This week, my church asked me to put together an emergency curriculum and sample schedule for those in our congregation who are unexpectedly homeschooling during this Coronavirus crisis. I used a lot of AmblesideOnline (including the amazing HELP — Helping Hand Emergency Learning Plan) to come up with something that I thought was simple, easy to understand, inexpensive (practically free), and a good fit for the people I love. Parents needed to know what to do on Wednesday, when the health department shut down all our local schools.
This isn’t designed as a permanent solution. It’s designed for what this is: an emergency.
I started the plans with a list of preliminaries: tips and advice. I thought I’d share that here as well, in case any of you have friends or family who might find it helpful.
Here are a few tips and ideas to consider as you embark on educating your children at home.
- Children are composed of body, mind, and soul. While these are inseparable, each must be considered. Each must be nourished every single day. Going outside and getting exercise are not extracurricular, nor are they forbidden by social distancing. Children with too much pent-up energy are difficult to teach. If you find yourself frustrated, ask yourself if you have been neglecting one of these areas.
- Children need something to love, something to do, and something to think about. They need these every day. Taking care of pets and doing chores are just as important as doing a math lesson. A good way to evaluate a homeschool day is to ask yourself if these three have been touched on. Did I give my children something to admire? Did they perform useful work? Did I feed them with ideas that will nourish their minds?
- Homeschooling doesn’t take as long as school-schooling. There is very little crowd control, and one-on-one tutoring is more efficient. Lessons will be shorter. You will know lessons are too long if you see a glazed-over look in their eyes. The best way to train children to pay attention is to keep lessons short (around 20-30 minutes — and sometimes less — for early elementary and increasing with maturity).
- Anxiety is contagious. Real education, however, requires a rested, peaceful state of mind. Emergency homeschooling is different from regular homeschooling because it’s disorienting and unexpected. It’s okay to put everything aside and take a walk or jump on the trampoline or pray an extra prayer. Mom must have her own heart under control in order to teach well. Do what it takes to build your day in a peaceful way; anxiety is not the proper context for learning.
- You don’t have to know everything to teach your children. If you choose good books, the authors are the teacher, not you. You are just the facilitator, the initiator of the relationships. If you feel insecure, read through the chapters the night before so you are familiar with the material.
- You don’t have to ask “comprehension questions” or design elaborate worksheets. The number one rule of learning is if you can’t explain it, you don’t know it. This doesn’t mean children must master everything they are taught, of course, but much simpler than elaborate worksheets and quizzes is a practice that goes all the way back in history even to the Church Father Augustine: narration. In narration, the child attempts to retell (by memory) what he has heard or read. Some children enjoy acting out a scene with their toys or siblings, or illustrating a scene on paper. With a group of children, you can have them try to retell a story together, taking turns, one sentence at a time, from beginning to end.
- You need a routine. Write out everything you must do — meals, naps for littles, whatever — and then schedule in lessons, free time, chore time, etc. around those anchors.
Much of what I selected for our families is found in the AO HELP plan here. If you’d like a copy of what we sent out to our church members, just fill out the form below and it’ll be delivered to your inbox.
If you’re new here, let me be the first to say: Welcome to homeschooling.
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