Parents who are Covid-homeschooling have an overwhelming number of decisions to make right now. I have been homeschooling for a long time and I’m a serious overthinker, so I’ve read just about every blog and book about the subject that you can imagine. I’ve listened to the podcasts, read all the curriculum reviews, and talked to other homeschoolers all over the world in online forums. My mind changes regularly about what my approach should be, what our schedule should look like, what curricula we should use, etc, and I’ve had years to think about these things. I read and researched and planned long before my first child was even old enough to attend school, so all of the massive amount of information about homeschooling is not new to me, and I still get overwhelmed. I do not envy the many parents who have to attempt to make these decisions in the space of a few weeks.
The first decision new homeschoolers will have to make is whether they are choosing the virtual option from their local school district. If you are choosing that option, you will simply follow their instructions and figure out a schedule for your family to make that work. This is not really homeschooling — it’s virtual schooling. While I am a former public school teacher and I am married to one, I don’t know enough about what that will look like to write any advice about it. Godspeed!
If you would rather forgo virtual schooling and its many Zoom commitments, you can choose to homeschool the kids yourself by submitting a Notice of Intent to your school district, as discussed here. Now you have lots of decisions to make, and you probably shouldn’t cling too tightly to any of them.
Once you have made the decision to homeschool, you need to think about whether you plan for your kids to return to school as soon as it is safe. If you are open to homeschooling after the Covid-19 pandemic ends (hopeful language with the word “ends” here) or even for the duration of their education, your choices may be different than they would for a temporary homeschooler. The remainder of this post applies to folks who only plan to homeschool for as long as they must because of the pandemic.
Schools have a strictly defined series of objectives that their curriculum must follow, according to their standardized testing schedule. If your child has attended public school before, they will presumably be on track with those objectives. One of your most important goals as an educator will be to keep them on that path. Click here to look up all the Standards of Learning for every subject and grade level in Virginia (if you’re in another state, you can find your standards at your state’s Department of Education website). I assume most parents have looked at these already to see what their kids are supposed to be learning, but if you haven’t, here it is! Incorporating these objectives and goals into your child’s education this year is now your job as the educator, but there are plenty of different ways to accomplish this, and that’s where things can get overwhelming. Here are some options:
**Choose a textbook for each subject that aligns with the state objectives, and go through the textbook’s information and activities with your child just as a teacher would. Is this boring? Absolutely. But your kid might be the kind who likes this sort of thing (I was nerdy like this as a kid, so I’m not judging). You can choose the next level in whatever textbook series your child used last year, and you can often find cheap used copies of textbooks for sale online.
**Find homeschool curriculum that hits the same objectives you’re hoping to cover. This can be a little harder to find, and you may have to go through several curriculum reviews or ask for advice in homeschool groups on social media. It’s rare for any particular curriculum to hit every objective you need, but you can mix and match and piece it together. When you start down this rabbit trail, prepare to find a daunting number of options. My favorite review page is gone, but click here for a popular option.
**Jot each objective down in a planner or other organizing tool and figure out a way your child can master it. This doesn’t have to be a book, worksheets, etc. Your child might learn best through watching YouTube videos or doing a hands-on project. We live in a time when pretty much everything is online, so go out there and search. It will take a while, but it might be worth it to find engaging activities and learning tools that work for your kids, and you don’t have to plan the entire year out in advance. You can take it a few weeks at a time (more on planning later). Pinterest is a goldmine of homeschooling ideas, and Teachers Pay Teachers is a good place to find activities that meet common learning standards. There are also tons of relatively cheap workbooks that hit many of the standards (I’ve used Spectrum Spelling workbooks for a few years, for example).
**Use a mixture of all of these options. You might find a great homeschool science curriculum that hits all of the SOLs for your kid’s grade level and includes tons of hands-on activities, use an old-school math textbook, and just read tons of books with your kid for language arts. You might figure out your own experiments and nature walks for science and use an online program like Time4Learning for everything else. The great thing is that you have tons of options, and the terrible thing is that you have tons of options! Key reminder: you can always change your mind. No one is forcing you to continue using a curriculum that makes you and your kid miserable. YOU make the decisions about your child’s education when you homeschool.
It’s a lot. I know. And I’m long-winded. There’s so much to think about (or overthink, if you’re anything like me). The most important thing to remember, however, is that kids are learning all the time. Those standards are only important because someone arbitrarily decided that they had to be learned at certain ages so there could be a test that shows the things were learned. The standards are put in place for tracking purposes. Kids can learn things when they’re ready, and they can learn in a thousand different ways. Because I plan to homeschool for as long as possible, I don’t pay much attention to the state standards. I don’t believe I need to teach my six-year-old what the state standards tell me to teach her. I believe I need to guide her and help her learn what she is ready to learn, pursue her interests, and grow into the person she is meant to be. But I know that kids who are returning to school will be expected to meet those standards, so parents will have to keep them in mind. You have the advantage of knowing your kids well, in a way their teachers might not get the opportunity to know them. A classroom teacher has to meet the needs of every kid in his or her room, which is almost impossible even for the best of teachers (I know; I’ve been there, and I was a pretty good one). You have to meet the needs of the kids you know and love. I know you can do it!
Next up: routines and schedules.