March Madness & Silver Linings

I wrote my monthly post for March on the 5th, but so much in the world has changed since then that I thought another March post might be warranted. Whew. How are you doing? I hope your family is healthy and you are coping with the self-isolation that is so important for all of us right now. We have a high risk person living in this house, and there are many elderly people we know and love who are high risk too not just because of their age but because of their health too. Everyone has the right to live as long as they possibly can, so we’re taking this very seriously.

We are okay right now. As you know, we homeschool and work from home, so not much changes for us on a daily basis. However, it’s spring, and this is the time of year we love to go on day trips with the boys. It’s sad we can’t do that, yet we want to stay safe, and we want to keep others safe. So, we’re willing to do what must be done.

All of our outside lessons have been either cancelled or changed to a remote online (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime etc.) format. Last week was the first time trying that, and it went well. All of my son’s piano events, except for the state competition, have been cancelled. That’s a shame after all the hard work he’s done. The state competition was postponed, and now we’re working on a video to submit for the regional auditions. We’re grateful they are finding a way for the competition to continue, but it’s been a bit deflating as well. We’ve had to find ways to keep our spirits up and make the best of the situation.

For me, that has meant getting outside whenever possible. We’re starting to get spring-like weather, so I’ve been taking long walks and working in the yard a little too. I haven’t had much time these past few years to work on our yard, and I’ve missed it, so that’s a silver lining! As the weeks tick by (and I’m sure they will as this is going to last longer than we think), I’m hoping to find time for some baking, extra lesson planning, and maybe more art projects with the boys. We’ll see. Or, we’ll just stay as busy as we ever were because as I said, not too much changes in our daily routine!

For my 13-year-old, we bought him some new music, which always cheers him up. Now is a perfect time for him to move on to new pieces despite the competition. For my 10-year-old, and for all of us, we’ve been paying more attention to the birds outside and using our binoculars more. The boys are also taking occasional walks or runs with us around the neighborhood too.

Since it’s nearing the end of the year, and we’ve all felt pretty distracted, I’ve instructed my 7th grader to just focus on his priorities now: science, literature and math. He’s done a lot of writing this year already, so we’re slowing down on that, and other workbooks and things can wait awhile. I’ve surprised myself by giving the 4th grader more work to do on his own this year, and he just started using a similar rotation system that my 7th grader is using in order to pace himself and schedule his lessons each day. I say I’m surprised because I wasn’t planning on doing that with him this year, but sometimes things just progress naturally and it feels right to introduce him to stuff. This is the best part of homeschooling — kids usually show you when they are ready for something. That is, if you let them.

Another homeschool surprise that I wasn’t planning for this year: We started watching A History of the United States, 2nd Edition, on the Great Courses Plus, and both my boys kind of like it! (Though I have to explain a lot to the 10-year-old.) It’s really long, so I don’t know if we’ll finish it, and I’m also a little leery that it’s taught by three white guys, but we’re watching it with a critical eye and will be supplementing quite a bit over the coming years! Luckily my husband is a historian, so he’s good at supplementing our study of history, and he prefers focusing on social history more than political history.

Other than this, the 10-year-old and I finishedThe Yearling, and he’s also finished reading all the books in the Shiloh series by himself. He loved those. (Thanks to my sister for giving him the first book in that series!) Now we’re reading The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz together (thanks to my boys’ cousins for gifting us this book!), and he started the first book about some warrior cats: Warriors #1: Into the Wild by himself, and he says he likes it so far.

I’m still reading the James Herriot book that I mentioned in my last March post, and as for my 13-year-old, he’s still plowing through the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Although this is a very difficult time for many people, I hope that after it’s over, there will be many silver linings, such as:

  • people will value their community more and keeping using these new ways of communicating as well as meeting face-to-face
  • working from home will become more standard, especially for those with families
  • online learning will become a more viable option for those who need it and benefit from it
  • people might learn that slowing down is a good thing
  • certain professions will become more highly respected, such as teachers, grocery store clerks, garbage pick up, truckers — all those people who keep our society running smoothly (not to mention our doctors and nurses!)
  • perhaps some families will decide to keep homeschooling because they realize it’s working better for them?
  • and finally….people will learn how to wash their hands properly! (I credit my mom for teaching me to wash my hands every time I return home from somewhere.)

What are your silver linings during this pandemic?

School Closures vs. Homeschooling

Starting on Friday, my little homeschooling blog has gotten a big spike in stats. No doubt this is due to the number of parents who are now required to teach their children at home due to the school closures surrounding COVID-19. I wish I could tell them right now not to worry.  And, this probably isn’t the best time to read my blog. When I started homeschooling, I realized quickly that homeschooling is very different from a regular classroom. Classroom materials, teacher lessons and strategy does not work in a homeschool environment. And kids who are used to the school environment usually need a long time to adjust to homeschooling, so don’t worry, if things don’t start off well.

A lot of homeschoolers may give you advice on how to “deschool” your children, let them do their own thing, let them play, etc. While I think this can be good advice, I’m not sure that’s what you need right now. You just need to get through the next two or more weeks that this is going to last. Unless you think you’d like to try to keep homeschooling after all this over, try to follow your own instincts on how to get through this. What is best for you and your kids?

I’m sure your teachers and administrators are already working hard to create online learning for your child, and they will guide you through it. Having said that, remember that your main job is to try to keep your child from losing the skills they have learned in school, and your online lessons will probably not take as long as your regular school day. It will be helpful to try to keep your regular routine (same wake up and bedtime etc.), but don’t try to recreate school at home.

You can fill in extra time in any way that seems right for you and your children. Read books, play math games, explore your yard, watch documentaries, and play board games together. Ultimately, everything is educational, especially if you are spending quality time together and having conversations. Remember not to push your children too hard, if they can’t or won’t do something easily. Contact their teacher before you get frustrated. (Homeschool parents are not naturally patient! We understand!)

Alternate fun stuff with the work stuff. Enjoy your extra time together. I wrote a post with several ideas that my boys and I enjoy doing together. It may or may not resonate with you, but maybe it’ll inspire you to come up with your own thing.

What it comes down to is that I want to say: don’t stress out or think that this is “too hard.” Homeschoolers have had the luxury of time (sometimes years) to figure out a routine and find the right materials that work for their families. So don’t get frustrated, if you don’t feel you’re doing a good job. I’m sure you’re doing just fine.

Feel free to email me, if you want to ask me questions. I’m always happy to chat with homeschool parents via email (for free), and I’d be happy to do the same for you. Good luck!