So, how did your first week of surprise homeschooling go? Ours… definitely started out rocky. While we ended on a pretty good note, we all learned a lot over the course of the week. One of my biggest lightbulb moments came when I remembered that one of my favorite concepts in the classroom came from Responsive Classroom’s The First Six Weeks of School. Classroom teachers know that setting up routines, expectations, and rhythms needs to be done intentionally and takes focused time… Even up to six weeks of time! So if you were like me and hoped to hit the ground with a successful day on Monday, but felt like you got hit by a truck various times during the day, then a) you weren’t alone, and b) give it time!
Once I remembered that, I stepped back. We spent more time relaxing, playing, and building an understanding of what this homeschool life is going to look like. It dawned on me on Thursday (yes, it took me till Thursday) that neither of our girls understand at all that they are indeed still in school. They were on their second day of online learning and were treating it like playtime and Facetime at home. Of course they were! That’s what they expect when they are at home! We talked intentionally with them about their behavior during their Zoom meetings and their efforts in written work for their teachers… And Friday was a much different day.
I also drew on my First Six Weeks of School knowledge around successfully setting up classroom rules, and we spent a family meeting on Thursday night creating rules for our house. We all contributed ideas, my older daughter wrote them down for us, and we all signed our names to our rules. Our family rules are now posted prominently on our refrigerator (our teamwork and cooperation chart got an early boot and is now in the corner… We’ve all got to be flexible with life right now, right?), so that we can see them, refer to them, and be reminded by them as we move through our days together.
Some other things that were successful and/or positive for us this week, in case you need some quick and easy inspiration:
- Lots of walks and bike rides around the block, even if it was raining, and even if we got derailed for a long time saving worms and jumping in puddles
- Family games! Our older daughter in particular has never been big into games, but we played Sleeping Queens, Guess Who, Sequence for Kids, Sight Word Swat! and more this week!
- Daily Facetime sessions with friends and family. Be sure to build in time to connect in this season of relative isolation!
- Cardboard boxes. We’ve made rockets, treasure chests, and a town (we won’t be eating at our dining table any time soon, but we’ve got an awesome recycled town going!).
- Spreading sunshine around the neighborhood (which doubled as a writing and typing lesson!). The girls dictated a message to neighbors to me, and then our older daughter typed it up (extra bonus, typing takes her a LONG time right now, so this bought us a good chunk of one morning!). They then drew happy pictures to go with the letter and anonymously delivered them to neighbors.
- My daughter’s Fujifilm instax camera. She pulled this out Monday morning, took pictures on our walks to make a nature journal, and documented some of the learning that the girls did throughout the week.
- YouTube! We’ve done Cosmic Kids Yoga every single day (and as a bonus sanity-saver, I’ve snuck in Peloton workouts at the same time– did you know they have so much more than just cycling AND are offering 90 days free right now?). We’ve also loved Mo Willems’s drawing lessons, the Art for Kids Hub, and Tim McCanna’s read alouds!
- Rearranging our furniture. We pulled a small table out from one of the girls’ rooms and put it in our living area, removing 2 side chairs to make space. This is now a drawing table for the girls to use any time, and gives them a nice sturdy surface for those online drawing lessons above.
- Getting dressed every day. We often hear about this as a good self-care practice for parents, but on Day 1, I let our older daughter stay in pajamas all day, and the younger did so on Day 2. On Day 3 we all got up and dressed, and we were mentally much more prepared to actually do anything besides simply play.
- Taking in the sunrise. My husband’s current “office” window looks out in the direction of the sunrise, and he has started to pull me out to our front porch to stand, still and quiet, for a few moments, remembering all that is good right now, before the chaos of the day starts.
- The girls are SO excited to have daddy home, even if he’s working incredibly hard right now. They love the honor of taking him lunch or water, and they sneak in to give him hugs and kisses when he’s on long calls.
- And surprisingly, when I asked my girls what they liked the most from this week, our preschooler said she loved when we “did school,” and our first grader told me her favorite part was doing Handwriting Without Tears! So, maybe the school part was more successful than I realized…
Most importantly, remember that you’re not alone. It may seem like people around you are loving this new reality and rocking it perfectly, but know that you’re not alone — we’ve had great moments and difficult moments, times when I thought, “I can do this!” and times when I thought, “How on earth was I a classroom teacher if I can’t even do this?” Reach out to me if you need support!
And, if you missed it last week, be sure to read my five tips for those of you who suddenly found yourself homeschooling. Most of all, remember that you are your child’s parent, not his teacher. No one expects you to replicate the classroom or the teaching happening there. All that is expected is that you love and support your child and do your best!
What were some of your highs from the week?
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