Thursday, March 19, 2020

Homeschooling Through the Quarantine

As I sit here on this unusually warm spring night with the window open in my sitting room and a candle flickering nearby I feel the air's heavy humidity as I type this. What I notice is how uncharacteristically quiet it is. The outside carries no noise through my open window. Not a car engine, or music from a neighbor working in their garage. Silence. Eerie, eerie silence.

I felt the same as I entered the grocery store last night and many aisles were empty. People shuffled by quickly, apologetically as they tried to fill their carts with what was left. Heaviness seemed to hang in the air. The few children I did see were sullen looking. Everyone seemed to be much more somber than usual.

I suspect that this feeling of panic, fear, and uncertainty will continue for some time into the future as the Covid19 virus keeps us all under orders of social distancing. Many people can't work. Others have to work more, harder and in the most exposed situations. Many states have closed school districts for at least a month. Ours is for the rest of the year. Leaving many parents to scramble for childcare and schooling for their children.       

If you are one of the parents that are fretting over having your kids at home all day for weeks, or even months it's going to be okay. If you don't have any idea how to homeschool your children and feel a sense of urgency to begin right away, slow down. Hold on and get your bearings first.

I've homeschooled, unschooled and sent my kids to public school. There's more than one way to homeschool, for sure. There's tons of combinations that will, or can work for you and your child(ren).

We're all different. Some of us learn better with structure, some of us like to freestyle and others like some structure, but with independence. Kids are the same way. We have strengths and weaknesses and the strengths can really be capitalized during homeschooling, because of the flexibility towards individual needs. Just like we all find different types of jobs more interesting and doable, our kids find learning to be much the same way.

In the beginning most people that opt to homeschool (without being forced) often ease their way into it. I can't think of any better of a time than now that this would apply. Our world has been shook up a bit and so many things are uncertain to adults and kids alike. I would recommend starting off with a loose schooling schedule that is very basic and non-time consuming, especially
if your child is in elementary school. Kids below the age of 12 or so, are built to learn through play. They tend to have a natural curiosity about them that will drive them to learn about their environment through creative play. There are no credits to worry about, like one might be concerned about in high school.  Lots of drawing, painting, sand,  play dough, legos, and board games are great learning opportunities for this age group.

For older kids there are many resources online to find activities, such as science experiments, e-books and more. Baking is a wonderful activity for them to learn a variety of skills, including life skills. Following recipes incorporates math, reading, science as well as following directions. There is also many museums that are offering online tours that could complement history, or geography lessons.

These are all the hands on stuff that you can do, but there are also many, many sites online that offer learning programs for kids of all ages. ABC Mouse, and Starfall are two that come off the top of my head for elementary aged kids. My 16 yo profoundly autistic son adored Starfall when he was younger and it was so motivating for him and the site was so user friendly that he was able to learn to navigate it himself, which was an amazing feat for him at that time. They used it in school and we continued to use it with him at home when he wasn't at school. There are also heaps of apps that provide learning based games for kids.

If you have an older child, or just want to keep up with the same kind of work that your child would be doing if they were still in school there is a site called Time4Learning that I used for my daughter when we homeschooled her for her junior year of high school. It was fantastic, but it's not free. She did ultimately do better in more structured online classes, but Time4Learning uses some of the same programs as online schooling does. It's everything you need, online and ready to go. The hardest part is getting the student engaged and willing. Self motivation is harder for some of us, than others. You will also have to be what is called "master of grades", though. That means that you'll need to use a rubric to figure grades from the assignment that your student has completed on the site. The program gives you the percentages of each assigment and you have to decide, or configure the grades from those percentages. There are different ways to do this, but the good news is that you can find the formulas online if you search for them and then choose which one to use. You can then apply the grades to your students transcript as they earn credits to graduate.

I am a very, very schedule based person. Everything in my house runs on a schedule and the routine is known by everyone in our household. Mealtimes, chore times, bath times and snack times are always the same. The snack time has veered a bit since most of my kids are pretty well adults now, but when they were little they knew when what was happening. I have found this to be essential in running a smooth household. If this isn't something that your household does, then I would highly recommend implementing a routine first and foremost.

Chores would be the second thing that needs to be put into place once you have figured out where the time slots will be for chores. I typically would make a list of certain chores that needed to be done and let my kids take turns picking out which ones they wanted to do. Sometimes I would need columns to choose from, because there were some chores that my oldest could do that my middle child wasn't ready for, but for the most part they got to choose how their chore chart would look. Each had four or five chores that ranged from daily tasks to weekly ones. Emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, cleaning the litter box, and more. I would pay 50 cents or whatever per star they had on their chart. some families don't like the idea of paying for chores. Do what works for your family. I would also switch up the chores twice a year or so. That way they don't get bored, stuck with a chore they hate, and so they learned how to do different things, because imo, at the end of the day these chores are about teaching them how to clean and care for themselves as adults, so they need these skills.

If your child is young, or if you simply just want to, your lesson plans can very much look like the chore charts I mentioned above. Leaning toward the philosophy of unschooling you could ask your kid(s) what things they would like to learn and go from there.Writing up a child-focused plan that includes subjects that they want to pursue is a good way to keep them involved, engaged and excited about learning.

Unfortunately, due to the need for social distancing at this time there won't be as many available activities as there usually is for homeschooling. Still, we can go out for walks, play in the yard at "recess time", and use Youtube for other exercise ideas.

I hope this post has helped if you were feeling apprehensive about educating your kids at home through this pandemic. It's a new situation for everyone, so be easy with yourself and others. We're all in this together and doing the best we can. Stay safe!

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