With the whole world suddenly homeschooling thanks to Covid-19, a few people have asked me to to share my experiences from our family’s 10 years’ homeschooling.
My aim is to offer you fun learning activities you can do with kids of most ages. And I’ll throw in a few tips for how to stay sane when everyone’s suddenly under one roof 24/7.
Homeschooling – Routine v Structure
If you suddenly have your kids home all day, you might be tempted to impose a strict timetable, but try to be as flexible as your work commitments allow.
Although a minute-by-minute schedule might make you feel safe, if you have actual human kids it’s not going to be sustainable, so save yourself some pain and opt for routine over regimented structure.
Working From Home While Homeschooling
How are you supposed to teach your kids from 8:30am till 3:30pm and still do a full day’s work from home? Don’t worry, you’re not!
Remember that kids only do focused, active learning for a fraction of the time they spend at school – the rest is taken up with transitions, sport, assemblies etc. So if you can dedicate just an hour or so to helping them learn, they’ll be fine.
Homeschool Routine Building Blocks
To avoid burnout, try choosing one or two blocks a day as the mainstay of your homeschool routine, leaving kids and adults to their own devices (digital or otherwise) for the rest of the time.
Here are some homeschool routine building blocks that stood the test of time for us:
Fun Homeschool Science Projects
You don’t need an expensive chemistry kit to enjoy hands-on science at home. During our homeschooling years we did stacks of experiments that were as fun as they were educational.
Find dozens of homeschooling hands-on science experiments here. All have step-by-step instructions, photos, clear lists of what you need (often everyday household supplies. I don’t think any require toilet paper ?) and tips for avoiding the mistakes we made. (Though you’ll no doubt make your own, and you’ll learn from those too.)
Hands-on Homeschool Maths
Maths is the subject new homeschoolers worry about most, often at the cost of huge family tension.
My kids stubbornly refused to follow a maths curriculum, and I ended up truly grateful for that.
Thanks to inspiration from books like Let’s Play Math, we ended up learning maths together in a way that brought to life concepts I’d only ever learned by rote when I was at school.
And my child who refused point blank to learn their multiplication tables? They ended up, as a consequence, with such great number sense that when they entered school (at 14), the maths teacher described them – to my huge relief! – as ‘an extraordinarily gifted mathematician’.
So do yourself a favour and leave the drill-and-kill worksheets in favour of some fun hands-on maths that might well give your kids a lifelong insight into the joy of maths.
Dig into my maths archive for some ideas.
In particular, you might want to check out How To Make Your Kids Love Maths and our Living Maths Curriculum.
Cool Homeschool Art and Craft Projects
Art journaling is a lovely activity all ages (including grown ups) can enjoy together. As well as being fun, art journaling is a wonderful creative outlet for releasing anxiety and other negative emotions triggered by these unsettling times.
See How To Make An Art Journal Page.
Or just search Pinterest to find thousands of art projects that’ll happily engage kids of all ages for hours.
Remember you can make a fun craft project out of what you’re learning about in history or geography, for instance, but try not to overdo the educational aspect, or the kids will try to run a mile (and then have a meltdown when they remember they’re stuck indoors).
See: Hands-On Aztec History and Hands-On Ottoman History – Design Your Own Turkish Rug, and Hands-On Russian History, and Aboriginal Dot Painting For Kids for inspiration.
Reading Aloud as a Family – Not Just For Little Ones
Most parents phase out reading aloud once their kids learn to read. But experienced homeschoolers know the joy of family read alouds, even to teenagers.
Sharing a book is a magical experience that can spark fascinating conversations. My family took seven years to read the four volumes of The Story of the World because we went off on so many (usually) educational tangents!
Once you’ve enjoyed the old favourites that already line your shelves, you can find thousands more free online, or borrow digital books from your local library.
For inspiration, see 6 Read Aloud Chapter Books I Loved Reading As Much As My Children Enjoyed Listening To, Audiobooks For All Our Family and What We’re Reading.
Learning at home needn’t look like learning at school, with kids head down at their books or slogging through worksheets.
Much of my kids’ best learning happened over cocoa and cake at our kitchen table. One of our very favourite activities was poetry teatimes.
Dig out any poetry books you have, from A A Milne to Shakespeare, and ignite in your children what might turn out to be a lifelong love affair with poetry. And don’t worry if you don’t have any poetry at home – check out sites like PoemHunter where you’ll find bazillions for free.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to add an educational aspect by analysing or critiquing poetry (unless your kids want to) – my kids both adore poetry just because they have such happy memories of sharing their favourites in a fun, loving space.
See my How To Do Poetry Teatime posts.
English – Or, Fun With Words
When we began homeschooling, one of my biggest anxieties was how I was going to teach my 5 year old to read without the comprehensive reading book scheme he’d been using at school.
My homeschooling friends assured me that he’d learn to read when ‘in his own way, when he’s ready’. I was skeptical (what if my son turned out to be the exception to the rule?!) but they were right.
In fact, both my kids seem to have turned into quite articulate and literate teenagers. (I’d even go as far as to say that the one who had zero formal English language instruction is now something of a grammar pedant.)
Children will increase their vocabularies, communication skills and creativity enormously simply by being surrounded by good language in all its forms.
Do less – spelling tests, grammar books and formulaic writing assignments (unless your kids beg you for them)
Do more – fun activities like:
- reading aloud (see above)
- poetry teatime
- word games like Mad Libs (we used to make up our own)
See also 5 Writing Games Your Kids Will Love, A Writing Game For All Ages, and Unschooling Writing.
Mental Health Warning
This has been a whistle-stop tour of many years’ homeschooling fun, but please remember – these are our highlights!
It wasn’t all smiles every day – we had plenty of challenging moments along the way, even without the added stress of a global pandemic and lockdown.
My Single Best Tip For New Homeschoolers
My single biggest tip for new homeschoolers is this:
Prioritise relationships over schoolwork
Kids will survive missing a few months’ schoolwork. Yes, routine is important, especially during unsettled periods. But be gentle with them – offer activities, don’t force them.
It’s never worth getting into a battle with children over schoolwork, but in these uncharted, challenging times, love and compassion are needed more than ever. ❤
Finding What You Need In This Blog
I hope this has given you a basic road map for finding your way around. During our 10 years homeschooling we did so many fun activities, and I love the thought of our memories being of some use to you.
You can search this blog using the magnifying glass icon at the top, or browse by categories and tags. Categories include most school subjects and tags also include (US) grade levels (subtract a year from these to convert to UK school years).
Questions About Homeschooling?
Please feel free to ask questions in the comments. I can’t promise long replies – like you I’m trying to balance working at home with caring for my family. But I’ll be delighted to point you towards answers, either in this blog or elsewhere.
Lucinda is an Oxford-educated former lawyer who re-trained as a cognitive hypnotherapist in 2007. She lives in the south of England with her teenage children. Her oldest child (now 16) recently got almost all top grades (9’s) in his mock GCSE’s, and the younger (15) is studying for GCSE’s with an online high school. She’s telling you this not to brag, but to reassure you that you won’t ruin your kids’ lives by not doing formal lessons with them for 6 hours’ a day while they are off school.
Stay well, friends x