As a parent who homeschooled for nine years, I’m seeing a lot of misinformation about homeschooling right now.

What you’re being asked to do during the COVID-19 pandemic ISN’T homeschooling. The whole world is in an emergency situation. Your kids were suddenly sent home from school for several weeks or months. They’re in shock and grieving. You’re in shock, too, grieving for the activities and events that mean life is “normal”. Plus you’re trying to find a way to make money with the world shut down, juggling household chores with children now home and needy, trying to convince loved ones to stay home, and the stress and worry of COVID-19 and the isolation of physical distancing.

Unlike me, when I CHOSE to homeschool and kept choosing it for 9 years, you didn’t have any warning. You didn’t have  months to research how you would do it or time to get your support system in place or even time to get meals and snacks pre-prepared. 

This time you and I had no notice. We didn’t choose this. It’s exhausting. We’re figure this out on the fly. And we don’t know when it’s going to be over. My guess is schools will not reconvene until Fall. That’s a long time. All kids around the world will be in the same boat, having missed months of studies. We’ll figure this out over time, but right now, there’s a lot of not-knowing.

My wish for you today is to give yourself some grace and self-compassion. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to grieve for all the things you’re not doing this week as you self-isolate.

It’s perfectly okay if your kids did no school this week. In fact, there’s a long-standing tradition when a family decides to homeschool, to give a child a few weeks off, after ending school. Many times parents have agonized about what options they have and have decided to homeschool because school wasn’t going well. Kids are been traumatized at school and mentally need a break.This break between “real school” and homeschool lets the child recover and recharge. 

It’s time to dispel three myths about homeschooling and how it’s “supposed to go”.

Three Myths about Homeschooling

  1. You have to be fully engaged all day with your kids
  2. You have to have every second scheduled and planned out for your child to avoid boredom
  3. Your measure of success is in academics

First, I want you to know you don’t have to entertain your kids every second of the day. Even a five-year-old can play independently for a limited time. What you’re going to do is set your house up for successful independent play. I call this “seeding your environment” with learning.

That means today you’re going to take an inventory of the books and supplies you have and place an online order for what you don’t have. You can get your kids involved with this by giving them a budget and 10 minutes to shop online for supplies. For kids between 5 and 10 years old, think about things like board games, a deck of cards, some dice, some Play-Doh, some watercolor paints, some drawing paper, some blank board books or blank hardbound books. Some extra fun projects are caterpillars that will cocoon and turn into butterflies and planting veggie seeds. 

For kids between 10 and 16 years old, you’re going to take their lead. You can suggest a board game or a jigsaw puzzle, but let them propose ideas.

For younger kids, you’ll box up some toys, put them in a closet or garage and start rotating their selection. Instead of having access to all the toys, let them choose three at a time from the toy library. This is good for the family too–they’ll need to clean up those toys before they get out new ones.

In the morning, open a non-fiction book to a page with a picture that looks interesting. Leave it on the dining table. 

This Ultimate List of 100+ Activities for Kids that are Free and Low-Cost should be hanging on your refrigerator and referred to often. You’ll find things kids of all ages can do. Mostly on their own. You’re welcome!

Secondly, although our lives BCV (before corona virus) were packed full of scheduled activities and school, it’s okay to leave some blank space in your child’s day. It’s important to leave time to get bored.

That means your kids can’t have access to their screens and devices all the time. You need to enforce offline time. Yes, it will be painful at first, but they will get creative and find things to do.

Lastly, at it’s best, homeschooling is not about academics. It’s about connecting with your children and guiding them to be the best they can be, based on your family’s values. Here’s a homeschool routine that leads with your values and starts the day with purpose and clarity.

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