Homeschooling During Covid-19 Tip (just one)
As a parent of a family having walked the homeschooling path for a few months, and now suddenly watching friends and family setting out on this homeschooling path without so much as a compass, a backpack full of tools, or even sturdy shoes, I want to reach out with some words of comfort. In the past 12 hours, four different mothers reached out to me asking if I had any further advice for parents who are trying to figure out homeschooling. Today, my only advice is: Please be gentle on yourself and those around you.
To be honest, I find the whole situation incredibly challenging and our lives haven’t even changed that much. Most of you have been thrown into a mad rollercoaster of change, and there is no clear end in sight, and the rollercoaster isn’t slowing down just yet. Getting through the day without giving into overwhelming emotions feels like an accomplishment.
First of all, let me add a little perspective about our situation here. My husband and I made the very conscious decision to homeschool our two daughters, ages six and eight. We are both qualified teachers with 15 years of experience teaching in international schools. We were in the very fortunate position to be able to take sabbaticals from our full-time teaching jobs to spend more time together as a family, explore other interests, and homeschool. Most parents certainly did not have the luxury of that choice over the last few weeks. They were simply confronted with the fait accompli of having their children at home—more or less indefinitely.
As we slowly transitioned to the idea of homeschooling, our children were able to find closure with the idea of not returning to school. Right now, most children do not have that privilege. They have no idea when they will see their friends again, and many will not able to take part of the rituals that go along with finishing off a school year.
At the beginning of this school year, we were incredibly lucky to take a trip to Spain to celebrate the wedding of dear friends. After that, we embarked on a two-month long USA family road trip in the fall—visiting many friends, family and numerous amazing landmarks and museums.
When we returned home to Switzerland in December 2019, we moved into our new house surrounded by the most beautiful alpine nature, that we had spent quite a few years planning and building. Again, feeling so blessed. We then shifted our energy to settling in and finding a routine that worked for all of us, giving ourselves time to adjust.
Since then, much of my time and energy has been focused on setting up my own consulting business and volunteering as a board member for two organizations that I strongly believe in and who I absolutely love working with. To allow me to do those things, I am incredibly lucky to have a partner who has not only taken on the main teaching role in terms of homeschooling our two daughters, but who is also doing an amazing job of it.
In January, the girls took up some activities and that gave us parents some time for ourselves and them an opportunity to socialize and enjoy other teachers than their parents.
Fast forward three months later and life as we all knew it changed from one day to another, followed by lots of little changes that are still making massive impacts on our daily lives. The life our family had slowly gotten accustomed to didn’t change so much, because we didn’t have jobs to stay home from or kids suddenly at home with us.
However, much anticipated visits from grandparents were cancelled, Sunday dinners with friends which had become a staple are indefinitely postponed, all sports activities are canceled until further notice, play dates suddenly take place on Zoom, and upcoming birthday party invites will probably only be extended to our four member family and the cats.
The resulting anxiety and worries about the current situation, about our loved ones, about the future, does not escape any of us. As a result, we simply ended up taking last week “off” from homeschooling. We needed time and space to regroup, to focus on what and who were important, and to simply let it all sink in.
Luckily the sun was shining brightly so the girls spent hours outdoors. We took a long family hike (without running into more than a handful of people). We played games, we baked cookies and muffins, and watched lots of movies together in the evening. We Skyped with family and friends a whole lot.
And right now my only advice to those only just embarking on this homeschooling adventure is to please be gentle on yourself. First and foremost, you are their parent. More than anything right now, your kids need to feel loved and safe, and you are the ones they will turn to. If you can give them the comfort they need in this situation, you’ve done the most important bit.
You might not be a trained teacher, and you may have never ever wanted to even think about the idea of homeschooling, and that’s okay. You may feel overwhelmed by online school and setting up a new school routine. Give yourself and your family some time to adjust. You will adjust, but it takes time in the best of circumstances, and these days are definitely not ideal. It’s completely normal you don’t get it right straight away. Every one is adjusting as things continue to be canceled and dates to re-open schools are postponed. Teachers, administrators, counselors, students, and parents. Your kids will continue to learn. You are doing the best you can given the circumstances, and know that that’s enough right now.
Because right now, you have a million other things to take care of. One of them being the very important self-care, so that you can find the peace within yourself to make the kids feel loved and safe. Find time to practice self-care. Don’t feel guilty if this happens when the kids watch Frozen 2 (again).
If your school has a great home learning system in place, wonderful. Use it to the best of your ability (remember, every one else is also just trying their best but it’s new to all) and use the rest of the time to do something different than ‘school’ with your children. If you need to adjust and create your own learning program, then don’t put too much pressure on yourself right now.
In terms of resources, it’s the most generous jungle out there at the moment (here is an updated list of some that inspired me). I can only imagine parents are feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of choice in terms of homeschooling tools and advice. You do not need to research all of them and you do not need to take advantage of every single educational tool out there. Give yourself some time to look at them, ideally not when you’re scrambling to give the kids a worksheet to keep them busy, but when you can have calm, thorough look. Then pick out ones that might work for you and your kids. Try some, toss out what doesn’t work for you, and keep those that do bookmarked in your browser.
As for setting a routine, anything super rigorous is bound to backfire on you. Ask yourself the question if that’s really necessary right now? If you can manage to more or less get up at the same time every day, ensure you all eat well, get in a little exercise, and put the kids to bed more or less at the same time, you are doing okay. In terms of homeschooling, you may need to follow your school’s routine, but if not, then take some time to discover what works best for your family. I have learnt so much about our kids by not setting a strict routine, but going with the flow of what keeps them motivated, curious, and eager to learn.
Remember, every one you know is struggling in some way right now. Ensure you practice self-compassion and be mindful of the extent of your own resources and energy, you (and your children) will need them in future. Set boundaries for yourself and don’t expect more from yourself than you usually would. Lower your expectations, as well as those of your children, and take time to adjust.
Enjoy the funny and creative teachable moments this situation gives us and try to accept all that we cannot control right now. Reach out to those you love. We will get through this together. Please be gentle on yourself and those around you.