Now more than ever, I am so glad that we made the decision to homeschool our children. With the current atmosphere, many parents are just now making that decision (or setting up a virtual classroom setting). Whether homeschooling, distance-learning, or attending in-person school, the 2020–2021 school year is definitely going to be a roller coaster. With many tough decisions ahead, it’s important to remember to stick together and build each other up—as parents and educators. Being a great parent isn’t about which choice you make, it’s about making the right choice for your family.
I am now entering my 6th year as a homeschool parent; this year, my daughter will be in first grade and my son, fourth grade. While some things have become routine for us, it’s important to remember that you can always revise the process. As the educational climate is ever-evolving, so must learning at home.
Here are some helpful tips that I’d like to share from my years of homeschooling that can hopefully help ease the transition into learning at home:
1. What’s required?
After you make the decision of what your school year will look like, be sure to stay on top of the decisions made by your district and know what the expectations are. Similar to homeschooling, you must know what your state requires. I suggest a “Teacher Mom Binder” to keep up with all of this information. I use one each for state requirements, curriculum information, and homeschool association information. Make sure to also include each year’s standards so you can see how you’re doing in relation to what the state requires for public school students.
2. Keep a schedule
Get your calendars in sync. Whether you use a family calendar, individual calendars or planners, or a combination, it’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Make regular “dates” to sync calendars; a weekly family meeting would be a great time to do this. If you use a family calendar, color-coding can help keep everything organized.
Another essential thing to do if working or teaching from home is to communicate your “schedule” to your kids. Doing so helps them know when they can come to you for help and when you wish to not be disturbed.
Talk with your kids and find out what their expectations and thoughts are on the upcoming school year. This would be a great time to hear what they would like their learning zone to look like. Open discussion is also a great way for you to see what helps your child learn, and to get a little insight into their daily school lives. Talk with them about what they like and don’t like about in-person vs virtual learning. Use these thoughts to plan your process.
4. Quiet time
Study zones are a must. Make sure your kids know where they can go for quiet. Sometimes being in the hub of the home, or at the table, may not be the best learning zone for that day. Give your kids another option, like a desk in their room. My kids can go to their rooms and sit under their loft beds or climb up into their beds. It’s their choice, as long as they’re doing their work.
I found that different options for “learning zones” are helpful when it comes to homeschooling. We actually have several zones in our home. Some days we do school at the dining room table. Other days, we all sit on the floor and use lap desks. We even like doing school outside when the weather permits. As long as your children are comfortable and able to concentrate, that’s all that really matters. I like having different options because each day is different.
5. Meal planning
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks can all be planned ahead (make sure to have snacks on-hand that the kids can grab themselves). My suggestion is a basket of snacks that’s readily available. I keep crackers, fruit, and other healthy options in our snack basket.
As far as mealtime, I find it best to plan weekly. We have a go-to list of easy and quick (but healthy) meals that we choose from during the week. On the weekends, we do either more complicated meals, grill, or have junk nights (like pizza). Be honest with your time and expectations—especially in the beginning. If you find that you have more time, you can plan accordingly in the future. If you’re not a morning person, find quick and healthy breakfasts that can easily be microwaved; same for lunch.
6. Routine, routine, routine
In our homeschool, we do not have a schedule. We did in the beginning, but that just created frustration. When we were running late or the day just looked a little different, we would be thrown off for the entire day. So, I switched us to a routine system. We have a certain order in which we do things, then no matter what the morning looks like, we can still move along. It creates less stress for the family. I know that with virtual learning, there will probably be times that your child will have to attend meetings and be online at certain times. I suggest scheduling those meetings into your calendar and creating a routine for the rest of the day.
7. Reduce distractions
While one child is doing school work, keep other kids out of the room if they are playing, turn off the TV, and put things away that might be distracting. If you see that something is a distraction, take action and remove it.
8. Parent-teacher communication
Reach out to your child’s previous and current teachers. They can provide insight into what your child needs for at-home learning, what has worked for them in the past, and what they’ve previously struggled with. Since the teacher has spent so much time with your child, they will have amazing insight.
For instance, due to health complications, when my daughter was 6 years old, we decided to pull her out of public school and transition into homeschooling. I relied on the observations her teacher had made, which proved beneficial in creating our at-home set up and outlining her learning process. The support from her teachers and doctors really helped make the transition less stressful for everyone involved.
9. Gather supplies
Use a basket, binder, or backpack to consolidate the supplies that each child needs. My kids each have a clipboard (that they can use just about anywhere) for everyday work with reference sheets, along with pencils and markers. On our bookshelf, they each have a cubby that holds extra things they often need, like sketch books, extra school supplies, and a dictionary.
*Pro tip: Make sure to label everything.
A backpack would be great for this, especially if you plan to allow your children to work wherever they’d like (like in the car, playroom, or even outside). Since they are used to using a backpack, this might add some familiarity to their day.
10. Corral the electronics
In our home, keeping electronics organized, handy, and charged is not the easiest task—but it’s necessary. I suggest establishing a designated area or “Charging Station” for all things tech. At our “station,” we hook up the electronics to make sure they’re fully charged and accessible when needed. This includes tablets, phones, battery packs, mp3 players, smartwatches, headphones (with an additional pair that doesn’t need to be charged in their backpack), and of course, laptops.
These are my suggestions based on what has worked for my family in our homeschool journey. Every family and experience is different, but I hope these tips are able to give you a helpful starting point. While this year will be one for the books, it’s definitely going to also be one full of wonderful memories.
Now in her 4th year as a dedicated Carson Dellosa Brand Ambassador, Cari loves living in the country and spending time with her family. Her blog, Cari On Living, features creative ideas and topics centered around homeschooling, organizing, and special needs. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.