Saturday, 28 March 2020 15:01

7 Tips for Homeschooling on the Fly

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In recent weeks, many families around the world are finding themselves in the same boat – having to homeschool on the fly!  Although the methods, availability of teachers and resources may vary from place to place, one thing is certain; many parents are now the principal facilitator of the children’s education.  

 Another certainty is that with the movement of children from the school building into the home, there may be substantial challenges for parents and children which to include adjusting to new routines, responsibilities, and expectations.  Having homeschooled my 6 children over the course of 9 years and in varying situations and environments, I hope to share a few tips for those of you who right now have found yourselves thrown into this situation without consent or preparation.

7 Tips to Help You Adjust to Homeschooling on the Fly

1. Establish YOUR new routine.  Although most of the remaining tips are going to focus on the roles of each person in the family, first and foremost I recommend making sure your personal routine is up to par to face this new challenge.  Before this new journey you may have been able to sustain your energy levels – both physical and emotional – with less effort than you have noticed life is now requiring.  Now, with your children home all day along with juggling how to tackle a new task, you need to start the day off with more in your tank.  If you are not already putting some of these things into practice, I highly recommend them as they have helped me for years to have enough gas in the tank.  

-   Get up about an hour before your children do.  This will give you needed time alone before everyone is awake and you have to meet the needs of others.

-   Pray and read the Bible during this hour.  You need spiritual food for the journey.  Entrust your day to God.  Make a morning offering. Give Him all of your works, challenges, joys, and sufferings of the day.  Do not waste anything!

-   Exercise at some point in the day.  We all know all of its benefits. Especially during this time of being home every day and having a new challenge/stress added you will feel better if you exercise.

-   Create a “pause” in your afternoon.  Years ago I built into my routine a time in the afternoon where I often do spiritual reading, have a coffee break, go outside, take a walk – just some time to help me have an additional boost for the rest of the day.  A time to review how the day has gone, reevaluate what the rest of the day needs to look like, etc. 

2. Establish new roles.  It is important that now your children understand you are the educational facilitator and they are to respect you not just as mother or father, but as teacher now too.  It is important that you see yourself in this role and that you recognize your children as the students and your duty to them to aid them in their learning.  You and your spouse also need to discuss and determine how you will execute this new role.  Will it be both of you with different responsibilities?  Maybe you can divide up the subjects, taking the ones in which you are the strongest?  Will you divide and help different children?  Is one parent going to do it all because of the other’s work responsibilities?  Whatever you decide, do so in agreement, without resentment and fullying committing to supporting each other.  Agree to help the children understand that they must respect and obey you in your new role(s) as teacher.

3. Establish the new norm schedule. Life just took a drastic change in your home and you must come up with a new schedule to accommodate.  There are many aspects of it that will vary now than from before but my recommendation is to keep some things the same or similar.  For example, if your children previously had to awake at 5:30 a.m. daily for school no need to keep getting up that early per se but I wouldn’t let them start sleeping in until 9:00 each day.  They need to know and understand that the weekday schedule is still strict because everyone still has work and school responsibilities even though the venue may have changed.  You will be eating all meals and snacks at home now too.  It is logical that now everyone will have increased chores and responsibilities.  Someone should be setting the table, helping with meal prep, cleaning up after meals and such.  Responsibilities should be shared.  But just as the mundane tasks must be shared it is a great time for new and beautiful activities to be shared in the family too.  I recommend a morning prayer time in community as a family. Do you have a family altar where you can gather to pray and read scripture?  If not, now is a good time to create one and an excellent project to complete together.  When can you participate in a Mass livestream?  Add this to the daily schedule.  How about a family exercise routine in the afternoons? Depending on the age of your children, include them in creatingthis new routine.  Last point I would like to make here is to write your new routine on paper or poster board and post it somewhere very visible, just as they do in the school building.  It will help everyone to know what is expected of them and will make things go more smoothly.

4. Establish a team work mentality.  Have a family meeting and remind everyone that you are a team.  These are challenging times but what a gift family is and that we can go through it together!  Expect that everyone helps each other.  Explain that every family member needs to pitch in, potentially more than before.  Now there are more meals to prepare, more to clean up now that everyone is home all day, lessons to prepare or submit, potentially younger children to help with at home as well.  Everyone must do their part.

5. Encourage independence.  An additional challenge for parents when doing school at home are multiple levels.  Maybe you have 3 or 4 different grades you are having to juggle.  In our home, to help with this, we encourage some independence from me, mom and teacher.  One way I do this is by preparing each week a lesson sheet for each grade.  It has their lessons listed by subject and day with all they are expected to complete.  When I am busy helping another child the other children can look at that lesson sheet and find something on it that they can complete without my help.  My youngest children, who are not school aged yet, have things they can do as well.  We have busy bags (bags with different types of activities like sorting, number practice, puzzles, etc.) that they can pull out and work with when Mommy cannot sit and read or play with them.  Additionally, older siblings can play with, read to, or do a busy bag activity with young siblings while waiting on me for help with their lesson.  

6. Put the most difficult subjects first.  We all know that our brains are more refreshed in the mornings and ready to tackle the more challenging tasks.  This goes for our children as well.  How great is it that now, outside of the school building, you can move those more difficult subjects to the beginning of the day!  Let the kids end with the subjects that are easier for them, allowing them to end the day on a high note.  Do not forget to talk to your children at the end of the day or maybe even at dinner about what is going well and what is not.  Troubleshoot as a family.  One more important tip here – include physical activity as part of the school day!  

7. Do not overdo it.  For some people there is a temptation to spin your wheels and time finding all of the online resources, games, and activities as possible.  You could also find yourself making the school day too long, adding more things than necessary.  You should take the marathon mentality here and not the sprint.  

Take this one day at a time.  Have patience with yourself and with your children.  This is new for everyone and it was not a choice made but a necessity of the current times and situation.  Try to see the beauty in getting to be the one to help your child learn new things and master what they already know.  God is giving us a gift in this moment even if we are at times frustrated with it.  Social distancing from the rest of the world is allowing us to connect with the ones that should be most important in our lives.  Laugh, have fun, and use this time to connect more with your children.  And above all, pray more-you will need it!  

Monica MartinezMonica is a married mother of 6 who is an enthusiastic convert to the Catholic Church and a lay member of the Home of the Mother. For many years she was a teacher and counselor in the public school system but now she labors with love in her home teaching and counseling the hearts of her own children.