In Portugal, as in other countries, schools are being closed as a measure to control the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, all children have temporarily become homeschoolers.
For some families, this might be an educational option they had already thought about trying. For others, maybe most, this new situation might be a cause for anxiety, concern, and worry. Kids, too, may be finding it difficult to adjust to a new routine.
As specialists on this territory in the Portuguese context—MEL, a nonprofit association for freedom in education that has been supporting homeschooling families since 2011—we thought this moment could be a good opportunity to reveal some secrets.
Plus, it might also be a good time to wave: “Hey! We’re here working for children and families’ rights to have a meaningful education and school choices.”
Supporting this cause will surely give you an extraordinary good feeling, along with a visible effect in your skin, as being charitable is known to relax facial muscles and prevent early wrinkles.
And now, the secrets…
Perhaps the most important thing to do at this moment is to create a routine. This is not vacation time, and both the parents and the children will need some “anchors”—not only for the sake of the house’s organization, but mainly for the sake of “internal” cohesion.
Having that structure—knowing what to do, when, and for how long—helps this “internal house” to stay clean and peaceful. So, get all inhabitants together, talk, and develop a plan and a schedule. Write it down, and hang it in a place where everybody can see.
For example, you could reserve mornings for children’s schoolwork (many homeschooling families do just that). It is very important to set up a comfortable and well-illuminated space for studying, maybe one the child naturally seeks when interested in tasks requiring higher levels of concentration.
If you have several children, they might enjoy working together.
You may also determine a subject for each day, preferably, along with the child. Based on the child’s age and level of autonomy, you will have to be more or less available to help them regulate their work. You do not have to study for them, or with them, but to be available as needed.
However you choose to structure your day, here are some tips to help it go smoothly!
Organizing your “internal house”
1. Be sure to establish a time for chores outside of school hours. Parents who have never homeschooled may face some challenges organizing chores, which are sure to increase now that all meals are now being prepared and consumed in the home.
2. Establish your own work time. Once your children get adjusted to this routine, you can drop hints that after lunch (or whatever time you choose) will be your time to work—and that time needs to be respected.
3. Be sure to allow for free time, as this is a great opportunity for being together as a family. It is also important that free time does not end up mostly screen time. To help your kids resist jumping on phones, tablets and computers, leave some board games around, books, paints and hands-on materials, fabrics, beads . . . some dishes to wash!
4. It is very likely that children might get bored. There’s nothing to do about this. It is just part of the process. Being bored and have nothing to do is actually a great chance to think and learn to listen to your inner voices (ideas, emotions, desires, worries). And if your child complains too much, be sympathetic, but do not provide easy-peasy solutions. Trust! If there is something children are absolutely incredible at, it is being imaginative and creative. They may feel a bit rusty, because sometimes school is not the best place to seriously develop creativity, but trust that it is there, waiting for its golden chance to arise and expand.
5. A messy house is a lived-in house. Bear this in mind as your distribute chores. Hopefully, everybody will get the feeling of “ahhh” once they finish a task they do not adore doing, but find they actually enjoy the result. It is a good time the rethink priorities. And, also a good time to soak beans, cook together, to have lunch, snacks, and dinner together, and take advantage of those moments to strengthen relationships and think about what you eat.
All of a sudden, you find yourselves in a biology, geography, language, mathematics class. That situation is typical among homeschooling families.
For example: “Marianne, my love, did you know Mung beans come from India? Do you know who discovered India? But was it there already before it was discovered? Does something exists before you know that it exists? What about the beans? Did we get it in a jar, can, or was it dry? How long do they have to soak? If a family were twice as large, how much beans would you buy? And what do beans have in them?”
Of course we are not equally good at doing this, but the more you let it happen, the easier it gets. And it is always a very good experience.
6. Get outside. There are very good trees around to climb. Not to mention very good knees to scratch as in the good old times.
7. If that is not possible, go search online! There are, for sure, many apps and videos and tutorials for physical training that you all can do in the house. Never has your Pilates ball had such space to be conveniently and regularly used!
8. Put the kids to work writing letters to their friends. Paper and pencil! Or computer and printer, because it is possible that post offices are in a zen state for a while.
9. Take this opportunity to play. Spend time with each other. Who knows if this will open up other venues? Who knows whether some of you who arrived in this situation, because there was not another option, may decide to stay a little longer?
And we are available to hear you out and support you as much as we can, even though in a virtual manner, of course! At least, for now . . .
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