A couple thoughts on homeschool, learning, education, and COVID-19

Just wanted to share a couple tips about kids and education in this day and age. We have been homeschooling our kids exclusively for 4 or 5 years now, and these are the things I would share from our experience. Some of these come from what I have overheard my wife telling her friends repeatedly, some of these are my own observations. Hopefully some of this advice is useful.

1 – What most people are doing these days is not homeschool. That is meant to be freeing, not an insult. Lifelong learning is a great goal for everyone, and is definitely important to keep flexing the learning muscles through this time, but most people aren’t pursuing this as a new normal, they are just trying to keep their kids engaged and learning.

2 – All homeschoolers go through an adjustment period. It took our family 2-3 years of doing this full time to really figure out which curriculums, schedules, and processes worked for our kids. Additionally, each kid has different things that work for them, so once we think we have it figured out, we have to go back to the drawing board for the next kid. That is ok and normal. The fact that you don’t have a solid schedule figured out by week 3 is just fine. Give yourself some time.

3 – Don’t think you have to do 7 hours a day of school! The logistics of educating 25-30 kids in a school are so much different than a couple kids at home. Think about how much time it takes to explain the current task to a room full of 2nd graders, keep them all on task, clean up, stand in line, walk between rooms, explain the same project again, line up, walk back to the room, etc. I conservatively estimate that 50% of time spent in elementary school is in logistics of having a bunch of little kids running around. THat’s not even accounting for things like recess, lunch time, and independent work time. 30 minutes to an hour of structured learning time with a parent is nearly equivalent to a full day of instruction in school for small children. And older kids should be able to self-direct a bit more with reading and other assignments, but the same idea still applies. Don’t spend all day doing ‘school’.

4 – In the context of point 2 and 3, my wife suggests for most people to pick 1 subject that is the compulsory ‘school’ subject. Whether that is math, science, language arts, or something else, picking one topic (instead of all of them) gives you something to focus on, and keeps the learning muscles engaged. After the ‘school’ subject, let the kids pick another topic that is a little more fun, but still structured. Maybe science experiments are fun. Maybe Lego building is a good STEM class. Find some good books to read. Something that isn’t Netflix or video games, but isn’t memorizing facts either. Learning is fun, let your kids have fun with a topic.

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