As parents grapple with the news that Pennsylvania school closings will continue until at least April 6, many are wondering how they’ll manage their new lives.
I’ve homeschooled my kids for the past 8 years, and I’ve worked from home for 3 of those years. It’s not easy to juggle everything, but it’s possible. And there are ways to make it easier. Perhaps the most important key is realizing there’s more than one way to homeschool—use what fits your situation. Here are a few approaches:
- Unschooling. This is an exciting approach, also called “self-directed” or “student-directed” learning. Children are naturally curious and constantly learning when given the opportunity. With no formal education, kids learn to roll over, sit, stand, eat, drink from a cup, talk, and scribble—all within a few short years. Unschoolers seek to keep that innate curiosity going; they see learning as part of living, not something to be separated into certain hours of the day.
- Eclectic. When people ask me my approach to homeschooling, I typically say “eclectic” or “quasi-unschooling.” We draw from a variety of resources and styles. The real world is interconnected, so that’s how we approach learning. We focus on research, writing, and communication, which build critical thinking skills and are transferable to all fields. Depending on our needs, we use pre-packaged curricula, local co-ops and classes, dual enrollment, and independent learning. My two oldest have successfully navigated the college admissions process, evidence that our approach has worked pretty well.
- School at home. I have many friends who take a conventional schooling approach and bring it into their home. They break the day into specific subjects that they complete within a certain block of time. You can purchase curriculum that will structure the school year for you, access free versions online, or build your own.
Above all, I encourage my new fellow homeschoolers to relax and try to enjoy this unexpected time with your kids. While there may be some things they don’t learn now that they would have learned in a classroom, the opposite is also true: there are things they’ll learn at home that they wouldn’t have learned at school. There are many practical things you can teach your kids over the next several weeks—like cooking, doing laundry, budgeting, and balancing a checkbook. It’s also a great time to encourage reading, which often gets pushed to the side by busy schedules.
This can be an opportunity for kids to take a deep dive into a field that interests them. For example, if they’re interested in space, encourage them to read books about space, explore the NASA website, or research the current night sky where you live (free apps are available for this). One of my kids created a fantastic PowerPoint of the solar system, which taught her how to use PowerPoint while learning about space. There are free alternatives to PowerPoint like Google Slides and Prezi.
There are lots of resources available to help you on your journey as a new homeschooler. To help people cope with the shutdowns, many companies are offering free access to their software or online products for the next month or more. Many museums and zoos are offering free “virtual tours.”
We’ll continue to post information on our blog, so be sure to check back. And feel free to reach out to me directly if I can be of any help to you. While I won’t know the answer to every question, I have a network of homeschoolers I can ask.