My niece, a mom of four, messaged me on Facebook. “God bless you for what you’ve done all these years.” She’s talking about my 26 years of homeschooling. Her kids have been home from school for a few weeks and already it’s driving her nuts.
How are we still at it?
Actually, I know how she feels. Every year, in fact right around now — late winter or early spring – we all get burned out. Most homeschoolers do. You’ve put in months of intense schoolwork. The weather is not the greatest. It’s Lent, and you are at the end of your energy. What you want is a summer vacation, but you still have weeks to go.
In the case of the folks whose kids are normally in school, add to this the feeling that they’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Some might try to replicate the classroom — which, as a homeschooler, I can tell you is like trying to eat a lemon like you eat a watermelon. Different fruit, different methods of education. But that does not mean you can’t teach your kids in the short time that is left of this semester.
Education is about so much more than books. It is about life. Think of this quarantine period as an opportunity to teach your kids life skills. We all have to learn them at some point — and it’s hit or miss whether you get them in school. So, consider this time at home not as something to catch up on later but as catch up time now.
Since the stay-at-home orders began, I have heard some people say that they’re going to use the time to do home improvements. Great. Get the kids involved! This week we finished a painting job in the kitchen. Today they helped me make homemade mac and cheese. There is plenty of spring yard work, including planting seeds indoors to transfer outside later. In between, my kids will do their usual online school work, and their school work with me.
When you’re homeschooling, life and schoolwork always mix. Homeschooling depends on getting the kids involved in the day-to-day operations of running the home. They have to learn to help cook, clean, do laundry, change diapers, and watch kids, or you would never have the time or energy to sit down and teach them the book stuff.
It’s no small thing for kids to contribute to the order of the household. It teaches them responsibility. It gives them character. It gives them a very real sense of their place in the community, the domestic church that is your family. And, if they just happen to be bored out of their minds and cranky because their whole routine just crashed into a wall — it gives them a constructive way to use their downtime.
Working alongside them will bring structure to their day and help you grow together. It will teach them to appreciate all you do to keep them alive. And it will give them life skills which they will carry with them into the future.
Maybe you are thinking: Lady, it’s easy for you to say because your kids are used to being home with you each and every day.
What do you do with kids who refuse to adapt to the new normal and simply won’t cooperate?
Actually, I have those kids too. Remember how I said homeschoolers can and do get burned out? The kids do, too. Right now, they’re ready to pull their hair out. No, they’re ready to pull each other’s hair out.
The good thing about it is, we’re home. To really get on top of discipline issues you have to be together. So, this sudden togetherness of yours might just be a God-given opportunity to rein in discipline issues. Without discipline, it’s tough to learn anything — whether from books or from life.
This period could help you set your child on the right path when school eventually does resume. Which it will; never fear.
You won’t have to homeschool for 26 years, unless you want to.
Susie Lloyd is a regular contributor to Catechist and Catholic Digest magazines. She has also won three Catholic Press Awards for her writing. Find her books, articles and more at SusieLloyd.com
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash