Homeschooling During Coronavirus
Written by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool and Introverted Moms
Tears and worries. Overwhelm and concern.
These six words characterized some of our family’s first homeschooling days over a decade ago.
They’ve also characterized the past week for many around the globe as we track the news on the coronavirus COVID-19–with the astounding result that millions now find themselves home with their children.
Would you rather listen to this post?
Whether you end up homeschooling during coronavirus for a week, a month, a semester, or more–here’s what I would love for you to know to make your journey easier:
Homeschooling During Coronavirus – What You Need to Know
1. You are not going to screw up your child’s education.
Thousands of families have gone before you worldwide to home educate their children, and many of the top universities seek out homeschool graduates because of the positive results they’ve become known for.
You can totally do this, yet it’s important to keep in mind that:
2. Schooling at home does not work the same way as in a classroom.
There’s a big difference between 20 children at school and one to three (or more) at home. Yet one of the biggest mistakes new homeschoolers often make is to try to copy the system they’re familiar with.
It usually works better to depend more on the strength and informality of the home environment.
If you focus on putting relationships first, instead of assignments, (especially in this time of crisis), you’ll find that everything flows easier.
3. Homeschooling during coronavirus won’t take as long as traditional schooling.
Much of the time in a classroom is spent not on direct instruction and learning, but on the logistics of managing so many children at once. Some teachers estimate that the actual learning time in a typical school day is around 2.5 hours.
Other studies on brain chemistry, the lives of great influencers, as well as more recent studies of the productivity of office workers point to this 2-4 hour time period as well.
This rings true based on what I’ve seen in our homeschool and heard from thousands of homeschooling parents over the past decade. And it’s good news for those of you who must juggle your own work schedule during the coronavirus.
So based on all of the above, I propose this technique:
Homeschooling During Coronavirus – The 3 Hour Homeschool Solution
(Note: This is also a great plan for new homeschoolers or those who need a reset in their homeschool!)
Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any 3 hour block of time that works for your family.
It could be 9am-noon. Or if you have late-sleeping teens, 11am-2pm. If you need to split the hours up throughout the day, doing one here and another there, that could work too.
It might be best if this time range is the same each day, but if that’s not possible, it’s fine too.
2. Define what is and isn’t allowed during this time.
Your goal is that these three hours will be dedicated to learning in some way on the days you decide are “school days.”
Approved activities for homeschool hours in our home include educational apps and websites (but NOT screens for entertainment, texting, or social media), reading and audiobooks, traditional lessons and workbooks, and artistic pursuits like drawing.
When my kids were younger homeschool hours could also include creative activities like baking or cooking, imaginative toys like Lego and blocks, and a recess outside to get the wiggles out.
Once you decide what is and isn’t allowed, have a family meeting where you explain it to your kids in an age-appropriate way, so everyone has clearly defined expectations.
3. Each hour has a slightly different objective:
Hour 1 – Any essential academics (language arts/math/etc)
Hour 2 – Books in all forms: Read-alouds, individual reading, audiobooks
Hour 3 – Games, Documentaries, Podcasts, Online learning
Important Note: You can switch these hours around in any order based on what will work best for you!
Also, I don’t mean to suggest that each activity has to FILL the entire hour.
Young kids may need less than 30 minutes of essential academics; teens may need slightly more than 1 hour, so adjust as needed!
It’s actually ideal if the hours spill into each other, without an alarm to separate them. So if a child gets interested in a good book or a board game championship evolves, go with it!
That’s the gold of the homeschool lifestyle–its flexibility.
Also, you do not have to directly “teach” this entire time–just try to be as available as you can given your other responsibilities and work. And if you don’t want your kids using screens frivolously, model that for them by staying away from constant news feeds and other distractions!
With that said, let’s take a deeper look at what each hour could include:
Hour 1: Any Essential Academics
For ages 5-12
If your kids were sent home with work to do, on paper or online, that represents your essentials.
But if you feel like you weren’t given enough guidance, order a Brain Quest workbook (afflink) (or something similar) for your child’s current level (PreK-Grade 6).
Based on their age, have them do one (or more) language arts pages, and one (or more) math pages each homeschool day.
If you’re not able to help a child directly due to your own work schedule, do what you can and lean on technology for the rest: You can sign up for a 4 week free trial to Reading Eggs and Mathseeds (for ages 2-13) here, which could be a lifesaver!
For ages 13 and up:
If your child is in middle or high school, they have already learned the basics. This means that a short time away from school is not going to ruin their future–take the long-view and relax!
With that said, adapt the concept above of incremental progress for your teens, having them focusing on the most important skill areas of math and any language arts essentials.
NOTE: After everyone’s essentials are done for the day (or after your entire 3 hours are done), celebrate with hot chocolate, a cookie, the bean jar, or some other reward. We call this “Skills Learning Treats” in our home.
