Homeschooling Insights & Resources

I homeschooled my three children for many years. (See Why We Homeschooled.) Each of them also attended public schools for a year or so, and two briefly tried private education, as well.

All three went to college. And all are living lives they’ve chosen, some more unusual than others.

This may be important: I homeschooled while pursuing a writing career (under several pen names, for book publishers and magazines), as well as my work in art journaling (as Aisling D’Art).

So yes, you can do this. Really.

Two Important Points

Passionately curious - homeschoolersIf your children are suddenly at home, and you’re in blink-blink mode, almost overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling, here are two things I want to say:

First, don’t try to fill a full school day with activities.

Classrooms aren’t an ideal way for teachers to provide the one-on-one attention many students need.

So, curriculum materials include lots of activity sheets, workbooks, and exercises.

They keep children busy – and learning – with minimal supervision.

That’s so teachers can have a few minutes with each student that needs personal attention.

In other words, you don’t have to keep your kids busy from 9 AM to 2:30 PM, or whatever their usual schoolday schedule is.

I’ve seen various schedules for  Covid-19 homeschooling. Jessica McHale, the photographer, offers a great one.

Here’s another by Erica, aka Confessions of a Homeschooler, though her day is far longer and more structured than would have suited me.

At the other extreme, here’s one “unschooler’s” schedule, by Bridgett Tulloh. In my opinion, that kind of schedule might work with very little ones or teens, but the in-between years… maybe more structure might help.

Rachel Wolf’s unschooling rhythms may suit many families better than anything else I’ve listed here. Take a look at it before you decide where to start.

In general, like the idea of an hour or two of formal study in the morning, and an hour of educational activities – or independent study – in the afternoon.

During the rest of the day, if you’ve inspired your kids to learn, and given them a strong sense of curiosity, I think they can pursue their own academic interests.

Second, don’t try to do it all. Especially when you’re starting out. 

Schools have resources you probably don’t. Like science labs and equipment. And gymnasiums. And music rooms. And so on.

Do what you can with what you have. You may like suggestions at this Washington Post article: Veteran home-schoolers share tips for parents...

Parents can shine in some areas, and the attention – and educational freedom – they can provide… that can make a huge difference.

Homeschooled children can achieve great things, academically.

If you’re anxious about your kids missing out on something important, read this: Three Harvard students on lessons of homeschooling. (In fact, read it even if you’re not anxious. It’s a great article with powerful insights.)

How to Find Time for Homeschooling

When I homeschooled, I saved time in the kitchen (as well as saving money) with once-a-month cooking.

Whether you cook for a few days, a week at a time, a couple of weeks, or the full month… well, batch-processing meal-related tasks can save a lot of time.

I couldn’t have homeschooled and prepared good, affordable meals at the same time. Once-a-month cooking worked well for us.

For household chores, I’m still a fan of the old-school approach of the Sidetracked Sisters. (That’s the book I used, and yes, that’s an Amazon affiliate link, so you don’t have to wade through a bazillion similar books.) A popular alternative, available online: FlyLady.

Basically, you’ll set a firm schedule and – unless something unusual requires immediate attention – you’ll stick with your schedule.

For example, I currently vacuum on Mondays and Thursdays. If someone drops a few cookie crumbs on the carpet in the meantime… the crumbs stay there until the next vacuuming day. (Well, unless it’s a true disaster that needs immediate attention.)

Meanwhile, no guilt, and my house remains relatively clean.

My schedule works best when I have one Big Cleaning Day (laundry, vacuuming, trash collection, etc.) and one Light Cleaning Day, each week. Your mileage may vary.

In-between those two cleaning days, I have a few daily chores, such as spritzing all doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, faucets, light switches, etc., with a cleaning solution that includes a little water, a little dishwashing soap, and a lot of rubbing alcohol. And then I let it dry, as-is, unless there’s visible dirt. (If there is, I clean it and then spritz-and-let-dry.)

But, the key to having time for homeschooling is to maintain a schedule as best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect… just as regular as you can make it.

And be sure to include time for yourself, every day. That’s important.

Some Resources

These are some resources I’ve listed at my personal Facebook page. I’ll keep adding to these as I find more fun & useful links.

Free crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Kenken, etc. – best for older students.

Free coloring pagesHere’s one of mine, and you can find more links at Facebook group: Rose Meadows, and at Rose-Meadows.com.

Storytelling (books read to children) – St. Luke’s UMC Bedtime StoriesFreebies at Audible.comFrozen’s “Olaf” (Josh Gad) reads stories, too.

Art classes –  Mo Willems lunchtime doodles (great for little ones, too.) – Cathy Johnson’s watercolor sketching (best for older students & adults) – Lots more links to art classes & related resources

Science – Check the many livecams at Explore.org and use them as starting points for lessons about nature.

