Yesterday a social media friend shared an installment of the web series his two young daughters are creating. It warmed my heart, and reminded me of similar exploits undertaken by my own kids. In our slow homeschooling lifestyle, brainstorming, scripting, acting, and filming a web series is the kind of thing they had plenty of time and space to do. Now, with the onset of COVID-19, scores of children are finding themselves with lots of time on their hands, and parents are scrambling, trying to figure out how to fill it.
I’ve seen article after article on how to homeschool your kids during coronavirus school closings. Whether it’s information from education experts, tips from homeschooling parents, teacher-created guides, or online businesses seeking to pull new families into the fold, there’s no shortage of opinions. Some of this is driven by homeschooling parents seeing a need and offering to help, which is wonderful. I can’t help but think that some parents out there are confused or stressed, though, about what to do now that their kids aren’t going to school every day. With that in mind, I offer a few thoughts.
Many years ago at a homeschooling conference, a panel of young adult homeschoolers was asked by a woman in the audience, “If you could give new homeschooling parents one piece of advice, what would it be?” Almost in unison, the four panelists replied, “Don’t worry.” That seemed to be sage advice at the time, and I think it applies here. I’m a champion worrier by nature, so I’m painfully aware that’s much easier said than done. I also know how blissful and rewarding it is when it’s successfully done, when I let worry go and stay in the moment with my kids.
“Don’t worry” doesn’t mean you don’t think carefully about your situation and circumstances. It doesn’t mean you don’t pay attention to your kids and what they need. It doesn’t mean you live in denial. It does mean you relax more, enjoy more, and love more, all things we’re going to be needing a lot of in the harrowing days to come.
As for how to get there, I can only say what worked for me. When I started homeschooling I tried to recreate school, as did so many other families I know. So much of the advice circulating now involves doing that very thing — schedules, online classes, and all manner of school work is being encouraged so kids don’t “fall behind.” Trying to do school at home wasn’t fun. Neither was it particularly productive. Then something happened. As I spent time with and observed my daughter, I noticed that she committed enthusiastically to activities she self-started. That when she was interested in a topic she learned everything about it she could. That as long as I provided resources and answered questions, she learned just fine. I discovered that my daughter didn’t need much besides love, support, and guidance. Once I began to trust her ability to learn, I was able to let go of worrying.
A big part of our homeschooling involved being out in the community, which is something none of us can do right now, which makes this COVID-19 homeschooling frenzy a bit ironic. If COVID-19 had hit while I was homeschooling, our routine would have been disrupted just like everyone else’s. No group park day, no library story time, no Girl Scouts, no book club, no math group, no classes. We’d have hunkered down. We’d have talked to the kids about what’s happening and shared information to the extent that it felt appropriate. We’d have read books, cooked, taken walks and bike rides, and made music and art. When my girls were little they might have created a play or a puppet show, much like the web series my friend’s daughters created. This is a great time, in fact, to let all of our collective creativity flourish.
So read the articles about how to homeschool, and if they offer a suggestion that works for you, fantastic. Check out the online resources and if they work for you, great. But if none of it pans out, try to remember what those grown homeschoolers advised. Try not to worry. When your kids get back to school, everyone will be figuring out how to regroup. In the meantime, if you’re lucky enough to be home with your kids, take your cues from them. If you’re scrambling to figure things out while still having to go to work, don’t feel like you have to add the burden of teaching your kids academic subjects. In a time of stress and great uncertainty, our kids need our love, attention, and reassurance more than they need a school schedule.