School closed? How to Start Homeschooling Without Losing Your Mind

As U.S. schools nationwide react to the global pandemic, many are closing their doors and moving classes online. Students and their families are having to deal with the transition to homeschooling for the first time. I for one, never thought I’d be a homeschooling mom.

How to Start Homeschooling after Coronavirus School Closures

If you are like me, you are a complete beginner when it comes to homeschooling. I’ve done some research finding tips for both experts and fellow moms to come up with a list of the best tips for successful homeschooling.

According to a survey done by Brainly.com, 40% of students nationwide worry their grades will be negatively impacted by transitions to online classes. I’m sure even more parents have these concerns.

I’m lucky to have teens so they are reasonably self-sufficient, but families with younger kids will have more to juggle. I’m sure most of us feel like the meme below rather than the picture above. Don’t worry, we are all in this together and we can do this!

Here are a some of the best tips (and a few tools) I’ve found for families who are suddenly having to homeschool to help ensure their kids don’t fall behind during this break from classroom instruction.

How to Start Homeschooling?

Maintain a positive environment

Maintaining a positive environment is especially important. The entire family is likely to become a bit more stressed and tensions may run high, especially for parents attempting to work at home at the same time.

You are not a home educator What you are doing now isn’t home education.  The schools closing is a response to a pretty dire emergency situation. You are not a home educator or a teacher, you are a parent.  Be a parent first. The first thing your child needs is to be loved, listened to and played with.  Yep, even the teens.

Attachment Mummy

 For us, homeschooling was as much about nurturing the family as it was about learning. Have fun together. Curl up in bed and read your favorite books from when you were a child. Go for walks. Do puzzles together. Have fun. 

Three Kids, Three Cats, and a Husband

I created free coloring pages each with a theme of staying positive during this difficult time. We are all making incredible sacrifices, and these coloring pages remind kids that their efforts, love and positivity will help us get through this.

Related: 50 Words of affirmation for kids

Lauren Tingley of Simply-Well-Balanced.com says, “My best tip for parents who have never homeschooled before is to remember that you are their parent first and their teacher second.”

As a mom and teacher, she knows that it’s easy for everyone to get frustrated when trying to learn from home. Instead, Focus on maintaining a positive relationship which will make the process easier on everyone.

Check out her post: Tips to Work From Home While Homeschooling

Create a Daily Routine not a strict schedule

It is incredibly important to develop a regular routine to help structure your day. Give yourself grace as you adjust to this new way of life. Finding the homeschool routine that works best for your family will take time. And if it doesn’t work out initially, adjust and adapt to find the sweet spot for your homeschool.

Little Learning Moments
funny meme about homeschooling

That said, having structure does not necessarily mean the same routine or schedule for all, especially if you are attempting to homeschool kids of different ages. A schedule for a 6-year-old is very different than that of a 10-year old or teen.

Allow your child to help you create the daily schedule and to choose which subjects they want to learn about will go a long way in preventing arguments and power struggles.

Gale Langley,  of Imaginative Homeschool, says “When younger children who are resisting doing schoolwork? Try doing real school in play school...” She did nearly all of her homeschooling in this format for three years. “It doesn’t work for every child, but for imagination motivated children who are willing to let you guide the play, this can work really well.

When you’re trying to homeschool multiple ages, trying to run your family by a strict schedule will just make everybody crazy.  Trust me.  That is not how you want your homeschool day to go. Instead of running their homeschool by the clock, I find the most successful large family homeschoolers follow more of a routine or a checklist.

Hess Un-Academy

Looking for toddler activity ideas? I love Kandice at A Cotton Candy Life created a theme for every month of the year. There are so many ideas to help keep the little ones busy and learning at the same time.

You might also like: 101+ Online Ways to Keep Kids Learning

funny meme about homeschooling

Don’t Go Overboard

Don’t go overboard – you will get burnout. Take things slowly – it isn’t a race. Children learn things over a period of time – you don’t have to teach them everything TODAY. If you feel panicky about how much they don’t know then remember – they will be learning their whole life long. They can always fill in any small gaps you may have left later.

HomeschoolingIdeas.com

Be flexible

There’s no particular benefit to adhering to regular school routines. Follow what works for your children. If your kids find studying on the floor more effective than studying on a desk, go for it. If focusing on one subject for an entire day or week works better than fitting multiple subjects into every day, try it. Find what works for you and your unique situation.

Study.com

Mary Dunn, a homeschool mom who blogs at SimplyBeWildandFree.com says, “As a homeschool mom that thrives on schedule and organization, the most important thing I had to learn over the years was to be FLEXIBLE. She advises parents to focus on the simple and soak up the little moments.

