Monday, April 20, 2020

How To Survive Homeschooling During A Pandemic (and words of wisdom from a therapist)

Dear Reader, 

These are tough times, there's no way around it.  We are in a global pandemic, the likes we have never lived through in our own lifetime.  And though it's incredibly powerful and validating to read encouraging posts and articles about how we are all in this together, there is an equal necessity to acknowledge that this is a hard time.

You probably clicked on this post, hoping to read about how to do homeschooling, or distance learning, or some combination of the two.  You likely were thrust into an uncertain learning model, and even potentially weeks in, feel no closer to having it figured out then when our schools first shut down.  If you were hoping for a perfect fix to this situation, I'm sorry but this post is not for you (though I will give some tips and resources promise!) . . . but first, I'll share some words of wisdom my therapist said that helped me keep things in perspective:

"this is not homeschooling.  This is crisis learning."  
bohemian catholic homeschooling pandemic

That puts it in perspective doesn't it?  

Here's another thing to reflect on: even seasoned, professional, veteran teachers need WEEKS to adjust to a new classroom, filled with new students every year.  And if you do a quick search you'll see that those same teachers are struggling just as much as we are.  So again, the "we are all in this together" validation is fulfilling an emotional need of support and understanding, but what about the other part?  The part that is frustrated.

And I hear you, even as a partial homeschooler I am feeling overwhelmed.  I went to college to become a teacher, I volunteer as a Faith Formation teacher in my parish (well I did before COVID-19 happened), I love teaching!  And yet, I am honestly overwhelmed.

bohemian catholic homeschooling pandemic ipads distance learning

Our distance learning plan includes school district issued iPads, where my six and seven year old fill out electronic assignments, watch videos, read online, and do quiz work (and even communicate with their friends in a social media like structure of likes and comments on said iPads).  

But our previous experiences with homeschooling have involved (customed to their learning styles) unit studies, with printables, dry erase boards, crafts, outdoor learning, field trips, museum - basically community resources that we (understandably) do not have access to right now.

So again, I repeat the same mantra: this is not homeschooling, this is crisis learning.

bohemian catholic homeschooling distance learning hands on pandemic

But I also see you tired, frustrated, overwhelmed parent.  You need something that can help you on these long days, so here are the three things that have helped me so far:

1.)  Do not replicate school.  Don't try to make your dining room into their classroom.  Don't try to find eight hours worth of learning to squeeze into your day.  Because here's the thing, at your kids' school, they aren't spending eight hours at a desk learning.  They have lunch, recess, specials, gym, art, music, morning meetings, choice time, study halls, reading, etc.  These are all things you already do at home!  The focused, sit down kind of learning is based on their age range.  My six year old needs 45 to 60 minutes.  My seven year old needs 60 minutes.  Everything else is a bonus!  To figure out how much focused learning your child needs, use this formula for the early years: one hour per grade level.  So first grade, aim for one hour.  Second grade, two hours, and so on.

2.) Use out of the box ideas (i.e. not chained to a desk).  Most of our nation is dealing with shut downs, and quarantines, and limited access to just about everything.  And for good reason.  This isn't to scare anyone, but with evidence of this virus able to survive on surfaces for a significant time (LINK One, Two, Three), we can't use playgrounds to burn off the energy.  But nature trails are available, and being outdoors can usually solve most indoor blues, and burn off some energy to boot.  You can even use the outdoors as part of your school time when using outdoor activities to teach (Search: outdoor math, science, and nature activities on Pinterest for a million ideas ;)  But here's a small list I found right away: "25 Outdoor Learning Games")

3.) Use FREE premade lesson plans.  Normally I would advocate for making your own custom lesson plans.  But it takes both patience, and mental energy on top of a genuine joy in creating these plans.  And that just isn't feasible right now (a lot of us are stretched too thin right now!).  So look at the currently FREE resources for both your kids and yourself.  I know a lot of school districts are doing the general learning, but here's where we can add the more custom part.  Is your child into crafts based on stories?  Read online, do a craft as a family.  Does your child love science experiments?  Get them in the kitchen.  Does your child miss exploring places?  Check out the online virtual visits of museums and historical sites. (LINKS: virtual museums list & educational websites list).  Personally, I'm most excited to explore the Smithsonian!

BONUS!  Don't forget about your own education.  Most of our minds probably feel like mush right now, mine does sometimes!  I'm an extrovert, and I need the social interaction of conversation (on an adult level) to get that right dose of dopamine.  Being away from people literally can leave me feeling sluggish!  Keeping the mind focused, and sharp is easier than ever now a days with online classes and resources that are FREE (however, if you want a certificate at the end, you will have to pay a fee).  

So there you have it, some words of wisdom, some perspective, and some tips all rolled into one ♥  I hope that if anything, it will serve as a solid foundation to get you started, and help you to know that this is doable but that we should keep in mind that this is crisis learning, not homeschooling.  Good luck readers, and feel free to share which tip resonated the most with you!

Much love,
P.S. Photo Credit for the stock image: Julia M Cameron via

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