As we now face the reality of homeschool moving from a few weeks to possibly months, parents are scrambling for curriculums, resources and, above all – advice! Here, Kate Tsubata, a mother of three and now grandmother, shares on her twenty years of experience with homeschooling. You might want to bookmark this page as the tips, advice are gold.
1. Don’t do “school at home”
Don’t try to replicate the experience of the classroom, which is usually boring and frustrating. Let go of all the expectations like “how much” and “grades.” They are pointless measurements. Don’t mimic the school, make an exciting learning experience.
2. Find things the children like to do or are interested in
Do they love animals? Drawing? Gymnastics? Play acting? Exploring the outdoors? Building with legos? This is your starting point.
3. Make things fun.
FUN is the natural way kids learn.
4. Work with the kid’s natural curiosity.
When the kid asks a question, it’s a learning opportunity. “Why does the sky turn colors at sunset?” “How far is the moon?” “Can a tiger swim?” or whatever. My favorite answer was, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” And then go to the books or internet or set up an experiment. The kid feels listened to, and genuinely interested, and they love doing it with their parents and siblings involved.
5. There is no limit to how much kids can learn, or where they can learn it.
The entire world is your tool kit. Kids who are inspired to learn something can learn it from a college textbook or a YouTube video or trial and error. Get the kids asking the questions, find out how they learn best (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, moving things around, storytelling, drawing, etc.). Then create projects that involve learning about something, but fit the child’s learning style and sense of fun.
6. Listen to your kids.
They may have worries or just questions about what is happening. They may be picking up on the fear that’s all around. Don’t downplay or belittle these things, just use it as a chance to learn, to investigate, to develop solutions. For instance, maybe they think everyone dies, or that you can get corona just by looking at someone. You can investigate the actual mortality rate, showing them that a large percent of people have a mild sickness and recover. You can explain about scientists, about vaccines or antibody production, about how cleaning hands helps stop the spread.
7. Here’s the biggest lesson:
Parents are already the best and most natural teachers for their kids. You don’t need degrees to do this, and you don’t need special expertise. You are already the best expert on each of your kids in the entire world. The greatest minds in the world were schooled at home, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Albert Einstein, and a huge number of people today. Homeschoolers excel in every area, including the Olympics, Spelling Competitions, Math and Science, and Technology. One homeschooler wrote a book when he was 15 and is now a widely published author (Christopher Paolini, who wrote the Eragon series, and more).
Don’t worry if the household “runs differently” while everyone’s at home. Meals, laundry, cleaning, timetables–might all be different now. Also, there’s no clock police. If your family likes to sleep late, or get up early, or work at night, just do what works for you. The more relaxed and happy people are, the more they learn.
If you actually look at the entire curriculum for a given grade for a year, you’ll realize there’s actually very little in it. Most kids can learn that material in a few weeks, if they’re interested and willing. So don’t worry, take it easy. The whole country is in the same situation, and no one is going to fault anyone.
Parents can continue to do their professional work too, but it may be by creating new structures. For instance, some homeschoolers have “study time” at one point (where the parent is actively instructing) and then “independent time” where the kids can read books alone, or they can do a project, like legos or drawing or an educational game. I was usually in a room next to the room where they were, so I always had an ear out, making sure they were busy, but I could do my own work at the same time. Kids can understand that “Mom needs to work now,” and they can respect that.
Invariably, kids learn better, faster and more solidly in the home environment.