As more and more schools are shuttering their doors, whether from government mandate or by order of local school officials, parents are suddenly feeling the challenge of how to take over their children’s education when it feels like the world is going crazy. Is the answer to make a strict schedule and set up your very own “school at home” complete with textbooks, worksheets, curriculum, and educational programs?

That’s a lot to take on at a time like this. And honestly, may feel overwhelming not just for parents, but for kids, too. We all know this isn’t just a “vacation” and no one wants their child’s academics to lag behind because school got cancelled, but this is really not the time to worry about grades and classes and tests.

Real Life Learning

Instead let’s look at some ways to shift our thinking about what education in these circumstances really has to look like. What are our children’s most important needs during a pandemic? How can we use this time to most fully engage our kids? What is real life learning and how does it apply to families world-wide who are affected right now by social distancing, quarantines, and school closures.

As a mom who has spent years educating my children outside the “school” system, I have learned some valuable lessons about what makes my kids’ minds tick. It is important to remember that kids best retain information that matters to them. Use this to your advantage and let them embrace these moments to explore topics and experiences that inspire them.

Even when it seems like kids aren’t learning…they are! In everything they do and see, they are sponges for information. Use this opportunity to engage them in fun projects around the house, read those books that have been collecting dust, let them plan & execute meals, watch documentaries on topics that they pick, give them a garden plot (or pot!), craft or make art, play games, take walks and encourage them to look closely at the nature around them.

Little girl sitting on sofa reading a book

The point is for them to glean education straight from the source…by doing, looking, watching, handling, and most of all, enjoying whatever activity they are doing. Don’t force them, but watch them blossom as they discover a world full of information outside the confines of a textbook.

This is how natural learning unfolds and it is beautiful to behold! And though it might not feel like it, the education your child receives from a period of time like this will be rich and real, varied, unique, and connected.

Make Memories and Don’t Stress

Children are vulnerable to feeling scared, helpless, and worried when they hear disturbing things in the news. This means that stress and fear could be overriding factors for them while feeling like their whole world (and everyone else’s) has been upended. Don’t let this be their main takeaway from your time of quarantine. Instead, turn the focus on family time and memory-making.

And for parents, don’t waste a moment worrying about what you need to teach or how to teach it. Just facilitate and remove that pressure from yourself. Slow down and simply enjoy these moments together. Math equations will always be there for later. No need to force feed grammar rules or memorize the state capitals. (Unless your child is begging to learn these things, of course!)

By using this down time to really connect with your children, you will be teaching them something far more valuable than anything they could learn in a classroom. You will be impressing upon them the importance of family, togetherness, creativity, time, and exploring their passion.

My Top Tips & Tricks

From a Veteran Homeschool Mom to Sudden Crisis Homeschool Parents

  1. No alarm clocks! Sleep until you are rested. Wake up refreshed and ready to greet the new day. Why rush? You don’t have to be somewhere, so just chill.
  2. Pajamas all day! You aren’t going out and seeing anyone, so stay comfortable and cozy. Less laundry means less work and more time for fun learning.
  3. Don’t make lesson plans or color-coded chore charts! Doing “school-at-home” is not your best use of this time. Instead, let your child self-motivate and find their passion. Invite them to join you in whatever tasks you are working on.
  4. Give suggestions for fun activities, but don’t attach yourself to the outcome! Maybe the kids will run with it, maybe they won’t. Let them take the lead. This is their time to shine, so let it play out however it happens.
  5. Don’t stress about what your child isn’t learning! They won’t forget what they really learned in school. And they won’t retain anything that doesn’t inspire and interest them anyway. If/when they are ready to tackle new academics, their desire will drive them forward.
  6. Don’t restrict safe access to the internet! Practically everything your kid wants to know can be learned there. Show them how to get the answers they seek. If you teach them to love learning, they will never want to stop no matter if they are in “school” or not. Remember, kids are sponges!
  7. Screen time will not ruin your kid. Kids can learn to read by playing video games. Dozens of websites are offering free learn-at-home activities and virtual educational material. Shows and movies help kids relax and decompress when life feels hard.
  8. Go outside every day, if possible. The sunshine and fresh air will keep you and the kids from succumbing to restlessness and bad moods. By refreshing your mind, body, and spirit, you will create a lighter atmosphere and feel more relaxed.
  9. Connect! Connect! Connect! Spend time snuggling, engage in conversation, and get on the level of your kids. They are looking to you to help them understand their place in this world and find stability when the world seems mad. Give them the assurance and love they are looking for. Think positive.
  10. And if all else fails, bake cookies. Cookies fix everything (and hey, the recipe will give practice with fractions, so if you’re worried about math…there’s that!)