Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Do you feel like you’re still trying to figure out how to homeschool through the worst year ever?
In the spring, back when I was naive and full of hope, I wrote an article outlining our curriculum choices for fall 2020.
Cut to today. We are deep into October. It’s practically Halloween and we have yet to find our groove. We haven’t even celebrated an official first day of the 2020-2021 homeschool year.
Honestly, I don’t even know if we are technically “doing school” right now. What even is school this year?
In March, when the pandemic first hit, we set aside most of our daily “homeschool must-dos” to focus on mental health. Prioritizing mental health helped immensely in those early weeks.
As we adjusted to pandemic living, we gradually returned to a quasi-normal homeschool routine, given the circumstances. We are year-round homeschoolers and we naturally schooled throughout the summer. We took part of August and all of September off and we have been trying to find a routine since October 1st.
I feel like our homeschool is a car that won’t start… an anxious car that won’t start.
We are no stranger to the worry monster. When the pandemic first began, I suspected anxiety would rear its ugly noggin. I didn’t think it would take seven months, but the only thing predictable about anxiety is its unpredictability.
We are deep in the throes. We are muddling through the muck. And we are muddling through the muck in the worst year I can ever remember.
How to Homeschool Through the Worst Year Ever
I know I’m not alone. This year is absolute bananas.
We’ve set most of our “homeschool must-dos” aside to focus on what matters most, just as we did in March. I find myself, once again, thankful for the flexibility that homeschooling offers. I can slow down and focus on the heart.
My mantra this year has been “hearts over heads” because- let’s be honest- if your noggin is filled with worries, those facts aren’t going to stick.
This year is like no other. Life is slowed, on pause, and/or frequently interrupted. There isn’t a perfect classroom somewhere in which students are learning all the things well. We are all in a sort of limbo. I’ve decided that, given these unique circumstances, it’s more imperative to model coping and teach life skills than it is to drill math facts.
When we’ve found our footing, we’ll simply start back up and carry on. Like we always do.
Until then- deeeeep breath. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. This is hard, but it won’t last forever.
If you are in the throes, too, here are three super simple strategies that have helped us as we figure out how to homeschool through the worst year ever:
1. Read-aloud every single day.
During this uncertain time, I have relied heavily upon my earliest coping mechanism. Books have a magical way of transporting us from our current situation. When we can’t travel, we can get lost in a book.
It almost seems too easy, doesn’t it? The act of picking up a book and sharing a story with your children doesn’t feel like much, but it packs quite the educational punch. In fact, your daily read-aloud is the most important part of your entire homeschool day.
You can cover any area of interest or academic subject during your daily read-aloud. When you read to your children, you are modeling reading fluency, proper pronunciation, and pacing. You are showering them with rich vocabulary, sophisticated language patterns, and you’re growing their fund of factual knowledge.
Reading aloud to our children allows them to bask in the sheer joy of the experience without all the heavy lifting reading requires. And by protecting the joy of reading, we are raising lifelong learners. Because, let’s face it, if you love to read, you can teach yourself anything!
But reading aloud does so much more than boost those academic skills. Reading aloud fosters connection, makes memories and flexes those all-important empathy muscles. Reading aloud is hands-down the most important thing you can do in your homeschool, so don’t feel guilty about a lazy afternoon spent reading!
If you want to create a super simple read-aloud routine that honors your unique family, one that will help you not just survive but thrive during even the most challenging homeschool seasons, I’ve created a course for you. It’s called How to Rock THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of Your Homeschool Day.
2. Get outside every single day.
Nature is the best medicine. It is good for all of us, not just our kiddos. I consider time in nature to be just as important as math and reading- and I would have said that before COVID!
Nowadays? It’s more important than ever! This has been our biggest sanity-saver by far.
I promise you that it will help even when you don’t feel like going outside. Make yourself get out there for twenty minutes and see what happens. Your children will benefit, too.
It can be challenging to rally all of your kiddos, don all the layers, and head outside, but it is worth it. I have never, not once, regretted putting in all that effort.
Once outside in the forest, I feel such a sense of peace. I delight in my children’s exploration and discoveries. When we return home after a chilly hike, we all feel refreshed.
For the past two months, we wake up in the morning and read books. Then we do a little math and piano practice. Then, we hit the trails. We are fortunate to live close to conservation land (but the research shows that all greenspace heals- so parks and backyards count, too).
In September, we each got our own trail map. I put mine in our kitchen. Each morning, my kids would plan the day’s hike. When hiking, each kid had their own map. We hiked anywhere from 3-7+ miles per day. When we got home, one child would use a highlighter to trace our route on the kitchen map. We’d record the date and mileage. Rinse and repeat!
By October, we’d hiked every trail in our local system! We celebrated with hot cocoa, cookies, and It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. The next day, we used our data to do a little fun math. We practiced rounding, using our mileage. Then we made bar graphs and line graphs. We talked about mean, median, and mode. We also planned where we’d hike next.
It’s not a typical year at all, but this is working for our crew right now so I will stick with it.
3. Play every single day.
If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you knew this one was coming. We are gameschoolers. In our homeschool, we play board games every single day. They are part of our homeschool curriculum. I have witnessed, time and time again, the magic of play and gameschooling.
Games are fantastic learning tools because they allow children to practice skills in a safe, supportive way… without red marks and criticism. Games encourage conversation, boost connection, and make memories.
I truly believe that homeschooling can be almost all fun and games. Now, does that mean our homeschool is all sunshine and roses? Heck no! But I do think homeschooling can be more fun than we think.
And if there’s ever been a year that needed more play, it’s 2020.
Play has the power to transform a homeschool and family life. We all could use more smiles, laughter, and fun right about now!
I’d like to tell you that we have been playing a long list of fantastic educational games. And, in years past, we have! But this year, in the midst of an anxiety-producing pandemic, we have mostly been throwing burritos (afflink) at each other.
In fact, we have been throwing the burritos at each other so often that the burritos are filthy and one is missing both of its eyeballs, as you can see below:
This game has brought our family so much joy and laughter. It might not be Educational-with-a-capital-E, but I am okay with that. We are making memories, connecting, and laughing the stress away. That is priceless.
If you’d like to add more play to your homeschool day, I’d love to show you how.
I spent the summer pouring my game-lovin’ heart and soul into a course called Gameschooling 101: How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool Day. I am super proud of it.
This is a hard year, but it’s not forever.
We are *all* learning big, important things right now. It’s just hard to see it because we are muddling through the muck. And our kids? They are *really* good at learning. They learn despite us!
So let’s breathe. Put one foot in front of the other. Connect with our kiddos over delicious books, fun games, and nature.
Let’s remember to focus on hearts over heads. This is hard, but it won’t last forever.
Tell us: How are YOU muddling through the worst year ever? Share here!
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 your personality type needs most!