Ashlee Albart, LPC-S, NCC
I am going to reveal something about myself that often surprises people when I tell them: I was home-schooled for several years as a child. Despite some misconceptions people may have about homeschooling, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and think back lovingly on those years of our family of six in our 1000 square foot military base housing being taught by my amazing mom.
However, my memory of being a home-schooled kid and my experience with homeschooling as a mom are completely different. I mostly remember relaxed mornings, short school days, lots of outdoor play time. Now that I am on the other side of things it does not feel so relaxed, or short and I honestly do not know how we all survived with all our limbs. How did my mother teach four separate grade levels, cook, clean, maintain the house, sustain relationships, along with many other things and not want to pull out her hair?! With the current state of the world, we have been trying to home-school our three girls (ages 6, 4, and 4) for only a few weeks, and we at least have tablets and WiFi! I imagine there were times that my mother felt overwhelmed or isolated, but she carried it so well, and I think it helped that she took a more atypical approach to teaching than what the school system provides.
Now I am not an educator, and I admire and appreciate so much the patience, skill, training, and adaptability that it takes to teach a room full of children anything, but for my siblings and me, my mom went a somewhat unconventional route. It is this path I am trying to implement in my own home. Back then we had workbooks and content we had to cover of course, but she also allowed for us to learn in creative and fun ways, without us even realizing it at the time. For example, I have a very fond memory of reciting the state capitals and presidents in chronological order while bouncing on my trampoline in my backyard. We were allowed to integrate play with the learning process, and the experience was richer because of it.
I say all of this to give you my own thoughts on homeschooling children without losing your mind...
1) Teach your children while accomplishing every day activities. Teach chemistry while baking or cooking, teach physics while vacuuming (or let them vacuum), discuss nature while you walk, practice letters while writing a grocery list, practice spatial reasoning while organizing a closet. Children at different ages can acquire simple or complex learning from every day tasks, we as parents just need to step outside of the box and find ways to engage with them.
2) Do not get bogged down in the tasks. I have struggled with this myself, worrying if I am matching the academic rigor that my kids may receive in school, but I realized that I am NOT not a teacher, and for good reason. That realization has been so helpful in letting me off the hook from trying to meet the standards of professional educators and an established education system. Do not beat yourself up if your kid did not check every box, there is still tomorrow and there is grace for them as well as for yourself.
3) Shorten your school day. Of course traditionally kids are at school from 6-8 hours a day, five days a week, which gives adults time to work, care for other children or the home, accomplish tasks, etc., but homeschooling is hard to maintain for that long. Depending on the student, perhaps shorten the number of hours you have them work, and be sure to break up the day with school hours, down time, outside time, and play time.
4) We are all in this together. I am sure you all have heard this phrase used on social media, but let’s not forget to act on it. Ask friends, family, colleagues, etc. to create content specifically for your kids. This can be videoing themselves teaching a subject, learning a skill, showing them what they do for a living, or even just entertaining with music or dance. I find that kids are more likely to be excited and engage with people they know, so use those incredible people around you to get your child excited to learn.
5) Have fun. Yes, this may seem counter-intuitive to the learning process, but laughter boosts retention, play engages children, and I’m sure you cannot deny that we all need a little levity in our world right now. Create a you tube channel, learn a new dance, make mud pies, have a picnic outside, play a board game, whatever works for you and yours to blow off some steam and remember to smile.
Of course every person and every family is different, so you have to do what is best for you and yours. Remind yourself that you are not alone, that others are also struggling in some of the same ways, but we can do this!
Oh, and if you do end up pulling out some of your hair, at least you are staying home so no one will see it.
Stay safe and sane,
Ashlee Albart, MS, LPC-S, NCC