Suddenly Homeschooling: Setting Realistic Expectations

As the novel coronavirus outbreak forces many parents to homeschool, it's important to set expectations for what the homeschooling experience looks like for families.

A lot of things have changed very quickly for students and their families in the past two weeks as the novel coronavirus outbreak spreads. We’ve gone from life as normal to schools being shut down indefinitely and families suddenly homeschooling. If you were not planning on homeschooling your kids, you may be feeling helpless, frustrated, and stressed at this sudden shift. Take a deep breath, mama: You’ve got this.

You might not have a degree in education, but you have a lot to offer your kiddos. It’s important to establish realistic expectations about what homeschooling is going to look like at your house. It’s not going to be perfect and that is ok, plus more great homeschooling survival advice from this long-time homeschooling mama of seven!

Suddenly Homeschooling Survival Guide

  • Show Them How to Learn. Don’t feel like you need to know all the answers. You’re going to have to research answers to some of the questions your kiddos ask and that’s ok. Use the opportunity to teach your children by example how to find solutions instead of having all the answers given to them.  
  • Provide Kid-Pleasing Motivation. Establish a rewards system (like a sticker chart) with treats your kiddos can earn for working hard at schoolwork. These will be different for every family and even every child, depending on what motivates them: screen time, gaming time, extra recess outside, special time with mom, etc. 
  • Teach by Role Modeling: Kids learn from observing, which means you don’t have to sit down and “teach” them constantly. They watch you and your behavior and pick up simple but important things as you go about your day. (Keep this in mind as you react to the news of the day, the stress of trying to find balance, and your new “normal.”  If you get frustrated and lose your cool, offer a genuine apology and reconnect with your kiddo. This is a great teaching moment! You can also put yourself in a few minutes of “time out” and take a break if you need.)
  • Cut Yourself Some Slack: Homeschooling unexpectedly is a difficult adjustment and there are a lot of uncertainties going on around you. It’s easy to allow stress about what “needs to be covered” to overwhelm you, so pay attention to signs that you’re pushing yourseld and your kids too hard. If you are having a rough day, try a lighter assignment for now and regroup later. Your child won’t learn much in a high stress atmosphere anyway.  
  • Accept that It’s Different: Your homeschooling situation won’t be exactly like public school, and that’s ok. Your child will be able to learn at home, but to make it work, you need to find your own rhythm, schedule, and habits that work for your family and your situation. This might mean day by day adjustments, but keep at it and hang in there.  
  • Every Day Will Be Different: You will have good days and bad days. Sometimes you’ll feel like your child is the next Albert Einstein, and other days you might worry that they won’t accomplish anything. Take the good and the bad and do what you can.
  • Give Yourself Time: It takes time to get into a good homeschooling groove (in some cases as long as a year!). So don’t be discouraged if it seems like day after day you just aren’t getting it right. Even on the bad days your kids will still learn something, so go easy on yourself.  
  • Keep the Big Picture in Mind: As you set out educating your children at home, make a list of goals that are important to you and your child. When things get difficult or aren’t going well, take out those goals and review the most important accomplishments you’re targeting. Take a moment to put your frustrations into perspective, take a deep breath, and try to come up with a plan to handle things better next time.
  • Adjust, Adapt, and Adjust Some More: Don’t be afraid to make changes to the schedule or your approach to teaching if something isn’t working for your family.  You will find the best way to handle this as you go along!

Homeschooling isn’t easy, especially when you weren’t planning on educating your kids at home and you’re experiencing a lot of other stressors. Remember, we’re all in this together and just doing the best we can for ourselves, our communities, and our kids. You can do this, mama!