Stephanie Carol of Explore More Clean Less recommend designating a quiet hour where kids rest even if they’re too old to nap! They listen to audio books during it, here are her tips for audiobooks with kids.

Public school kids are often used to seeing a daily schedule hanging up somewhere. With the plan below, you can cut each section into a strip and mix and match according to what works for your family each day.

Click here to download this free printable homeschool plan

easy homeschool schedule template

Create a dedicated Learning space

Setting up a dedicated home school zone that is organized and tech-ready helps maintaining academic success. That said, I know it’s not feasible for everyone.

If you are not able to carve out a dedicated workspace, use a backpack or small storage bin to transport school materials to the kitchen table, couch or countertop. This way, your kids will have flexibility if they need to move spaces, but still have everything they need at their side.

In her post about Best Ways to Learn from Home, Sammie suggests, “Think outside the box here. Teach things like cooking, how to change your oil, gardening, cleaning, animal care, how to write a check, and more to encourage learning outside a classroom setting.”

funny meme about homeschooling

Be sure take breaks

Sitting and learning for hours on end can be mentally exhausting. The easiest ways students can ensure they’re able to stay focused is to take breaks to recharge their minds.

So, what is the ideal length for these breaks? The best way to maximize productivity is by taking SHORT breaks – say 5 to 15 minutes – every hour or so. Then take a longer break – at least 30 minutes – every 2 to 4 hours (depending on your tasks). While the kids are taking breaks, take some time to just chat too.

Related: 51 Awesome Conversation Starters for Kids

Encourage social interaction

Online learning can feel isolating for many students who are used to social interactions throughout their day.

Encourage kids to video chat with their friends. Young kids will get a kick out of this if they’ve never done it. Tell your older kids to stop texting and at least look at someone’s face. Who knows, maybe they’ll start doing more of this when they get back to school.

Be Creative with Learning Activities

There are so many free ways to keep the kids learning from home. It doesn’t need to be costly. There’s a wide variety of free and cheap resources out there. Heather from Blogger Share created a list of FREE resources for any grade!

Learning doesn’t have to be bland. Scavenger hunts are a great way to entertain kids and help them learn at the same time. You can create printables with a text based version for readers and a picture based version for non-readers, so you can entertain a wide age range simultaneously.

The Wild West 3

Janine Mergler of Families Magazine Australia says, “Make it fun!! Kids learn best when they don’t realise that they are learning! Figure out their ‘currency’ and run with that. Reward them with what they love most after some learning time.” She recommends these virtual museum tours.

Get Outside

In many areas, there are still opportunities to get outside while still maintaining physical distance from others. Even a walk around the block can help tremendously. If you can, take a drive where the kids can get out and experience nature (the worlds largest classroom).

As a teacher, I was always looking for ways to get learning outside, primarily because it’s fun, but also to make life easier! Children’s behaviour invariably improves outside, and their motivation to learn increases, especially when learning is more tangible and hands on. 

Attachment Mummy

No pajamas

For many students starting homeschooling for the first time, it can be difficult to delineate the start of the school day. To help keep them in a routine, have them get up and get dressed as if they are going to school. It’s OK to let them sleep in a bit, but make it a point of not having each day feel like a pajama party.

Focus on healthy habits

It’s difficult to for kids to concentrate when they are hungry. Have some healthy grab-n-go snacks prepared so your kids don’t use “I’m hungry” as an excuse to break away during “class time.” I need to keep reminding my kids to stop snacking all day.

funny meme about homeschooling

Related: Easy and Healthy After School Snacks

Sleep is also important. My teen would stay up until 1am if we let him, but we don’t want him to be on an endless weekend schedule.

Exercise is also important. This may not be an.issue for energetic toddlers, but teens will often stick with screen time. We’ve got lots of ideas for fun indoor fitness activities. If you have access to some open space, getting out in the fresh air is great too.

Related: Indoor Exercises for Kids

Stay connected

It’s also important for parents to stay connected to others in the same situation. For example, our town has a bulletin board on Facebook where we all stay connected. Folks have been hosting virtual cocktail parties, book clubs and more.

funny meme about homeschooling

You are not in this alone. The majority of families are navigating these waters for the first time as well. Reach out when you need help, advice or just need to vent.

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Jenn

Jenn Mitchell is a proud mom, wife and adventure seeker. She’s traveled either solo or with family to 20 countries and 36 U.S. states so far. A former personal trainer, Jenn looks for ways to keep her family fit and active both at home and on the road. Her goal is to inspire other moms and families to live happy and healthy lives.

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