Homeschooling Freakout is perfectly normal. I’ve been a homeschooling parent for 4 years now. I first talked about it here. Now there’s a whole bunch of new parents who have been dropped into this and you’ve probably been seriously working at it for about a month and a half. I remember that first month. I had so many plans and ideas and expectations. Watching them go up in flames and regrouping was hard.
Here’s some of the most important lessons I learned:
Expect at least six months of homeschooling freakout:
If you’ve been forced into Homeschooling because of the COVID-19 epidemic schools are trying desperately to continue onward, like overwrought soldiers. This is not normal. The reality of homeschooling is that there is always a time of decompression. Kids have been pushed into rigid rules and curriculums that were not necessarily suited to their particular needs. They’ve been told what to do and when to do it. A great deal of the things they’ve learned, like How-to-Stand-in-Line and How-to-Stay-Quiet and How-to-Hide-Your-Phone-Game are now mostly useless.
In the chase to fill our children’s heads with everything from the ABCs to the quadratic formula, we forget that the most important thing they can learn is How To Learn. They’ve been learning this at school constantly. You learn by filling in worksheets and sitting at a desk all day. It’s just how it is. They’re going to be learning how to learn in a totally different way and they’re going to be tired and worn out. Cut them, and yourself, some slack.
Do not expect to be filling an entire school day with “school”:
You will drive yourself insane. Your kids won’t thank you either. Here in the USA, teachers are wonderful, self-sacrificing saints. I mean that. However, they’re also babysitters who are stuck with large numbers of children who need a lot and often don’t have enough. It’s not cool, and I truly wish it were different.
Make sure you’re supporting food banks and other social supports in your local community. Not everyone has the privilege of having the time to read blog posts about how to survive this Homeschooling Parent thing.
This has been your public service announcement. Back to: “What the Hell did I sign up for?”
I generally spend about 2-4 hours a day on homeschooling. It really is a part-time job. I also spend one weekend morning organizing my plans, looking for resources, creating curriculum, and purchasing junk/supplies I need.
Homeschool kids need to learn how to be self-directed. This is one of the gifts of homeschooling. However, please remember this isn’t an instantaneous transformation. Everyone I know who has homeschooled after schooling has had at least a year of chaos where kids are still recovering from the intensity of school. It is okay if they are bored. In fact, it’s great if they’re bored. Boredom is the foundation of creativity.
It helps to have projects and supplies available. Especially when they’re younger or if they just don’t know what to do, curate some options. Leave out interesting books where they can find them. Put out craft projects. Ask them what supplies they’d like. A lot of times you can get them going on something and then sneak away to get some non-homeschool work done. By making it optional, you allow them to remember that they can want to do things all on their own.
Focus on what they like to do.
You’re going to discover things they don’t want to do:
Don’t just assume it’s stubbornness. Trust me, you will eventually hit the point where you’re frustrated and totally sure they’re just being spiteful and stubborn. That homeschooling freakout is a big part of what motivated this post. Please remember: that is the time to go for a walk or watch TV or do anything but teach them. I’ve learned so much about executive functioning, motivation, apathy, fear, and trauma. Being a homeschool teacher is more like being a learning coach. You’re there to encourage, listen, and help them find solutions to their problems.
Those times when standard curriculum has become a hurdle are also good opportunities to teach them things they won’t learn in school. Take time to dig into the wheel of the year, or how full moons work. Teach them a little about the patriarchy, or social justice. Too often we assume our children understand our values when they don’t.
My kids had real challenges with math, including downright panic attacks. I was not thrilled. I spent two years as their trauma-informed math teacher, working with them, being insanely calm, upbeat, and persistent. Sometimes workbooks worked, sometimes not. Eventually, they both transitioned to doing math through Khan Academy, which has the best free math curriculum, IMO. I still help them every single time. It’s our most difficult subject, but we keep at it and they’re slowly getting better. I’m really proud of all of us.
Remember: your kids are inherently good beings who want to please you and succeed at a deep survival level. It’s your job to help that happen. It’s not an easy job but is literally one of the most important things you can do.
If you’re looking for resources and support for pagan homeschooling, I’ve got monthly coloring pages, and weekly curriculum creations, using videos and free online resources available at my Patreon. Come on over and join us!