It has been ages, maybe years since I took the time to share a full post on this platform. Quickly opening Instagram, sharing an image with a paragraph or two suits my life a lot more at this point, which is ok. But I felt the pull to share some support and ideas for the upcoming weeks.
If you have not heard of Covid-19 or the Coronavirus then…who am I kidding…everyone who has access to this blog has heard of it, and consequently can no longer find a roll of toilet paper within 30 kms of their home. But despite stock piling and hoarding, washing our hands and wiping every surface we may still very well may still need to self isolate or be on a lockdown.
For some this may not be a huge change to their daily lives, but to those who will have their children home with them for long periods of time who are used to their school schedule, you are who I want to support. Parents of public school children will have at least three weeks of school closure (which includes the march break) here in Ontario. And I’m sure a few of you are wondering whether to school during this time, make it a stay-cation or whether you will have the tools necessary to do either.
First off as a homeschooling family, we have finally found a routine that works for us. It has taken until our oldest is almost 8 to discover what works during this stage of life…and it will change as they grow. If we don’t have anywhere to go our mornings are slow. We eat together, we chat around the table and we are all at varying stages of dress until mid to late morning. Our focused time comes late morning or early afternoon, and this looks different every day. Sometimes it is us reading out loud, sometimes it is them reading to us. Other days we work on fine motor skills with crafting, colouring and watching art videos. On beautiful days we spend it all running outside, caring for our outside animals, picking up sticks and discovering insects and other creatures. They are always given time for independent, imaginative play, whether it is horses, LEGOs, dolls, card games, dress up, whatever it is they have time to be alone. And on days where it is rainy or we are tired/sick the tv goes on more than it is off, Wild Kratts, Magic School Bus, PBS, TVO, Jeremy Wade with his fishing, Bear the survivalist, Blippi…yes even Blippi. We find shows that make us feel less guilty for letting out kids watch hours upon hours of tv, and then we have them tell us what they learned. If they are super interested in it we check out the library or youtube the subject.
What I am driving at is that if you have your children home for weeks on end with the virus threatening our communities, you do not have to have your children at the table doing work from 9-3 to stay caught up. Don’t let the pressure get to you! We as full time homeschoolers struggle with this out of the box concept, so I am sure it will be that much more difficult to battle if you are used to always seeing that style of learning. Children work faster when they are alone and they, more often than not, prefer routine. Your routine does not have to look like mine, your routine can have your kids doing some of their school work at 7PM. This is the beauty of having your children home with you all day. You can work it around what works for them individually, what works for you if you are working out of the house or now at home, and not what is the easiest schedule for 30 children.
Another tip from a homeschooling and work from home Mum is, look for learning moments. Opportunities for your children to discover and learn are always falling into our laps. Kids are naturally inquisitive…I mean could they honestly ask anymore questions?? Study and learn your children, what are they most interested in right now? Find books you can read to them that follow this interest, find math counters that follow the theme, research the geographical area their interest relates to, foods that could be connected, art mediums that the books use that contain their interest, and let them dig into Youtube, with your supervision, to investigate even further! I have found my children retain information to a much greater extent when the knowledge is connected to a true interest of theirs. So find a topic and try and hit the majority of subjects within it (we call this a unit study), or don’t and just let them discover along the way.
I have found Ambleside Online* to hold an excellent book list for children through the homeschooling years. It is a large list and it is filled with classics that you would often pass over for children. But when they have a bowl of snacks, a glass of water and a comfy spot by your side they will listen as you read poetry, Shakespeare and other classic lit. Read to them in the bath, under the trees or stretched out on the couch. Give them paper and pencils to doodle as they listen and try to allow them to move as you read. They may need to stroll back and forth to the kitchen, or wander around the table, or draw something totally opposite of what you are reading. Trust them. Pause your reading if they leave the room and continue as they make their way back. Some bodies need to move to learn and that is ok.
Finally, take a deep breath and let it go. Crisis mode is not for extensive work, it is for small routines that bring normalcy and calm. Many of us who homeschool only do table work for minutes to a few hours depending on the age of child or the style of schooling we use. Others unschool, which means they follow their child’s interests, research and dig into subjects they choose with little to no actual table time. And others wildschool, which means their kids spend all day outside learning and discovering and hardly sit at a table even to eat.
Find what works for your home and sink into it. We have a very connected homeschool community and if you are in need of ideas, support or community as your children are home with you please reach out. Oh and get them outside every day! It will help your sanity immensely…and I am speaking from experience.
You may feel alone in your home with children who are not in their regular routine, but you will survive, and if you let go of normal school expectations you can thrive during this time! We are all just doing our best to make it work and as part of the parenting community you are never alone.
I have included the Crisis Curriculum from Ambleside Online for those who would prefer some practical tips on teaching from home and have no idea where to begin. Also below are a couple other resources that I will update as I come across
* https://www.amblesideonline.org/HELP.shtml Please note that Ambleside Online is a Christian curriculum. There is an allotment for Bible reading and memorization which you can simply skip if you are not interested. The rest of the booklist is non-religious and full of great tips of how to integrate it into your daily life.
We also love the app Teach Monster, which has brought some more fun to phonics and reading.
Here is the link to a huge list of teaching and education companies offering free subscriptions. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NUKLZN7hGSu1Hzm70kfzBKs-lsSELaEMggS60Bi2O2I/htmlview?usp=sharing&fbclid=IwAR0fcbFroU0aJakEYPgsx8qqLmzOHQy2P_2tHxZespIWnAFnGfzg_eu8NK0&sle=true&pru=AAABcPkCXxY*PmyA_cz4k83SfcFmMjDYpw
The booklist for Five in a Row curriculum is also amazing, and many can be found as an e-reader version or as an audiobook, assuming the libraries are not open.
Last line…KEEP IT SIMPLE. Homeschooling is not normal in a day, your children are out of routine and so are you. Give yourself grace, spend time together and the resources are here if you want them <3