Hi there! I know so many parents are new to homeschooling – estimating 95-99.9% of the USA right now. I’m also pretty positive there has been some major learning curves for both you and your children (child** – if you have only one.) So I felt compelled to share our homeschool journey and hopefully some tips and thoughts that may help you until schools reopen. I want to be very real and raw with you all because you don’t have time for this sugar-coated shit.
So, first off and in the KINDEST TONE you can imagine me saying this, please remember YOU ARE NOT A CREDENTIALED TEACHER, so don’t be so critical of yourself while trying to educate your child. You do not have all the answers and that’s ALL GOOD. You were thrown into this hamster wheel with your kid attached by a string. There’s a hell of a lot of things going on and I’m sure you’re just as bit frustrated as your child(ren).
The key component here though is that you ARE the leader so your kids are going to look to you to establish their learning foundation. So at best, be patient with yourself. YOU are the key to unlocking a great or, more or less, shitty experience. Now, with that said I’m going to list what worked and didn’t work and hope you can take some tips away for your own use:
1. Set expectations. It is important to provide a framework of behavior during learning time. When setting expectations, keep it simple! 3-5 important rules and be consistent with it.
2. Keep a consistent routine M-F and make sure they sleep at a proper time. Yep. This is a MUST.
3. The internet is your new best friend – it’s the best tool you have to NOT reinvent the wheel. There are tons of free resources available to you. USE THEM!!!!
4. Favorites Bar / Bookmarks & saving passwords – You can save the school websites and specialty links to your “Favorites” bar so you do NOT have to remember them. LET YOUR COMPUTER DO THE WORK. I understand issues with security but if you’re not going to be lugging around the chromebooks and connecting to public wifi – I generally think they’re secure.
5. Passwords to access online classroom — my husband, the hack artist, made a simple yet effective way for our kids to know their logins for their online classroom. He took PAINTERS TAPE and written down the username and passwords for their classes and stuck it next to the wrist rest of my children’s tablets. (My kids use tablets with a detachable keyboard; basically it becomes a mini laptop for them. So they had a space available to stick the tape to.)
6. Save your child’s teacher’s contact information (and the school attendance line, if needed) to your phone and FAVORITE IT; that way, it is ready for any time you need to communicate with them. I suggest communicating as often as you can. They are amazing resources and know what the curriculum objectives are. It would make sense to “get ahead” of the curve even if by a week’s increment.
7. HOTSPOT – sometimes the internet goes out at home and we need to connect these babies back to class ASAP as they are losing valuable time if it’s right in the middle of a lecture. If you have “hotspot” on your cellular plan, you can use it to reconnect the laptop to the internet. You just have to make sure that they are synced and then, off you go. (I have T-Mobile so this feature is available to me.) ProTip: if your child is using Zoom, if you’re unable to connect on the home wifi, there is phone accessibility so they can listen in. That information is usually provided when the teacher sends their zoom link.
8. School Emails – set up your email inbox to separate the schools emails from your general inbox. That way, you don’t have to search for them in a flurry of emails you receive in a day. Depending on your email host, you can configure this in your settings.
9. Have a specified space for the kids to work. It doesn’t have to be fancy. My kids shared a long desk and bookshelf. You do not need to make your house look like a school to create a productive environment. All they need is a clean space. Enforce cleaning up their work areas and not eat where they work. This way, there is a separation between work/play.
10. Use a timer to keep your child on task. This is mostly for independent work so that there’s no slacking off. Do take into consideration that having breaks every hour are extremely helpful to get the wiggles out and help them refocus. Younger children may require 15 minute blocks and then increasing the break periods as they become more attuned to independent work and study.
The Hard Lessons:
1. Do NOT burden yourself and your child to be PERFECT. What I mean by this is that there is an unnecessary demand for your child to make sure they are straight A students and never fail/have challenges while learning. That is the whole point to education and growth. Be careful of how you measure yourself and how you measure your child in their academic accomplishments.
2. Communicate with the teacher where there may be challenges so that you can obtain the resources necessary to encourage your child’s learning. It is imperative to ask for help! You do not need to do this on your own.
3. Make time to review the lessons before passing assignments to your child. Always ask “what is the point” of each task and frame your instructions around that answer. This way, your child does not get lost when diving into their work.
4. GIVE POSITIVE ENCOURAGMENTS. I cannot stress enough how much our children need to hear they are doing well and not just when they are “failing”.
My daughter is so independent and well organized that it did not immediately appear to me she was having any struggles. It wasn’t until she was showing signs of dejection from school that I talked to her; I realized she felt stressed out from learning new math subjects. She felt she wasn’t doing well because her online competency quizzes were marking below passing. OH MY HEART! She was scared to ask for help because she thought it would mean she was “stupid”, that she couldn’t figure it out on her own. From that point on, I make sure to check-in with her everyday and just let her vent out her frustrations and then give some feedback with positive encouragements. My ultimate advice to her is that I don’t expect her to be perfect. She does NOT need to have straight A’s. She does NOT have to understand all of her subjects. But, she does have to try; put her best foot forward. She is also rewarded for her accomplishments (we pay out money and take them for sweet treats or dinner out. LOL. Hey! everyone needs a bonus.) She did so well that she got straight A’s this past year. A little encouragement and positive reinforcement does wonders for these kiddos’ hearts and souls.
5. Learning does not stop at core school subjects. There are topics that go beyond like character building, communication skills, behavior management, etc. that also provide opportunities for you to sharpen. My children and I have developed an open bridge of communication. I truly believe that if you can’t talk to them about small things, they’ll never talk to you about the BIG/IMPORTANT things. I personally do not want to miss out on my children’s life so I make it a point to talk to them about EVERYTHING. Even hard subjects like rape, kidnapping, sex trafficking/crimes, puberty, personal safety, girls vs boys stuff, feelings, emotions, family, school, friends, religion, politics, weird stuff, etc.. You NAME IT! We have talked about it. And we’ll keep talking about things since our world is evolving everyday. It’s also important to help them navigate this, albeit, complex world.
Long story short: my children were homeschooled for 3 years. It was a choice made out of desperation, honestly. Childcare in California is ridiculously expensive and our work schedules conflicted with the school’s 9a-3p schedule. We knew we had to try something “out-of-the-norm” without penalizing ourselves and our kids. Just this school year, 2020-2021, we returned our children to regular school per their request. We figured, worst case scenario is to return them to homeschool if they don’t like regular school. All the educational curriculums are the same throughout the State so it didn’t matter to us how they were meeting the requirements. So, here we are, ironically, back to “homeschool” but it’s like they didn’t even miss a beat. We were fortunate to not be impacted the way others were as California was shut down. They are thriving even more. We are so proud of them.
Side note: We don’t have a dream for our kids except for them to live their own dreams and follow their own paths. We do encourage having a back-up plan so they need to at least obtain their baccalaureate degrees before wandering off into the world. I’ve told my kids I want them to lead unconventional lives. Go the road less traveled. Have fun because life is short and shouldn’t be taken so seriously. I’ve told my son that if he wants to go and be a Nascar racer: Go, go do it! I’ve told my daughter that if she wants to be an artist painting the world forever: Go, go do it! We all have opportunities and we have to choose what’s right for us, not for others’ expectations of us.
Our children are our best investment. Bet on them.
I hope you found some takeaways. If you did, please share my blog and tag me! I’d love to see updates.
Xoxo friends & warm regards,