How to be Successful Unexpected Homeschooling Parents
When I started homeschooling 20 plus years ago, I shared the same fears that you might be experiencing today—fear of inadequacy, fear that my kids would fall behind, being unable to keep a good schedule, and losing my patience with my kids. However, after decades as a homeschooling mom, I’ve learned that I CAN manage all those things successfully–and you can too!
Here’s How to be Successful Unexpected Homeschooling Parents
Shift Your Perspective
If you consider school to be pages in workbooks completed, then sure, kids won’t get as many pages done. But if you shift your perspective and think about learning, discovery, and life skills—I believe that, during this time, kids will actually begin to get ahead in the things that really matter.
Develop a Love of Learning
Kids are naturally curious. Look for opportunities to foster that curiosity. If they’re asking you about your job as you work from home, answer their questions as you have time and share as much as you can about what you’re doing and why. The more your kids love learning, the more they will excel in school and life.
Trust God to Fill in the Gaps
On my son Nathan’s first day of college, I had a panic moment. I worried that I hadn’t properly taught him how to write an essay. Embarrassed, I apologized to him and then worried all day. At the end of the day, he came home excited and said, “Mom, don’t worry, in my writing class, our teacher is teaching us how to write essays.” I laughed at myself. I’d forgotten that teachers in college teach too. Nathan is now a writer himself.
School At Home Doesn’t Mirror Traditional School
One of the biggest problems parents are having right now is getting their kids to work from 8am to 3pm. The truth is–they don’t need to! Because you can give them individualized attention, they actually don’t need that many hours to do schoolwork. Each day, help them get ready and work on school but don’t stress about sticking to a perfect plan. Things will get done. Just remember that your child’s character and emotional security during this time also matter. They matter a lot. This is something none of us has had to go through before. We are all learning to adapt as we go and that’s okay.
Put On Your Oxygen Mask First
It’s so easy during times of high emotion to feel overwhelmed. Every morning I wake up before my kids to pray, spend time with God, and have some moments of peace and quiet. Having that hour to myself is my “secret” to being patient with my kids and feeling less overwhelmed—although I still feel that way sometimes, too! Give yourself grace and if you have stressful moments take a break and recenter. Take a walk outside, have a cup of tea, read a short devotional or step into another room and have a short prayer. I find that these small chunks of “me” time can help me get through days when things seem tense.
How to be Successful Unexpected Homeschooling Parents
Three of the most common issues I believe most are experiencing right now are balancing working from home (for their own jobs) with schooling their kids, staying motivated, and dealing with strong-willed children. Here’s some help and hope for those three situations.
Balancing Working From Home With School At Home
Know that it’s possible!
In the almost three decades that I’ve been homeschooling, I’ve also written over 70 books. What’s the key to balancing working from home and helping your kids with school? Intentional windows of time. Schedule windows of time that keep things moving. I wake up before my kids do and have an hour (sometimes more) of uninterrupted work before they get up. When they get up, I help them get ready and give them individualized attention for about three hours. After that, they can usually work independently, and I work on my work as they continue working on their own.
The key is not trying to do your own work, and help your kids with school, at the same time. Most of the time, that won’t go well.
Helping Kids Stay Motivated To Do School Work
Tell your child that if they can do 45 minutes of work, they can help you bake cookies or some other activity they will look forward to. If kids know something fun is coming, they are more likely to do the work you’re asking them to do.
Approach Work Creatively
For assignments that don’t involve written work that has to be turned in, don’t be afraid to let them do the work differently. For instance, if your daughter has to answer a set of questions but doesn’t have to turn in the written work, sit down with her and ask her the questions out loud, and ask her to just speak her answers back to you. Not everything has to be written down for your child to learn. This is especially helpful for auditory learners.
Take A Break
You, and your child, both need breaks! For younger children, don’t try to work for longer than 25-30 minutes without giving them a break. Even traditional school days are broken up into “chunks” of learning and breaks. The older the child, the longer the chunks of learning can be. No one expects you or your child to sit eight hours a day in strict reading, writing, or arithmetic lessons. That would be mind-numbing.
Teaching the Strong-Willed Child at Home
My daughter Leslie is extremely strong-willed, and getting her to do her schoolwork was a daily fight. Here’s what I’ve found helps when teaching a strong-willed child:
Narrow The Choices
Offer two choices, and make it clear that your child must pick between the two choices. This helps them have some level of control while establishing healthy authority as a parent.
Stand By Your Word
If your child disagrees, don’t give in. Once they realize that bad behavior won’t get them what they want, they will back down.
