peel yourself off the ceiling…encouragement after that first week of school-at-home

Hello again, all of you who have been a-sailing on the choppy seas of social isolation and school-at-home!


I’m imagining a variety of responses to the first week of homeschooling for many of you, from, “that actually went way better than I thought!”
to, “I have said and felt things about my children that I deeply regret and cannot imagine doing this for another week.”

I’ve got five more bits of encouragement for you today.
If you missed my first five nuggets, I’d suggest starting there as they are the foundation. If things feel just ducky, you probably don’t need any of this,
but if you or someone you know is thinking:
*week one was survivable but I do not know if I can keep this up
*week one was hard and I feel my whole chest constrict at the thought of doing this again and again
*week one was sort of a nightmare and it makes me want to tear my hair out to continue this way
or anything hovering on the fringes of these kinds of thoughts, I hope you can draw something from today’s post that gives you more breath, more ideas, more comfort, more peace of mind.

Here we go:

1. Homeschoolers don’t normally do things this way either, so no fair comparing yourself to any of them and wondering, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

from this is my home, this is my school by Jonathan Bean
Playing the comparison game is a fraught activity at any rate and the enemy of many a parent’s peace of mind.
But just for clarification, most long-term homeschoolers…
*enroll their children in lots of outside activities, classes, teams, music lessons, etc. They are not used to doing this all in their houses by themselves, either.
*have closets full of accumulated stuff — art supplies, pond dippers, puzzles, games, books… and they purchase learning materials with a heavy degree of student-independence built in.
*are part of a network of other families for support.
*lump children of various ages together for some subjects rather than aiming for 100% individualized lessons. If you are following 3 or 4 different teachers’ plans, you probably need to do some trimming and the teachers will support that.
*plan for the year rather than landing in this situation mid-stream. Give yourself a lot of grace to enter this homeschooling world slowly.
*operate with one parent as primary educator, while for many of you both parents are attempting to work either on location or from home. This requires a huge dose of flexibility, negotiation, and realistic expectations.

The fact is, you’ve been handed a tough assignment so blow off the voices of self-doubt and self-criticism.
For most of you, this will be your only foray into homeschooling.
You do not need to nail it.
You just need to survive it with your kids feeling loved and supported.

2. If you’re feeling a bit shattered, it means you are trying to do too much and the solution is before you: Ease Up.

When I was homeschooling, I used to start my annual planning session by brainstorming everything I ideally would love to see in the kids’ schedules.
It was always a ridiculously unattainable list.
Then I would pare that down to what seemed actually feasible and jostle it into a semblance of a weekly/monthly plan.
THEN, I would take a look at it and ask myself — “Does it feel like you can still breathe or does this plan make you feel anxious?”
Inevitably, the answer was the latter and I would have to pare my plans back more.

The point it: You need to be able to breathe.
Look squarely at what you are attempting to accomplish factoring in the whole sweep of your responsibilities, and then keep paring back the list until it feels like you can breathe.
Whatever that is, that is a good starting point for the week, even if that is zero school.
You are aiming for Good Enough and the main identifying feature is — you are not stressed to the max.
The kids will be fine, as long as you can keep your cool.

3. If your child is about 7 or younger, they don’t need to be “in school” at all so feel free to drop all pretense of it.

outdoor play

In many systems of education, including the UK and the US, formal schooling used to not begin until age 6 or 7 and students, far from being disadvantaged, experienced enormous success.
Being read to, playing, pretending, conversing with adults about real everyday matters, experimenting, helping with chores, mucking about in the back yard, going rogue with the arts and crafts bin —
all these things are tremendous brain food and give your child’s mind the elasticity, real-world connections, vocabulary, powerful imagination, stamina, attention span, critical thinking, etc. that provide the ladder rungs, as it were, to climb up a formal education ladder more readily.
I have counseled many moms at their wits end by saying, “Read them good books and let them play out-of-doors. Job well done.”
With the youngest school children in your household, you can feel free to fudge on the formal schooling a lot.
They will catch up with any laggy academics when school resumes.
Do not fret.

4. If your older student finds certain pieces of school especially onerous or defeating, there are always work-arounds.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 11.59.59 AM

The starting point is recognizing that in most cases, it does not matter if they stick the landing on this at this precise moment , so think outside the box when it comes to the most challenging bit/s of school.
*Consider dropping the most frustrating subject altogether for the next couple of weeks.
Try to make school-at-home as positive as it can be at this point to avoid building up negative energy around schooling and between you and your kids.
Be an advocate rather than a nag at this stressful and disappointing moment.
You are not losing a battle. You are both winning.
You are removing a thorn or two from a fairly thorn-filled pathway and that’s a win. Other solutions will appear when you’ve distanced yourself from the negatively-charged energy around particular subjects.
*With children ages 9 and up, include them in brainstorming solutions to this impasse. Give them some agency.
If this is done not in the aftermath of an argument or in exasperation,
but with real, validating, appreciation of their ideas,
often a decent option emerges.
We are looking for good enough, here, not necessarily ideal.
*Consider solutions such as tackling a tough subject just one or two days per week,
working together on it rather than expecting only independent effort,
setting a time limit rather than aiming for assignment completion.
Make anxiety-reduction and familiarity the goals rather than mastery just now.

5. School days end at a given time, rather than running on until all lessons are complete.

school's out

That is how it works in your kids’ schools, and that is how it works in your home.
You get to decide how long school lasts.
Two hours in the morning and afternoon? Only until noon?
Keep it short, choose the amount that actually works for your household, and when the time is up, no matter what has or hasn’t been accomplished, school is over for the day.
If you find school lessons dragging on and on,
you will assuredly burn out fast and your kids will, too.

As always, keep what resonates, discard what doesn’t.
From the out-pouring of love and support for you and your homebound children coming from every nook and cranny of the networked-world, be assured that thousands care about your kids and salute your efforts.
You are not alone, even if it feels that way.
Reach out for support, breathe deeply, and take care.