Fitness – If you can think of a fitness or dance class you’d like to include in your daily routines… YouTube probably has one. I especially like how calming Tai Chi is, and Don Fiore’s 20-minute video for beginners & seniors is a great starting point for all ages. https://youtu.be/HSk2ZCmeQHs

Creative CareersCreativeLive streams free classes, usually related to creative hobbies and careers, such as photography, Etsy shops, blogging, and so on.  These can be so helpful if you’re building (or starting) a home-based business, and the classes may appeal to teens, as well.

Entertainment – This could be a very long list, but here are a few to get you started. Marion Cultural and Civic Center offers The Empty Concert Series. The Paris Opera House is streaming concerts and rehearsals.

For those who love Disney (as we do), why not visit some Disneyland attractions via YouTube…? Best on TVs, with the volume up good & loud: SoCal Attractions 360.

You can also visit 12 famous museums from around the world, via online tours and exhibits. And you’ll find lists of national parks and other attractions you can visit, via the Internet. See Travel & Leisure’s article with lots of links.

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If you discover additional resources, I hope you’ll link to them in comments, below. I’ll check them out and approve the ones I like best. (In other words: Since this blog attracts spammers, I manually check all links before the public can see them.)

Why We Homeschooled

We started homeschooling in the 1980s when my husband was hired by an out-of-state company. We moved from Belmont (Massachusetts) – where many neighbors were Harvard and MIT professors – to a state where education wasn’t quite such a high priority… to put it mildly.

Homeschooling was popular in that state, for obvious reasons. In fact, the homeschooling community was so large, it had split into two factions.

Why we homeschooledOne group chose homeschooling for religious and educational reasons. Many of those parents were members of traditional and evangelical churches, and had clearly defined ideas of how (and what) their children should learn.

The other group favored an approach called “unschooling” and favored a more organic style. Those parents were usually from a hippie-style background, and eschewed structure as much as possible.

We participated in both communities’ activities. It was kind of fascinating, and my children had an opportunity to interact with children from a variety of backgrounds.

Within a couple of years, also due to my husband’s career, we moved again. And again. And then continued to move every two or three years. That was stressful, to put it mildly.

Rather than put my children – repeatedly – through the ordeal of new teachers, new textbooks, and new academic expectations… it was simpler to teach them at home.

And, there were some great benefits.

Age Is Not an Issue

One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling was avoiding “age-segregated peer dependency.”

In that era, I recall one homeschooling advocate suggesting that dividing children into closed communities by their age… it made no more sense than dividing children into groups based on their shoe size.

I chuckled at that, but he had a point.

At regular homeschooling gatherings, my children played with kids ranging from toddlers to teens. They gravitated towards those with shared interests. No other criteria seemed to apply.

Today, all three of my children are as comfortable talking with people far younger or older than themselves, as they are with people their same age.

I like that.

But, I’m also enthusiastic about responsible homeschooling. That means encouraging your children to love learning.

Parents Can’t Do It All

I doubt that any parent (or set of parents) can teach all subjects as well as schools can. For example, few homes have complete chemistry labs.

When my children were young, we did the best we could. In some cases, especially when we moved back to the Boston (Massachusetts) area, we took advantage of “open house” events at the many universities in the area.

Mostly, I tried to encourage them to read and learn, and delve into topics that interested them most.  (That’s echoed in this article about three Harvard students who’d been homeschooled.)

Today, parents have access to far more resources. Those opportunities can make a big difference in your child’s education.

But, you may have concerns beyond educational standards. Socialization – social time with other children – can be a volatile topic.

Socialization

When viruses (etc.) aren’t a concern, there’s that pesky socialization issue.

When we were homeschooling, that word was thrown at me as if it were a grenade. As if we were depriving our children of interactions with the outside world… especially children their own age.

It was easy to defuse that argument by pointing to homework, and the extra free time my children had.

For example, while children in public school were in classes or doing homework, we had time to go out to events in social settings.

A favorite memory is when we attended a public practice session of the US Olympic Swim Team. It was a small, very social gathering. My kids sat less than 10 feet from athletes they’d see on the TV just a few months later. And, in some cases, we chatted with those swimmers.

With local homeschooling groups, we went to regular picnics, each time at a different state park with their own museums, labs, or other activities.

Places like gyms and ski resorts offered homeschooling groups special discounts, to use their facilities on weekday mornings, and so on. We took advantage of those, too.

And of course there were church groups, Scouts, and more.

So, I’d argue that my children reaped the benefits of more (and better) socialization time than their counterparts who spent far more hours at a desk each weekday.

None of this was easy, since my husband was rarely available to share  homeschooling responsibilities. And, at the same time, I was pursuing my own career as a traditionally published author and journalist.

But we did it. And it worked.

Looking Back

I might have done many things better. But, with the available resources – not even close to what parents can access now – I think the children & I did fairly well.

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. In fact, it can be daunting for parents who have no alternative, during times when schools are closed.

But, I can say with confidence that – at least short-term – most parents can provide good educations with the help of online and community resources.

And, at the same time, you can build wonderful memories with your children.