Whatever you do, during a pandemic or not, don’t re-create school at home. Let me say this another way: Don’t. Re-create. School. At. Home.
When I started homeschooling my children 10+ years ago, after my oldest child left a public Spanish immersion elementary school program, I had a lot of anxiety about how to homeschool. I didn’t want to mess it up. I was afraid if I didn’t do things right from the get-go that I’d mess up my children.
So, naturally, it seemed right to try to re-create school at home. While I didn’t turn a room into a fancy classroom like some families opt to do, I did have desks and chalkboards in a corner of my house. I had a shelf with books. I wrote out a schedule.
Then I failed miserably. I spent the first six months of homeschooling my children wondering, what’s to love about homeschooling? Why do people even do this? Where’s the beauty in homeschooling?
Homeschooling was stressful. Over those first months, I felt myself morph into someone I wasn’t. I felt completely out of my element with detailed schedules and routine. I felt disappointed in myself and in the progress that I thought the children should be making or could be making. Things took longer than planned, if they even happened in the first place. A lot of time seemed wasted trying to wrangle the children and their focus back to ‘school’ when they wanted to do other things.
It seemed I spent more time stressing out and worrying about what I was or wasn’t doing, and whether I was causing irreparable harm to my children’s education.
Then it all changed.
I happened to tell (probably it sounded like whining) to a woman who had years of experience homeschooling her child. She told me I needed to chill the f*ck out. Well, those weren’t here exact words, but that was basically the message.
She said I needed to find an approach to homeschooling that fit me, my personality, my style, my family, my children, and my lifestyle.
Right away, I ditched the schedule and the routine. Instantly, I felt like my sanity was restored.
In time, my family became a family of unschoolers. It wasn’t overnight, but emerged over the years, as we integrated more travel adventures into our lives. Unschooling fit me. It fit my family. It fit my children’s deep curiosities and supported the pursuit of their individual interests. Unschooling became a lifestyle.
I’m not suggesting that you need to adopt an unschooling approach to keep your sanity. Rather, I’m telling you to do your own thing. Don’t re-create school at home, unless somehow that’s totally you–your ideal style and completely right for your family.
Instead, keep your sanity and homeschool in a way that feels right. Make color-coded schedules or tear them up. Hang maps and timelines on your walls, or hang nothing at all. Use books. Or ditch books altogether and go completely online. Sleep-in and start ‘school’ at noon or start promptly at 8:30am. Do your own work side-by-side with your child while she does her work, or dedicate the morning to school and the afternoon to your work, with an afternoon of free time for your child. Do whatever works.
Do what works for you. Do what works for your child. Do what works for your family. Find your own homeschooling approach and discover your own groove. You’ll keep your sanity this way. Seriously.
And along the way, you might just discover all there is to love about homeschooling and the homeschooling lifestyle.