I wanted to repost this blog post that I originally published last fall when I was just beginning homeschooling. I’m going to write a new post shortly giving an update on how this past year really went. Let’s just say that homeschooling is hard! But for now, below are all of my thoughts when we just began our school year.
Covid. Masks. Changes at School. E-learning. Quarantine. Pandemic.
These are all words that have become commonplace in our household. It’s so interesting. I was talking to my almost 8 year old son and trying to explain to him how all of the things the world is going through right now are incredibly foreign and new to me. It’s been hard for me to learn to accept all of the changes, deal with the fear, try to weed out the truth from the media and make appropriate changes to our lifestyle – and yet I/we have. My son wisely said “this is normal to me – if another pandemic happens in the future, it won’t be so strange – it will be normal.”
I always swore I would never homeschool. I really feel like I should write that I always swore I would never never never homeschool because I felt that strongly about it. However, the past few years we’ve felt more and more compelled to find a private school that thought outside the box. This past spring we thought we found one. Then the pandemic hit.
In March, while still at his A rated wonderful public school (I say this in all seriousness, I loved his school and its faculty), like all students, he had to stay home and do e-learning on the computer. Since my kiddo is still young, I had to do everything with him and basically home school him as he did public school on the computer. The school district did their best to provide quality emergency e-learning but it just didn’t work for us. It was crazy easy, lots of busywork and honestly, most of it was a waste of time. It was then, in the spring, when I realized that I was already hand holding him through all of the lessons. And while I always swore I wouldn’t homeschool, I basically was doing that. I realized I was alive and surviving.
I didn’t think school would return to normal this fall so in the early spring I decided to homeschool my kiddos. My daughter has congenital heart disease so I take this pandemic extremely seriously. I know the stats and that my daughter will probably be fine if she gets covid… but I also know that with her weaker heart and lungs, she could be very very ill. SO, this past spring I stopped looking at private schools for fall. Instead, I looked at homeschool curriculum and tried to find curriculums that matched the likes and needs of both of my children. I spent hours researching curriculum.. maybe 80 hours? (I have OCD. Seriously.) I read comments in Facebook groups, I polled all of my friends and family who homeschool. I was basically an expert in the topic of homeschooling and yet had never done it before.
During my research I found a literature rich History/Bible/Literature curriculum called Sonlight that made me very excited. (They also have a non-faith based literature rich program called Bookshark) Both of my kiddos are advanced readers and we have always loved reading together as a family. With Sonlight I loved the books that they would be reading on their own. I also loved all of the readers that I would be reading to my kids. It’s a literature rich curriculum so a lot of time is spent with me reading – but I’ve done a ton of research (remember? 80 hours.. OCD..) and learned so much about the importance of reading out loud to children. We’ve read to our kiddos since the first day we adopted them but with this curriculum, my reading has really increased. Surprisingly, my children have LOVED learning history (so far we’ve studied Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece). They have also loved the three books I’ve read them (in addition to a few books of poetry). We have giggled together at the antics of Mrs Piggle Wiggle (awesome book! I’m planning on getting the next book in the series at the library). We’ve sat in suspense reading the first in the series of The Boxcar Children (I have book two on reserve at the library). Just today we finished reading My Father’s Dragon and started Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. The only book out of these four that I’ve read before is Beezus and Ramona so it has been awesome to be introduced to new books and to watch my children ask me to keep reading everyday. It’s been awesome.
I purchased a Language Arts program through Sonlight and then extra supplemental curriculum like Explode the Code and Wordly Wise. I purchased a fun Science Zoology curriculum from Apologia (I can’t wait for the weather to cool a bit more so we can go to the zoo to see all of the animals we study in person). I purchased Singapore Math for both of my kiddos because it mimics the math learning style they would have at school. I also purchased Beast Academy but have since learned that that curriculum doesn’t work well for my 2nd grader at this point.
Homeschooling has been an adventure. We are officially one month in. I’m not one of the homeschool moms you will meet who will say everything is perfect, everyone should homeschool and that I am doing awesome. In fact, I’ll tell you the opposite of all of those thoughts. It’s been a bit difficult getting into a rhythm. Fortunately, I started slow and each week added more and more things to our plate. The kids have gotten used to the routine. I’ve realized that I can get a lot more schoolwork done one on one with my child than my child would get done in a day in a classroom with 20+ classmates. So it’s fun to know we’ve done all of our schoolwork by lunchtime. (If my children were in higher grades, I fully expect they would have longer days. But for now my Kindergartner and 2nd grader are done by the time they eat lunch.) After breakfast we do the “hardest” school work at Table Time. We do all of our spelling, Language Arts and Math. Then we take our rambunctious puppy out to the park where the kids ride bikes or scooters and we all get sweaty. We come home, they play, I shower and then we do Couch Time where we read Science, History and our Literature books. Couch time is admittedly all of our favorite time.
The biggest challenge for me has been learning to be more go with the flow. I have one child who shuts down when they get frustrated or confused. I’ve had to learn that it’s okay to shut the book and move on to playtime or another subject. (The first time said child’s shutdown occurred I was in tears thinking I was a failure. I quickly learned tears weren’t going to solve any of these issues and I had to just be more go with the flow.) For challenging days we will either revisit the subject later in the day (when daddy’s home 😉 ) or we will work on it the next day and get caught up then. I’ve also learned to use white-out in my day planner which is both maddening and freeing. I’m type A so feel like the hours I spend lesson planning should go perfectly according to plan. But it is also freeing to know that it’s okay to readjust our schedule. Some days my daughter flies ahead in her grammar and math books. She does a great job of screwing up my pre-planned week on Mondays. I’ve also learned that some things take more time to work on and that it’s okay if we spread it out and work on it more than one day. Or days like today where we had a Forest School field trip with our local SALT homeschool group, I basically said, “no school today” once we got home. We can get caught up either tonight a bit or tomorrow. No big deal.
I’m not sure if I’ll be a homeschooler for life but I can say so far, it hasn’t been that bad. It’s opened my eyes to the areas of weakness my kiddos have and also to their many strengths. Seeing everything day in and day out with my own eyes is much different than a parent teacher conference. I’m able to really magnify their weaknesses and slow down so that we can tackle them together. It’s hard for me – I’ve never been a teacher – so I find myself googling a lot of tips and tricks on certain areas of academics. But in the end, it’s working well.
I would love to hear what option your family chose for schooling. Are your kiddos back to school? Staying home and doing e-learning? Are you trying homeschooling like me? There truly is no right answer for what families should be doing. Every family’s situation is unique so I would love to hear what you chose and how it is working. I’ll do my best to update you in a month or so and report back with the honest truth on how we are doing.