Welcome to Homeschooling.
It maybe was never going to be an option for you or that you would never consider keeping your kids at home but here you are. I wanted to write you an official welcome to the club type of letter. We are normally a crafty bunch so if I could meet you, I would probably give you a badge, cross-stitched or wool felted.
Funny how things change, what once was a fringe decision is now the norm. Our homeschool population – if I could describe numbers with human characteristics – was a ‘quiet’ and ‘reserved’ little number and has now exponentially grown. (And we are all getting a lesson in exponential growth these days.)
I have to admit that when self-isolation and social distancing was strongly encouraged, it affected us more than the average homeschooler. This year I started to teach other children and Chris started programs for the youth in the community. Homeschool became a hybrid notion as I started to teach in a classroom that felt like a home. I taught all of the children like my own children because some of them are actually my own children. But at the same time, it didn’t take my children long to find a rhythm at home and together as a family once we shifted back into ‘at home’ mode. Although we aren’t ‘home’ that much. More on that later.
Welcome to a life at home. Step one to homeschooling: LOVE YOUR HOME. Your home and how you feel about it plays a crucial role in this journey because you will be spending all your time there. It is the nth member of the family. In my case, it is the beloved 8th member. There is the least bickering and annoyance with this member because she (of course it’s a “she”) is patient and kind as she puts up with a considerable amount of abuse and neglect on most days unless you have to be with her all the time. If this is the case, as most homeschoolers are, then you tend to care more about the space.
When you are at home for the majority of your time, you tend to treat her differently. Things that you can stuff in a corner or ignore are the only things you see when you are at home all day. This is a perfect time for spring cleaning; a perfect time to involve the kids in caring for the house, i.e. chores. If chores have a negative association, change it to “house-care” or “household love notes.” Whatever it is, this would be my first priority if I could go back in time.
When we became minimalists, it changed our home life – a layer of weight was shed so we could focus on the important stuff. Being at home, you may be tempted to stock up on craft material, books, toys, “educational”games, etc. This also applies to online apps and curriculum – cluttered doesn’t just mean ‘physical’ clutter. Don’t do it. Wait. Be patient. You’ll hear this a lot from me. This is a LONG game – an infinite game really. I’ll talk about this more later.
Welcome to the integration of home/school/education/learning. As you do this, depending on the set-up of your home and the amount of kids you have and their ages, you may want a separate space for their “focused work.” Some of you will still be following lessons from your school curriculum or guidelines from teachers so the kids will have to devote some time daily to finishing this work.
Some children need a physical separation of work and play like adults having a separate office space at home. Some kids can do focused work in their room or on the sofa or the dining table. We did not have the space to have a completely separate space but I felt my kids needed to have the separation as they got older simply because they wanted and were capable of focusing for more than 10 minutes. My family, who didn’t have enough space, and how my good friend Brooke who also with five children used to say, you end up playing house-Tetris a few times before finding the perfect set-up for your family.
Be patient. Take your time understanding the need before you knock walls down or rearrange bedrooms. Observe and consult the family for a little while. Are you starting to see the pattern in my advice?
Welcome to a crash course in relationships. When people ask me now what my favourite thing is about homeschooling, I say the relationships that we have spent time nurturing and building between each other. Parent to child, sibling to sibling, husband to wife, me to myself, and themselves to themselves. We are social animals and how we relate to one another is a skill we undervalue. I have looked back over blog posts to find the right ones to link to and I am astonished at the amount time we spent with each other – at home, in cars, and on trips around our local community and trips abroad.
I am proud to say that the seven of us are still close. All five children are here, hanging out together, and honestly, it feels easy and normal. They disagree and often get annoyed with each other but most of the time, they are cuddling in someone’s room doing homework or listening to music together or watching a movie on the sofa. Our house in the jungle is a lot bigger than our old home in Toronto but they haven’t seemed to adjust their physical proximity to each other or to me and Chris. They are always in arm’s length of another family member unless they need time to themselves which they normally take in the morning before getting up or as they wind down at bed time.
If you don’t have a big family, make sure you use technology like Zoom or Skype to keep your kids in contact with friends and family members. I can’t stress how social interaction with people other than you, dear parent, will preserve your sanity and give you and your child something to talk about too.
During the weekday, I have managed to continue our classes and teach through Zoom so the kids can interact with their friends and so I can also interact and be a point of support for other parents. I am an anchor point for these kids during the week – meeting for one, two, or three hours and talking and sharing. Living in a house with no internet poses a challenge which is why I am grateful for our empty little school that feel like home but has internet. Confusing? Well of course. When everyone zigs or starts to homeschool, Chris and I zag and find a way to continue to have our kids in “school” online.
But I digress.
For the most part, you will have a TON of together time. Be patient. This is a transition period. My best advice for transition periods – musicals of course. My second best advice? Patience. Lots of patience.
Welcome to homeschooling. Welcome to this blog of homeschooling. Kind of. That’s what homeschooling is by the way. A “kind of” thing as you will come to find out. I know you might have wanted links or ideas or suggestions but I thought I would start with the basics, the kind of things that we wanted to reset or change anyway and how after this is all said and done, what kind of life do we want? I will eventually post my kids top 10 stuff to do en casa and other favourite places online and lists of books and activities to do for different age groups, different size families, and ways to help parents maintain their own relationship. But like I said, be patient…and go watch The Sound of Music.
P.S. Daily posts on the way! Glad to be back.