You find yourself at home with all your kids. You might have only one or you could have a slew of them. Yes, a slew – way more than you wanted to homeschool. It’s stressful at your house. Chaos rains without the structure of school. You’ve never done this before. Maybe you never wanted to do this, but you find yourself in this place where you are in charge of your kids’ education as well as your own sanity. Your house is a mess, the food is disappearing quickly, and you can’t find a way to balance everything.
I know that sense of not know what to do next or where to start. I’ve been there before and I can help you find a way through the chaotic mess we are in right now. I promise, it’s doable. And you can do it! You might need to make some changes, but you can do this. None of us knows how long this will last, but for my part of the world, school is cancelled through the end of April
So, for the next few weeks, if I don’t have some structure, I’m going to go crazy and my son is going to be confined to his room for the rest of his life. Not really, but it is how it feels sometimes. You see, I have to have some structure and routine in my house. Not all the time, but at least during the times that I have to work and if my son doesn’t follow through with his responsibilities, then I can’t work the few hours that I’ve been assigned. And then, I can’t pay the bills and we’ll be in worse shape.
WHY I’M QUALIFIED
I raised four kids of my own. The one I have now is my bonus son who came along with my marriage about five years ago. I love him to pieces, but his a little crazy at times and adds his own challenges to the mix with his Autism. The homeschooled three out of four of my biological kids, not because of a pandemic, but out of choice. I wanted something better than the public schools in my area could provide. So, I know a little bit about homeschooling and doing so with multiple children in the household.
I don’t have a teaching degree, but I have something better. I have a deep love for my children and a desire to see them succeed in life. I have experience and I’ve read a ton of books on homeschooling. My own four children are each happily employed in their own professions of choice ranging from engineering to bartending to self employed to banking. Not a bad mix and each of them are doing well. They made it through high school and each have various amounts of secondary education from one semester to nearing the end of a master’s degree. I taught all but one to read and one struggled with the concept of reading for years, but we stuck with it and now he uses that in his job daily. (The other child learned to read in public school when I had to go back to work full time.)
Here’s the other thing you need to know about me. I have an innate ability to take a situation, figure out what doesn’t work, brainstorm solutions, and try different options until I find something that works. I’ve had to do this with each of my children as they all have different learning styles and abilities. Yes, it’s a challenge, but I love challenges. I love puzzles, and kids are definitely puzzles without instructions. Let me give you an example. One child needed constant redirection and things presented in small bites to keep from being overwhelmed and freezing up. So, I sat next to him and redirected by pointing to the next problem and the next until he was able to redirect himself. I cut his math fact quizzes into strips of ten problems instead of a page of 100 overwhelming problems and worked on each section in a 30 second time frame instead of five minutes for 100 problems. It turns out to be the same amount of time, but it was less overwhelming to him and he could work through it that way.
BUT I HAVE A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD
I get it. I don’t know everything about your special needs child and it’s quite possible I may not be helpful to you without knowing their limitations. But, give this a try and maybe there will be things you can adapt from what I have to offer. My experience is that God gives special needs children to people who can make adjustments and adapt fairly easily. You’ve probably been doing this for quite some time and may or may not realize it.
My ten year old bonus son is on the Autism Spectrum. He would be considered and Aspie (Asperger’s Syndrome) if the new diagnosis codes had not come out. His father is an Aspie also. So I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments at my home to handle my two guys. Homeschooling an Aspie is definitely different and certainly challenging. But it is doable and I can give you pointers that you might now have thought of.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
First of all, step back and take a deep breath. One thing I learned after my eight plus years of homeschooling, was that nothing good comes from being out of control myself. Children don’t learn when I am out of control. They get frustrated and defiant and that only serves to fuel my aggravation. Vicious cycle and one that you need to be in control of and keep from happening. I get it that we all wake up on the wrong side of bed some times and then our temper gets the best of us. When that happens, it’s your job to call time out, send everyone off to their rooms – including yourself, and regroup.
If I were doing this from scratch with not much time to set this up, I sit down and do some research. I’d find a system that works for others, that I think I could keep up with and I’d put my kids in front of it and get it started. I can make adjustments from there to meet each child’s needs, and believe me, you’ll figure out just what those special needs and quirks are fairly quickly. Where does John need some help? What subject is hardest for Sarah? What shuts James down? These are all places where you can step in and make adjustments to meet their needs and help them out.
Once they are doing something, then I’d go back and create a simple plan the keep everyone on track and get a routine going. Children need routine and even though you may not be good at keeping routines yourself, you need to develop a simple routine that gets your kids on the right track. It will make your life much easier. I guarantee it. If they normally get up at 6:30 to meet the bus at 7:30, then get them out of bed at 6:30 and start your school routines at 7:30. I know you are “on break” but think about this, if your kids continue to get up at 6:30 and start school at 7:30 just like they would at school, when they are allowed to go back to school, they will more easily slide back into that routine.
THIS IS STILL SO OVERWHELMING
I know it is. That’s why you didn’t choose teacher as your profession. But, you can do this. And, over the next few weeks, I will give you tips and tools to help you through this. In the meantime, take a breath, take a walk, grab a cup of coffee or tea and relax. Your kids won’t be lost because you don’t have this perfectly figured out. Remember you are new at this and haven’t had the training and experience, so cut yourself some slack and determine to work through this in a way that will be helpful to your kids and work with your own style of teaching.
We’ll get through this time. You will get through this time. And if we’re all lucky, your kids will still be alive at the end of this virus thing and they will have learned a few things in the process.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Next post, I’ll talk about a few of the programs out there that might be useful for you to get your kids started on in order to buy you some time to make a schedule and routine. There are lots to choose from and some are actually free, but I’ll get to that with the next post.
Take a deep breath, Mama and Daddy! This is going to work out. We’ll get through this together.