Focus Their Strong-will On Positive Things
Help her channel her energy into positive activities at home, like exercise, musical instruments, or writing.
Fill Their Love Tank
Even while at home, take steps to speak your child’s love language. Make their favorite breakfast, make a special dessert or coffee drink and
sit with them on the couch, or take a walk just the two of you. As you build that relationship, they will start to open up and trust you more.
How to be Successful Unexpected Homeschooling Parents
One of the main concerns I’m hearing during this time is how to teach multiple children and helping them regulate their emotions during a stressful time. There are so many ways to help your children process their grief and stress and to stay on track with learning in the process. Here are some things that I’ve found have helped me through the years with my own ten children.
Figure Out Who Needs the Most Help
Evaluate your kids and figure out who needs the most help with what assignment. Work with that child on their most challenging assignment, and let the other children do assignments that come more easily to them. Remember, “fair” is not everyone getting the same thing, it’s everyone getting what they need to succeed. Three of my children have Dyslexia and require different teaching strategies than my other children. And that’s okay! Having to wait or share their parent/teacher makes my other children more compassionate to others. Being able to understand and process information and learning quickly is a gift from God that we should all be grateful for. Helping kids understand that can make them kind and gentle-hearted as well.
Assign Older Kids to Help Younger Kids
Older kids often love feeling “needed” and responsible, and this also gives you a break. Help older kids find ways they can teach younger kids, even if it’s just reading aloud to them.
Talk to your child’s teacher
Don’t be afraid/ashamed of asking your child’s teacher for help. If you’re trying to teach six kids at six different grade levels at once—ask the teachers for help. Everyone is new to this arrangement, and everyone is trying to figure things out!
Find things you can do together
Here’s an idea–cooking together. One thing everyone can do together is cooking, and it can be educational. Look up articles about WWII rationing online, and teach your kids to cook simple recipes that only involve a few ingredients. Cooking can become a history lesson (learning about rationing), a science lesson (“Let’s talk about how yeast works”), and a reading lesson (“Read this recipe for us!”) all at once!
Helping Kids Regulate Emotions During the “School Day”
As parents to 7 adopted kids, my husband, John, and I know BIG emotions. We’ve been through some rollercoaster ups and downs as we’ve learned to help our kids navigate their emotions (and our own!)
I remember when we first brought our teen daughters home. In the first week, there was a moment when all four girls had a meltdown. One was trying to climb out of the window, one was yelling, and another was crying. I was shocked, afraid, and heartbroken. That certainly wasn’t what we had expected. But through it all, we learned. We grew. We became a family who loves and helps each other through the hard times with grace and compassion.
Calming Angry/ Upset/ Scared Kid’s Down
Be There For Them
Remember this is a stressful time for everyone. Your priority isn’t your kids’ school, it’s your child’s safety and comfort. Use this as a time to help them learn how to process stressful events, and give them lots of grace. Give yourself lots as well.
Stay Calm Yourself
We learned from a counselor early on that our adopted girls would try to get us to escalate, so that it would become about us, instead of the girls. If we stay calm, we can focus on the girls’ behavior. Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t follow them off on wild goose trails. Keep focused on the issue at hand and keep yourself in a level set of mind. Remember, you are the parent, you are the adult.
Create a Calming Bag
I created a bag for my kids with things to calm them down like Scripture verses, Play-Doh, and bubbles. Just the act of taking a deep breath and blowing bubbles can help a child calm down. You can also have the child wash their hands or take a warm shower- the warm water will calm them down.
Use this Time to Develop Your Kids Spiritually
Don’t get caught up in obsessing over your children’s schoolwork. Help them out, but trust that
God will fill in the gaps. Pray, find teachable moments, and remember God has a different view
of success than the world does!
Prayer is the best thing you can do. Pray God will open your eyes to see Him during this time. Pray for patience—and if you’re worried your kids will fall behind academically, pray that they stay diligent and develop a love of learning during this time!
Find Teachable Moments
Look for ways to use the movies you watch, books you read, and situations you encounter during this pandemic to teach your kids about trusting God and serving others. Write letters to neighbors or elderly friends and family who can’t interact with others. Share games with families in your neighborhood. Make masks or treats for nurses and doctors in your local hospital. Make a family prayer list and post it on the wall for everyone to see.
Remember God’s View of Success
If you and your kids learn just one thing during this time of homeschooling, let it be that success in this world is different than success in
God’s eyes. While your kids do need to do the work they are assigned, focus on seeking God first as a parent and as a family—and you will not fail your kids.
Matthew 6:33- Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.
No matter what, try to remember this–this too shall pass. This is a tough time but I believe we will get through if we all work together and trust God to guide us.
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