Homeschool calibration from an amateur

In early childhood education, you learn to anticipate, plan for, and continuously improve transitions. The change from one thing to the other, particularly with young children, will inevitably result in chaos if you don’t approach it with intentionality.

Even as I wrote blog posts to support *other* parents to get ready for the COVID-19 mass homeschool effort, I under-prepared my own kids (3 unique learners ages 11, 14, 16), resulting in a frustrating first day for us all, as my work challenges are currently bringing  new levels of stress and challenge.  I really need homeschool to work, even if I think that my kids’ schools have little to no expectation of a rigorous regiment. The kids need to be engaged and independent every day so I can work from home.

gratitudeThankfully, I had scooped up a Gratitude journal (on clearance) while grabbing craft supplies for “homeschool.” I’m so bad at sticking with routines like these. I’ll pick up a novelty item and try it out for a days and then stop. Something about the quarantine and where I am in my life seems finite, so I put it in the cart.

Having the journal helped me realize I hadn’t given us time to transition, or as I like to call it in my work life: calibrate. They’d gone from a predictable school routine to an expectation that home time come with a new level of structure. Plus, I was demanding quiet, with no attention to give while working from home. Not exactly teacher of the year material.

Over dinner, we discussed expectations for the next day with intention. We had a much better day today–and certainly have a way to go. But in case you’re also figuring it out, I wanted to share some helpful moves:

  • Ground it in psychology: What’s appropriate for the age of your child?
  • Set the stage with mornings: You can wake up later (we negotiated time) because brain research (and my groaning children) have made clear that school starts too early in the U.S. Because they decided on breakfast at 9:30, this meant they have to cook so I can work. Oliver agreed to make his signature pancakes, which meant while I was on my third call of the morning, he and his sister (who fought incessantly the day before) worked together, and even brought me breakfast. pancakes
  • Schedule around resources: The most in-demand resource in our home right now is the home computer. So there’s a schedule for its use. Otherwise, the daily plan is driven by what we agreed are important priorities for the day (see below).
  • Priorities: We discuss what should happen each day at school.
    • Math skills–utilizing software platforms from school. This inevitably leads to an educational computer offering.
    • Fresh air–walking the dog, playing basketball, chasing each other
    • Reading–my book lover has a few novels to choose from; for my non-reader, audio books count
    • Making something or writing– legos, painting, journaling, planning out long term projects, songs, poems, all count.
    • Personal interests–long term projects–what are the needs of your learner? Learning is fun and driven by curiosity. Encourage your child to plan their time wisely to invest in their interests.
    • Lunch-recess-Sandwiches and screen time check-in

Kids negotiate time around tech, lunch/recess–and otherwise, they select what activities to do next.

  • Dinner time round-up- We reflect at dinner time, discussing what worked and didn’t, sharing ideas, and volunteering for breakfast duty.

We are still figuring things out, but today I got to see what could be possible. A special added bonus was the children working together and teaching each other.  There were some sweet moments for sure. And the children created board games, earrings, and researched basketball stats in between figuring these other things out. It’s a good combination of structure and freedom.  I know tomorrow we will continue to calibrate, and get better at figuring this out.

In case you (likely) need additional supports, here are some resources for you:

What tricks do you have? Please share them or tag me–we can have our village, virtually.


2 thoughts on “Homeschool calibration from an amateur

  1. Emmy, I love that you are doing this blog. I am inspired. I also think this time offers an opportunity for us to “rethink” critical literacy! Real life counts for learning! It’s so important to use things young people find relevant. You are an educator at heart and an amazing mom.


    1. Deirdre, I’m having so much fun with this right now. Nothing like a shared experience to bring us together. I’m grateful for your posts about how this time can give rise to new ideas and opportunities. Have you considered writing during this time?


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