Yesterday we wrapped up our second week of homeschooling.
Well, it’s kind of the third week for me because Clayton happened to be out with a cold and sinus infection the week prior to school closing… just my luck.
I have talked to many friends and other parents who are feeling incredibly overwhelmed, not only with the work load but with the amount of pressure their child’s school is putting on them. I have heard from multiple parents they have been threatened in letters and emails home that their 5 year old will not progress to the next grade level if the work sent home isn’t completed on schedule and up to par.
Hearing this just made me feel so sad for the children and families who not only feel the weight of that on their shoulders, but also the ones who aren’t capable of doing it.
I’m currently homeschooling my two older kids (8 and 5), an advanced second grader who does a lot of third grade work and my preschooler who needs to be ready for kindergarten in the fall.
We are fortunate enough to be a part of a school that has been more amazing during this time than I could have ever imagined. They are open for conversation, they are asking for opinions. They are going above and beyond for their students and families, all while letting us know they do not want any family to feel stressed or frustrated by this process. This warm, empathetic vibe allows me to take a deep breath and a step back as needed to make sure we are doing what is right for our family.
So I thought I would share what we are doing over here.
When this started I knew I had to keep a schedule because otherwise my kids wouldn’t take it seriously, nor would they get out of their pajamas all day. Clayton would literally lay on the couch for 12 hours and Charlie would eat every snack in the pantry. I had to implement some order or it would be a free for all and total chaos!
The day before we started, I went over my expectations for them. They need act like they do at school- respectful, kind and courteous.
My son attends a Montessori school, and is very conscientious so I know he is capable of working independently, being productive and self directing his education. I wanted to keep this same momentum and so my goal was to encourage him to work in a flexible and creative work cycle. The independent work is also important because I also have a baby to care for who needs a lot of my time, in addition to all the regular day to day cleaning, cooking, etc.
The first day was a little wonky. I didn’t really know what to do, they didn’t know what to do. My son just kept complaining he didn’t have his works aka Montessori materials. He just wanted to read the same Dogman book like 800 times (in his head 🤔) and call it a day.
I grabbed the book Charlottes Web and told him to read it out loud to his sister, 1 chapter a day. Then he needed to discuss to make sure his sister understands, write sentences about it after each chapter and they could watch the movie when they finished. Whew. That took a little load off.
By the end of the day we had paperwork, notebooks, pencils, etc covering the dining room table… which by the way is our only table.
Something had to change.
I went online to Michaels, bought this rolling cart along with two tackle boxes and some organizing bins that were all half and did curb side pick up. I stocked it will all of their work plans, tools and supplies. Another tip I have is that I set a reminder on Alexa for every weekday at 9am to tell the kids to start school work, that way it isn’t me telling them to get to work every day and they do it on their own. Although sometimes they pretend they didn’t hear it.
After this I wrote out our schedule, which is as follows:
8:00-9:00 is their time to get dressed, eat breakfast, use their iPads and relax a little. I do not allow video games because it is too much of a fight when it’s time to get off.
9:00-12:00 is their morning work cycle. During this time I expect them to do some form of independent work. Clayton needs to choose a math work, read, and write in his notebook. For writing he usually either chooses to do bare bones sentences or answer questions about Charlottes web but he could make up a story if he wanted.
This work block is not limited to these subjects though. He can choose to do anything educational or helpful… go outside and find things in nature, clean out the dishwasher, put a puzzle or Lego together. As long as he is making an effort to educate himself in a productive way then he gets to choose. Obviously Charlie doesn’t have as much required work. She does practice writing her letters in her workbook but spends a majority of her morning drawing or creating.
When the morning work block is over they clean their stuff up, load it in the cart and put it away.
From noon to 1:00 is lunch and outside time. This ranges- many times it goes until 1:30… it’s basically whenever I need to put Colby down for a nap.
From 1:00 to 3:00 while Colby is napping they have quiet time. During this time they can read or use educational technology. Clayton logs on to the online programs offered through the school district. He watches social studies related content, history or science. Sometimes he likes to watch earth odyssey which is also fine. Charlie plays on ABC Mouse during this time, but that’s not to say I haven’t caught her watching liv and Maddie on occasion.
After Colby wakes up they go back outside for a while or play barbies, watch tv, etc. At 4:00 if they have been productive, not fighting and done something helpful, Clayton is allowed to use video games and Charlie can watch her YouTube videos, which has always been the rule here (no technology between 10-4).
Reading back through this, it all sounds so easy. I assure you it is not. We have good days and we have bad days. On the good days my kids only bicker a little, work independently for a period of 15 minutes before getting distracted and then need to be redirected. On the bad days, they fight non stop. They are constantly bothering each other, whining and being defiant. Even on the good days we have arguments and tears about it.
All of the stress of this is amplified by having a very needy 18 month old who often follows me around fussing and tugging at my legs.
I have explained to Clayton that this is not summer break even though it feels like it. That kids all over this country have to be homeschooling, or worse, have parents who do not care about them or their education and fall more and more behind every day. I told him that this is not easy for me either and I need his cooperation to make it as happy as possible. He gets it, yet I still get told I’m “the worst” and “the meanest” accompanied by eye rolls and grunts an average of 5 times an hour.
I know that what goes on at my house is not perfect by any means. But I’m trying, and they are trying. My hope is we all settle into a groove and there end up being more good days than bad and that my children dont feel the enormous amounts of anxiety that I do and don’t remember this as a stressful time.
I will continue to post about more specific works that the kids are enjoying. For now I am going to leave you with a portion of an email from our school principal, because I think everyone needs them, opposed to the type of emails some schools are sending out. This is how you know you’re in the right school family.
I came across this online and thought it was wise, so I share it now: "The world feels scary right now. Rather than allow your kids to absorb your fear and angst, let them remember these weeks as the time their parents cut loose and let them have video game marathons. Let them make fun meals. Let them stay up late.Allow yourself to be a little more wild and care free within the walls of your home. Don't let this time become a childhood trauma." Ultimately, the goal of the work we are sending home is to keep kids connected to learning. We do not want to stress or overburden students, parents, or caregivers.