolling social media until I’m pretty sure my eyeballs are going to fall out.

Happiness, at this point, is hard-won – something I have to fight for. And honestly, I’m surprised it’s such a struggle as I’ve successfully homeschooled my 7 sons in the country, isolated from neighbors and friends, for the past 10 years. Actually, when I first heard the news that our afterschool sports and church activities would be cancelled, I was relieved for the break.

That was a month ago.

Now I’m a little more like a cat with its whiskers snipped off.  The weeks of isolation have left me jumpy — reading scary news article after confusing news article, then pushing away from the computer and trying to teach math while my kids look a little frightened.

Last week, I jumped when a toddler bumped me with a board book. I startled so dramatically he cried, and I felt awful. It was all because my head was somewhere else. And this has been the hardest thing about quarantine-schooling —  I’m so incredibly distracted and saddened by the global crisis that’s upon us. And honestly, should that be surprising? And should it be surprising that a worldwide pandemic makes everything – even teaching algebra — a whole lot harder?

The mandate to quarantine has made me realize just how much good a little (maskless) chat with the librarians or my kids’ coaches did to fill my need for in-person adult conversation – something I really took for granted when I was merely a homeschooling parent. Now, as a quarantine-schooling mom, I better appreciate the steam we’d blow off by running around the park with friends after lessons.

Parents who are now teaching at home for the first time should really keep this in mind – quarantine schooling is precipitously harder than homeschooling. That being said, here’s a few tips I’ve picked up lately that are easing the stress:

1
Guard your own mind

“Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) You can’t control what’s going on in the world, but you can decide how much time you’re going to stare at the internet. I followed this advice to “stay off social media and talk about something else – [other than coronavirus]” by “unplugging” on weekdays; saving the majority of my social media scrolling for weekends. This new habit is what’s helping me the most lately with quarantine-schooling and just about everything. I have more peace of mind, more time in prayer, and I feel like I’m actually living in the present moment lately (a necessity for reading board books to toddlers).

2
Set fun/attainable/ daily quarantine goals (rather than teaching lessons)

I stole this idea from my brother Andy, a newbie to being home with his kids. Every day, he and his sons do “8 at 8.” This means that every morning they accomplish 8 goals (*because his kid is 8 -years-old!). They start by walking 8 blocks, reading 8 books, doing 8 pull-ups – you get it. Andy keeps sending me happy photos of him and his kids, whom he and his wife had never homeschooled before. They’re learning and laughing together and have really challenged me to ditch most of our formal “lessons” in favor of accomplishing fun, attainable goals for a season.

3
Cut corners on housework and food

“Your home should be clean enough to be healthy, but messy enough to be happy.” It’s a popular adage that rings true especially in this season of everyone being home all the time. In short, unless the dirty laundry is blocking your path to the fridge to the point that you can’t make a sandwich, pat yourself on the back.

And speaking of sandwiches, I’ve always had to provide a lot of food for our daily routine, but the demand has been so intense lately with my hollow-legged nephew quarantining with us, simply feeding these people could seriously cut into everything else if I didn’t get creative. So I’m taking our local school up on their free bagged lunch program and supporting our town’s restaurants by purchasing take-out deals at least once a week. We eat most meals in the backyard so there are no crumbs to sweep up, and clean floors really do have a way of putting the shine on just about anything – even during a pandemic.

Take heart. God is faithful; we’ll get through this. But if you find quarantine-schooling hard, you are not alone – we all do. In fact, this 10-year homeschooling veteran just ditched her abacus to play in the rain.

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