Do not turn these studies into a dreaded chore (if it becomes one, make a change). And do not worry about this “reward” spoiling them.
It’s more likely to be something your kids remember fondly about homeschooling during coronavirus.
Hour 2: Books in all forms: Read-alouds, individual reading, audiobooks
Reading aloud and learning through books is one of the central methods of instruction that homeschoolers depend on. It’s the simplest way to integrate a variety of subjects at once!
Head to your own book shelves at home if your library is currently closed to reread favorites and make time for those titles that you’ve always wanted to get around to.
If you do have access to a library, my book Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally-Minded Kids One Book at a Time will help you cover both geography and history as you simply read aloud!
Also check out these lists of top read-alouds for ages 5-12 and these historical books for teens to get you started.
Audiobooks can be excellent during this time as well, letting you read a book while you drive or while your student draws or builds Lego!
Find my favorites on sale here, with instructions on how to get started.
Hour 3: Games, Documentaries, Podcasts, and/or Online Learning
Take your pick of what interests your family below:
Games: Find my favorite math board games here, check out the very timely Election Night! game, or choose among those that might already be dusty in your closets!
Videos: PBS Kids, Crash Course for kids or Crash Course for teens, CNN10 for teens, and/or make a list from the documentary section of Amazon and Netflix.
Podcasts: My friend Cait has an excellent list of favorites here!
Online Learning: Scholastic has put together some excellent free unit studies here, and don’t forget Khan Academy!
Imagine your family ten years from now, looking back on homeschooling during coronavirus. What will you want to remember most? How does this sound:
Read-alouds on the sofa under cozy blankets, baking and cooking, dealing with squabbles and bad attitudes (this is real life, after all), chores, Lego villages, discussions around the table, documentaries and movies, time spent outdoors, board games, ice cream and audiobooks, online learning and podcasts.
In other words, HOME.
In the midst of so much uncertainty, let’s do our best to enjoy this unexpected gift of time with our children. I hope this helps guide your way just a little!
Have any questions? I’d love to help you adapt this to your unique situation!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what you need most!
Love this Jamie. I have shared it to the rising group of coronavirus homeschoolers in the UK. It also has reassured me that I have been doing it right all along!!
So glad, and thank you for sharing, Sarah!
This is good advice, Jamie. Thank you for sharing such encouraging words.
You’re so welcome, Jamie! xo
We started homeschooling just a few months ago. This email helped me relax a little knowing I’m on the right path for my own family. Thank you for taking the time to offer solid advice and solutions.
I’m so blessed to know it helped you relax, Kristina!
I love this three-hour plan!!! I’m a homeschool mom of eight years. There is so much wisdom in this plan and new ideas even for me!! Many days at home feel long and overwhelming. Having this designated chunk of time gives both focus (for when you need it) and flexibility (for the rest of your day). Thank you Jamie!!
I’m so glad it could give you a fresh perspective – sometimes we all need that, don’t we!
You lost me at homeschool takes 2.5 hours. This is my first year to homeschool. How in the world do you effectively teach 7 subjects in 2.5 hours?
You don’t have to cover all the subjects in one day… You have five days to split the hours and subjects
Hi Kelley! Here are a few links I’d recommend you check out: https://simplehomeschool.net/new-homeschooler/ – https://simplehomeschool.net/jamie2020/ and https://introvertedmoms.com/rhythm/ Hope they help!
Sarah Badat Richardson
How old are your kids?
Even if you did all 7 subjects each day (which you don’t have to), lessons should be short with elementary age students: 10-15 minutes is best so they can give their best effort/attitude. That’s 1 hour and a half. Still time for read aloud, art, music etc…
Also we alternate between sit down work and move around/easier work.
Try and see if it makes things go more smoothly in your home.
You do not have to teach all subjects the same day-so overwhelming for you and them!
Thanks for writing this Jamie! Sent it to a bunch of people. Could be so many out there struggling all of a sudden. This is perfect.
I’m so glad, Shelley – thanks for sharing!
Hi Mom! I love that post that you wrote! I think that post is going to bless so many people out there who are reading it! 😀
I really enjoyed what you wrote about the 3 hours of homeschooling. Great job!
Thanks, Trishna! xoxo
Best comment of all <3
Yes, Katie!! xo My Trishna is an encourager…
And I’m not a new homeschooler.
I’m totally going to try this.
Yes, I have thought of how we will look back on this and I want it to be “bonding” and “togetherness”.
Thank you for this!
You’re so welcome, Carrie!
Hi Janie. Thank you so much for your helpful and clear advice. I wonder could you possibly suggest or point me to findin good movies for 17, 15 and 12 year old girls? We have been reading Pride and Prejudice and moving onto other Jane Austin books. I would really appreciate any suggestions. . Thank you.
