Many families are finding themselves in what feels like a no-win situation. With the uncertainty created by COVID-19, heading back to school does not seem like the best option for creating a stable, effective learning situation. On-line school might work for some, but leaves other parents concerned about too much screen time and not enough interaction, especially for active learners. Homeschooling feels like the only option, but seems overwhelming and is definitely unfamiliar territory. That’s the empty half of the glass. Let me offer you some encouragement by shedding light on the other half of the glass – the half that is full of opportunity! Homeschooling may only be a brief interlude in your family’s educational story (or maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll decide to stay!), but you may find that it turns out to be an incredible gift. Just as many families have found that staying home due to COVID-19 has given them the chance to slow down and reconnect, homeschooling provides time for family members to really get to know one another and to enjoy sharing ideas and pursuing interests together. Let’s look at some ways to make the most of unexpected homeschooling.Keep in mind as you begin…The sudden transition to home learning last year is not what a planned year of homeschooling will feel like. Stress was at an all-time high as support systems fell out from under us and schools imposed unrealistic and confusing requirements at home. It was a mess. While you may have some chaotic days at home during a regular year of homeschool (there are always crazy times with family, right?), your regular rhythm will be one that fits your family and adapts to the changing needs of parents and children through the year. Sending notification to homeschool removes the outside stresses and requirements and opens up your days to pursue learning that will benefit your children.You can choose to homeschool in ways that fit your family. It doesn’t have to be like regular school. It doesn’t have to be like so-and-so’s family that has been homeschooling for eight years. It can involve textbooks or library books, planned curriculum or spontaneous investigation, outdoor exploration or computer classes, games or workbooks, audio books or sidewalk chalk…learning can happen in almost any place and any way, so use this as an opportunity to try things and see how your children learn.If you plan to send your children back to school when things calm down, you can access the same standards that teachers use to guide their instruction. In younger grades, these standards will tell you which math concepts to explore together and what reading and writing skills to develop. In older grades, the standards will also tell you which science and social studies topics to investigate. Then, you can find curriculums or library books and on-line videos that will help teach those subjects. If your child is in elementary school, you can use language arts techniques and ideas found at H4RL.com, and those of you with kindergarten or first grade students are really in luck – our How to Teach Math videos will show you how to introduce all of the concepts your children need to learn! Other grades are coming soon.This year of homeschooling isn’t going to be perfect for any of us. Most homeschooling families spend a lot of time gathering with others, whether through a formal co-op or just meeting to play or learn together. We go on field trips and attend classes at the park, zoo, art studios, etc. We attend musical and theatrical performances. All of that is on hold right now. So just keep in mind that we’re all adapting and this year will provide only a very limited version of what homeschooling offers.During my first year of teaching, I broke down in my principal’s office, worried that I wasn’t going to be able to provide the amazing learning experience for my students that I wanted them to have and that their educations would suffer (yep, professional teachers have trouble doing it all, too). She looked at me and said, “What do you think is going to happen? One year won’t ruin them!” She knew that I was doing my best, caring about the students and demonstrating an enthusiasm in my classroom that inspired a love of learning, and that if they missed a few things that year the students’ resiliency would make up for it over time and they would still absolutely be able to succeed in life. It’s important that we as educators (yes, you’re an educator if you’re homeschooling – in fact, all parents are educators) keep in mind that each year, each day, each lesson is part of a lifelong journey of learning. Even if your child does not receive top-notch instruction in every single subject this year, can you think of some other very valuable outcomes this year could have? Perhaps the chance to become closer as a family, to know that learning is important and relevant, to indulge curiosities and learn deeply about certain topics,…Try not to put too much pressure on yourself as a first year teacher and instead watch for amazing blessings that would have been missed at school.You may find…That your family needs some time to make the adjustment and a slow-start to your schedule may be of great benefit.That as your family gets to know one another better and spends more time together, understanding grows and conflicts decrease (notice I didn’t say disappear). That your children (and you) find renewed joy in learning and discovery.That you discover particular needs and strengths of your children of which you were previously unaware.That you try different approaches throughout the year, some that work and some that don’t.That parenting is a lot of work and when you’re not sending them out the door every morning, there is more demand but also more time to work through issues and develop cooperation.Remember…That God works for good in all things. He can make something great out of whatever you do this year. Just do your best!This too shall pass. COVID-19 will not last forever, schools will re-open, and you will be looking back on this year, reflecting on the good and the bad, and deciding your family’s future. Homeschooling may be a special memory to take with you back into the life you knew, or it may be a new lifestyle you embrace as you move forward. Either way, your kids will do great.Try to relax and enjoy this year of homeschooling. 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