The following is a guest post from Brea Abel – a friend I had the great pleasure of getting to know while we traveled in our Airstream. She also traveled with her kids in an Airstream and homeschooled them along the way. Written by Brea, this article includes five secrets to successful homeschooling during this pandemic.
Well friends. . . here we are . . at the beginning of the strangest school year in recent history. Maybe your kids have gone back to face-to-face school with masks and distancing (Godspeed). Maybe you’re attempting your school’s virtual learning platform (double Godspeed). Or are you balancing a combination of the two (Godspeed cubed)? No matter what your family has chosen, we’re all doing the best we can with what we have, where we are.
Even if you’ve chosen face-to-face schooling, chances are our kids will be learning at home at least some of the time (oh, hello quarantine). The homeschooling families of the world see you and are nodding in solidarity with you.
I have a unique connection to families who never intended to homeschool because I was one of them. Circumstances changed when our family decided to move into our Airstream camper and travel the country full time for over a year. We quickly learned how to be productive while also being practically on top of each other.
If you’re feeling like productivity and learning is going to take a hit in your house, think about these five homeschool not-so-secrets:
1.) Flexibility. I know, I know. . . there’s nothing groundbreaking about flexibility. But you may have to dig deeper than you ever have to embrace a level of flexibility you’ve never known. As Elsa would declare, we’re going “into the unknown!” At my son’s middle school (virtual model), they log on at 7:45 a.m. to declare their presence. That doesn’t leave much room for flexibility, but there’s nothing saying he must be fully ready for the day. Can he eat his breakfast during the 10-minute break after period two? Yep. Can he sleep till the Very. Last. Minute? Heck yes…sleep my teen. It’s good for your mood and my sanity. If your kids are learning asynchronously, you have even more room for flexibility. Math after dinner? Absolutely. Science on Sunday because her grown-ups are working full-time during the week? Sure! Dig deep to work your flexibility muscle.
2. You. Homeschool parents are with their kids A LOT. Parent involvement may have looked different pre-pandemic, so try not to compare then and now. It’s a weird new world, with weird new ways to show up. Involvement these days may mean staying physically close to your littlest learners. You might need to check in a couple times a day with your middle schooler. . . maybe less with your high schooler. Take an interest not just in how well they perform, but what they’re learning too. It’s true that many parents are working full time and can’t be there physically. There’s very little (nothing?) about this situation that’s easy. Whether your child is at a daycare center or with Grandma or a neighbor, talk to her caregiver and make sure that person knows that your kiddo will need support while she’s virtual schooling.
3. Movement. (Especially OUTSIDE) Before COVID-19 kids had recess and gym class and ran around exchanging germs like it was their job. In post COVID-19 times, getting close and touching the same objects is a big no-no. For kids learning at home, movement is even more important. Movement will keep kids’ brains sharp, help stretch attention spans, give their eyes a break and get their blood flowing. Staring at a screen for 6 hours may be brutal but swapping out that close-up, eye strain for distant vistas (distant = the backyard or around the block) will be unbelievably helpful. Shoot for movement FOUR times during the course of the virtual school day. If it’s raining, do a yoga video or shout “drop and give me 20!” (short bursts are a-ok). Maybe you join in. . . most of us don’t get nearly enough physical activity either.
4. Fidgets. Similar to movement, some kids benefit from having something to fidget while they concentrate on work. Yoga balls can make great desk chairs (if the movement is bothersome on virtual meetings, turn off the camera). There are loads of DIY fidget ideas you can create for your child, many they can use with their feet. When we were homeschooling, my kids built with LEGO bricks while they listened to audiobooks or documentaries. Now that we’re virtual schooling, my more anxious kid keeps his lovey on his lap, out of sight. Fidgets are tools, not toys (even if they look like toys). If a fidget isn’t helping, switch it up.
5. Food. You know how your kids have a half dozen extra meals during the summer months…like second breakfast, post-lunch snacks, pre-dinner meal etc? Brace yourself. Being stuck at home learning and constantly wanting to snack go hand in hand. Or simply having wonky mealtimes! My kids never wanted breakfast as soon as they woke up but forced it before the school bus showed up at 7:45 a.m. Homeschooling allowed them to eat when they were hungry (which seemed to be always during those growth spurts). Having healthy eating rules is great. . . just make sure you have easy to snack on items like carrot sticks, string cheese, grapes, and turkey pepperoni. Even better is when they have to prepare the snack, getting them up and away from the computer screen, moving, and doing something productive and helpful.
Above all, patience and grace, with your kids, their teachers AND with yourself are going to be your two most important tools during this time. Try not to worry about your child falling behind. Education is a long-game and this current glitch in the matrix, albeit traumatic, will likely not affect your child’s education long term. We may not all be in the same boat, but we’re all in this storm together. Godspeed 4.
Do you have tips or tricks that are working for you during this homeschooling/virtual learning spell?
Brea Abel and her family sold everything to travel the country for 16 months, visiting over 60 National Parks and getting the education of a lifetime. They’ve settled back into small town, Maryland and are giving virtual learning a shot through their school system. Meanwhile, Brea is helping families wade through educational uncertainty as a homeschool coach (and professional organizer). Find her at TheComfortableMinimalist.com and Instagram @thecomfortableminimalist