Homeschool Inspiration from the Trenches
06 Aug 2020
A few helpful insights on distance learning
By Christine Hall
Sitting on the porch, two friends exhaling laborious sighs as we watched our children jump sprinklers, trap toads, and slide down inflatables. “How has your week been?” I asked my neighbor, Amanda. “Well, today was a good day. And three really bad days—all rolled into one,” she quipped with a poker face. We both ‘clinked’ our glasses of water in solidarity. Or were they hard seltzers? Who is to know?
This summer has undoubtedly been different. It was really a ‘second summer’ of sorts—one that burned hot on the heels of 2020’s ‘first summer,’ brought to us by COVID-19 closings and restrictions. And it has been exhausting. Adding to the emotional trauma were the mounting pressures and restrictions placed on back-to-school guidelines. This sucker punch to the gut had forced me, and maybe other parents, to wrap our brains around the idea of homeschooling our children.
To navigate this new journey, I put my investigative nature to work and chatted with some local parents who had “been there, done that” in the homeschooling world. As their veteran answers and advice came rolling in, the ambiguity that I felt in my heart began to wane and my imagination opened to the opportunities and surprises that awaited my family on this journey. The insight you are about to read injected inspiration into my once wonton hopes for schools to fully reopen and everything to be back as it once was.
Courtney Boyer, therapist, and mom of three, offers the following advice on how to “orient our brains” to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead.
“Right now, it feels like a lot of things are uncertain, unpredictable, and overwhelming. Guess what does NOT like uncertainty? Our brain,” says Boyer. She insists our brain thrives on predictability. It loves to know what to expect and when to expect it. When plans change or remain unknown, it can cause a cascade of physiological and psychological reactions (i.e. stress). “We can't change this about our brain,” Boyer explains. “But we CAN change how we choose to react to it and how we ‘show up.’”
A few helpful insights from Boyer:
1. Ask yourself every morning before you get out of bed, how do I want to show up today? Who do I want to be today? Do I want to be angry and bitter that I am stuck homeschooling my kids? Or do I want to demonstrate that when life hands me a whole bunch of lemons, I make a delish lemon drop out of them? Having a game plan before your day begins is critical. It sets the tone for the rest of your day.
2. Focus on the things you can control. Maybe you cannot control when (or if) schools are opening. But you can control how you choose to respond to the situation. You cannot control how your kids will handle a new school year at home, but you can control how you communicate your plans to them.
To help squelch our insecurities, Boyer reminds us that in a homeschool setting, WE get to choose what we want to focus on, and what is not as important. “But none of that matters if you are resentful, stressed, and overwhelmed. Your kids will pick up on it and follow suit,” she warns.
Other local moms share their top tips and encouragement for new homeschool families.
“Schedule! Schedule! Schedule! Make a routine. Even though we are home, we still started on the dot at 7:30am. We finished by Noon. And we were free!”
— Sanna Nassar, mother of four
“Trying to find a routine that fits each of my three children's needs, strengths, and weaknesses has been our biggest challenge. Yet, getting to experience their natural learning environments firsthand instead of reading about it on a report card has been so rewarding.”
— Amanda Stewart, mother of three
“If you are choosing to homeschool, enter into the process consciously intending to have patience and sometimes, uncomfortable flexibility.”
—Alison and Jared Stevens, homeschool parents of two
“When you are selecting a curriculum, consider finding something your children would NOT be able to study or do if they were in a brick-and-mortar setting. This is key because if you are simply going to have them home and teach them what the brick-and-mortar locations are pushing out, you may miss a huge opportunity.”
—Mary Katherine Davenport, mother of three