Hi Rachel! My go-to for finding and determining if movies are appropriate is Common Sense Media: https://www.commonsensemedia.org – You can put in an age range and they will give you recommendations to sort through!
Thank you so much for this article. I’ve always loved the idea of homeschooling and I’m quite looking forward to having the opportunity while the virus keeps the schools closed. I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcasts for some time and loved your book ‘Introverted Mom’. Thank you again 🙂
This means so much, Joanna, thank you!
Thank you! Sharing from share button here… We also do no electronics until Dad gets home from work and that helps with them not even asking and enjoying learning apps if they get to do them during the day. I also have a fb group for kid games (non-electronic) and we love playing board/card/dice games!! Almost all of them are educational in some form!!
This is SO SO SO good! Thank you for sharing this. I just took a deep breath and know it will all be ok!
I’m so glad, Emily! Yes, you can do this!!
Thank you. As a mum I’ve read this (and will re-read to keep it embedded) and I’ve found it helpful and re-assuring. As a teacher, getting my head around setting the work, I found it equally helpful and re-assuring.
I hope it’s ok to link to this blog from my school Learning Community? I think it would be great to share.
You’re so welcome, Kylie, and yes! Please share it widely!!
This is just awesome Jamie – thankyou – and can I just say how sweet it is that Trishna posts comments!
Thanks, Rachael. Yes, she is a sweet encourager!
Caroline Starr Rose
Thank you, friend! xo
This is quite helpful! Every day, I’ve been looking for different ideas to entertain my kids. I do have lots of activities in mind but it’s still better to discover new things and share them with the whole family. As parents, we need to find ways to minimize screen time as much as possible! Thanks for sharing, Jamie!
Your suggestions are really useful for parents with children at home and schools in these times. Thanks!
Nice Post, earlier I was worried about my child homeschooling, but now I am happy and can see some improvement in my child’s math knowledge. I’ll surely follow these points as well.
Thank you for this post Jamie 🙂
Thank you so much!! I am not a home-schooler but I am so thankful for this article and advice from another mama who has done it already and is doing it so well. Take care!
Great article! Hopefully we will look back on these unexpected homeschooling days with fondness.
By the way, just last month I stumbled upon your book, Introverted Mom. Oh, that I could have had it 16 years ago! As a highly sensitive INFJ mom, I have struggled with discouragement and overwhelm. (Not to mention guilt for putting on movies and hiding from my kids.) For the first time, I am learning to be more understanding of myself, and to see my personality as a gift rather than a curse.
Wow, Sherrie, that is such a blessing to hear! Much love!
Love this and love you. Xo
Love you, too!!
Thank you this is very helpful!
Hi! I’ve just come across this post and found it very helpful. I’m really struggling with adapting to home schooling – one child has 1:1 at school due to additional needs (he needs constant adult support) whilst I’ve discovered the one who I thought was OK and was hoping could do some schoolwork independently cannot concentrate without adult support. It took him 5 hours to do a relatively simple piece of work. Our days are filled with trying to complete school work with no time for play which is not what I want. Any tips / advice for how I can manage this situation as I don’t feel I’m managing it well currently :(. Both children are boys and very hyperactive. I’m also single and exhausted! Surely there must be a better way. I think the idea of 3 hours is definitely one to try but I’m feeling out of my depth!
I’ve found that as mine get older they need more help because their work has become more difficult in certain subjects. If I need dedicated one-on-one time with one child, I’ve found it helpful to have the other doing something where I have a “helper” teacher to keep their attention, like using an educational video, Khan Academy lessons, an audiobook, or a program/app for learning such as Rosetta Stone. Then they can switch later that day or the next day and I will be one-on-one with the other child. You don’t have to do it all alone! Don’t be afraid to use these resources 🙂 Also, find ways to incorporate action, like “do five math problems, then you can get up and do twenty jumping jacks” or whatever they think is fun. Good luck!
Thank you for the detailed insight. As a second year homeschooling mom, I look to veteran homeschoolers and appreciate so much of your wisdom and experience. This period of shelter in place gave our family a chance to establish a new routine, and I’m hoping our 2-2.5hour block scheduling will continue.
New to homeschool for my high schooler any suggestions would help.
I’m just curious- how do you get the 1,000 hours you need per year if you only log 3 hours per day? What do your holiday and summer breaks look like?
Thank you so much! I spent what time I could today reading “life in the day” posts and this particular post of yours… it was exactly what I needed to remind me how Blessed we are to be able to have time with our children and teach them at home!
How do I sign my kids up to do this homeschool?
Amber Mankin’s latest post: 5 things I learned about homeschooling from a puppy
Jamie C. Martin
This post might help, Amber: https://simplehomeschool.net/how-to-homeschool/