Blog by Jodi Kirk (CCS Science Teacher, Homeschool Parent)
You didn’t choose to have all the schools in America close with uncertainty of the future, but God did—which means this time at home with your children is under His sovereign control. Parents, you are in a unique situation with your child’s education. Homeschool, working at home, teaching at CCS, and kid classes/activities… these were all part of my day just a week ago, and I’d like to share with you 10 tips for schooling at home.
First, take heart in knowing that His plans are always very good, then grab a pen and notebook and get ready to take a crash course in planning your “school at home” day!
#1: You will have a lot to consider during this transition to schooling at home, so be gentle and patient with your kids (and yourself!) remembering that it will take time to adjust to new routines. Transitioning into a new learning environment takes time—just ask your child’s teacher at CCS! At the beginning of each school year, teachers spend a couple of weeks teaching their students the rhythms and routines of their classroom. Your home is now everything… the classroom, the playground, the lunchroom, and still home. Keep in mind that new routines will begin to emerge during this new time, whether you plan on them or not. Here is your chance to set and communicate expectations to your family for your new “school at home.”
#2: Recognize the routines that your family already does daily and weekly—these things will help keep a steady rhythm and familiarity during this uncertain time. No matter what the schedule of a particular day is, perhaps family breakfast and a devotional will anchor your day. And likewise, no matter how chaotic a week has felt, worship on Sunday will reset our hearts. Rhythms and routines will look different for each family, but make a list of things that you can consistently include in your family’s day and week. We prefer to do chores right after breakfast, just before schoolwork. Reading one chapter of the Bible at night before bed has become an absolute essential and worthwhile routine that began over a year ago. A “quiet hour” each afternoon is a wonderful thing to consider if you don’t do this already!
#4: Your child is probably used to a rigorous school schedule, so you might consider starting off that way at home. Print out a blank week-at-a-glance planning sheet and jot down the times and activities that you currently know will happen on each day of the week: your work meetings, family meals, kids’ online classes, church/worship time, etc. These things may change, but try to put as many “standing appointments” on the schedule as you can.
After these non-negotiable items are on your schedule, begin to add blocks of time dedicated to routine activities that are important, but are somewhat flexible. For example, you might have a three-hour block every morning that can be dedicated to independent schoolwork, a 30-minute block of time after lunch each day that can be for stories or a family audiobook, or an hour-block in the afternoon for free time outside. This will help your family know what is expected in a certain block of time, but won’t be so rigid that you can’t change up your plan a little.
#5: A good list will help a parent feel organized. A good list will help a child feel empowered. When a child has a chore list, or a list of homework assignments that need to be completed in the “independent school work” block of time, that child will be able to work diligently and happily knowing exactly what needs to get done and how much time they have to complete it. The beauty of lists is that they are extremely flexible! Three or thirty things, printed or handwritten… it’s all up to you! Lists are also great to generate ideas as a family for different daily or weekly activities so you and your kids always know what to do!
List ideas: getting ready for the day, schoolwork, chores, quiet time activities, free time activities, recess ideas, people to write letters to, educational websites that are allowed, family fun activities, favorite worship songs, bedtime routine, etc.
#6: Involve the whole family with daily chores, as well as larger weekly chores, and add time to do them in your schedule! Perhaps you are noticing that your house is not quite as in order as it used to be now that everyone is at home. All. The. Time. Each family will have their preference for what “in order” means to them, but everyone will agree that with more activity and time in the home right now the more chores are needing to be done. Kids can wipe down bathrooms, put away their school books, unload the dishwasher, and pick up toys around the yard.
#7: Set up some zones in your house where family members can do different things, depending on the need and time of day. A bedroom can be a quiet zone for someone to make a phone call or attend a video meeting. The dining room table can be the school work zone… but of course can become the table for a family meal again after the school work is done. The backyard is where recess happens. Nothing fancy, but just like a school has classrooms, your house can have different zones dedicated to different activities.
#8: While learning remotely, start with what your child’s teacher recommends rather than getting bogged down with the endless free opportunities that have popped up online recently. Your child’s teachers have been working very hard at setting up online lessons and meetings that are specifically tailored to your child! Compile everything their teacher assigns onto a list and start checking things off!
I give our kids a list of all the work they need to accomplish in the school block of time (3-4 hours each day) and work my way from kid to kid and help with new concepts, challenging assignments, being a drama partner as they practice lines for their Shakespeare play. When we first started homeschooling I typed up and hung a paper on the wall that said, “Everyday we do READING, WRITING, MATH, and CREATING.” I wasn’t winning teacher-of-the-year awards with it, but it reminded me of the essentials and helped me not to get overwhelmed. (I guess that little visual for the kids was really for me all along!)
#9: Your child may be able to get quite a lot of learning done in a very short amount of time at home. This will open up time for incredible independent and family growth opportunities! Practice old skills and learn new ones. Read a book of the Bible together. Perfect a piano piece that has been pushed to the side for a couple of months. Fix up an old bike and give it to the young kid next door. Bake bread for the retired couple down the street. Pray (more!) together. Write a letter to someone new each day. Give your child a simple recipe to follow so they can cook dinner for the family. The possibilities are endless, and the rewards are priceless!
#10: Pray for the parents and children around our country—that they would find contentment during this time. Several years ago when I was struggling during my transition from working outside the home full time to being at home with my children, a friend messaged me some encouragement and said she would pray that I would begin to enjoy being at home with my kids, sooner rather than later. That prayer has stuck with me! I still think back on what a powerful prayer it has been in my life. And now I can pray that same prayer for so many more.