5 Tips on transitioning to homeschool from a cannamom (who already homeschooled her children)
The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to shut down all over the world, leaving many parents to attempt homeschooling for the first time. Of course as parents we will want to ensure the safety of our children, and in the case of COVID-19, the safety and health of people our children come in contact with. Before diving into the topic at hand, please make sure you are following the guidelines offered by the CDC and WHO and your local regulatory bodies during this time of crisis. This is uncharted territory for everyone, and we must adhere to recommendations and look out for each other.
To give a little background, I have three children, ages 14, 12, and 8. I homeschooled my older children until they were in 2nd and 3rd grades, and they were part time homeschooled starting at grade 6 through present day (and prior to the coronavirus crisis). My 8 year old was in school full time, but as we all know that is no longer happening. So, my partner and I have been thrust into the same situation as many parents right now and are now full time working from home and full time homeschooling. I know it is the best thing for humanity right now, but that’s A LOT of home.
So, congratulations! You are now a homeschooling parent. Buckle up.
I hope the recommendations (and they are JUST THAT: recommendations!) offer here you on this journey. Please keep in mind that I have kept these more catered to school-aged children.
This homeschooling stuff may seem intimidating and daunting, but remember: YOU are already your child’s first (and best) teacher and their strongest advocate. There are books and online resources for everything else. Do not stress yourself out with trying to replicate your child’s school routine or making them adhere to a schedule that is something similar. In fact, some parents are refusing to homeschool altogether, which is fine! This time is about keeping your child/children in the flow of learning while making things work for your family.
Stress makes for a poor learning environment and makes everyone generally unhappy. We are all feeling stress right now because of job loss, potential lack of income, or the overall state of the world right now, so don’t let teaching your children be another source of it.
If you need a mental health day or need to actually get your OWN work done, don’t feel guilty about letting your children watch movies or play with toys for hours on end once in a while. We all need breaks and we are (literally) in the midst of a global crisis so please, cut yourself some slack.
2) Pick Your Battles
This is one of my parenting mantras in general, but seems particularly relevant in the giant pivot we have just been forced to make with our family life. Remember, it won’t be like this forever, and it’s important to find YOUR flow and not mimic someone else’s.
Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards and only go head-to-head with your children/students if it really matters. Should they be reading at least an hour a day? Probably. But, if a couple days a week they will only sit and read for 30 minutes that’s ok too. Ask yourself: Is it worth getting worked up and fighting over whether they completed an entire math worksheet in the time given/ Or is your time better spent letting them create something with Legos or art materials where they will be engaged for longer?
At the end of the day, it is up to you as the parent what skills/lessons/homeschool work you choose to prioritize and where you will enforce boundaries and rules the most. No parent wants to be at odds all day every day with their kids, so pick your battles wisely.
3) It’s All About Balance
This brings me to perhaps the most important point I’d like to make to new homeschooling families: it’s all about balance! One of the best things about homeschooling, and a reason why many families choose to do so willingly, is so they can have more control over the balance of activities in their lives and the lives of their children–not only as learners but as developing human beings.
Yes, core academia is important. Students need those core elements to build on and have future success. But guess what? They also need to know how to cook, how to garden, how to create and appreciate art of all kinds, how to operate technology, and how to keep themselves healthy!
Breaking up those core subjects with movement activities and opportunities for creativity (which can be anything from building with blocks to painting) can make such a difference in the day. So yes, make sure they are reading and writing and doing math and science, etc, but also make sure those subjects are balanced out with other valuable and perhaps less traditional subjects.
4) Keep it Authentic (when possible)
Natural, authentic learning opportunities are the very best kind–I think most parents would agree on that.
Whether that means having the skills to read a menu by yourself, tie your shoe, or knowing how to measure the right ingredients to make bread, it’s the authentic need that is the driving force for learning these skills. In fact, one thing that people fault public schools with is the lack of life skills and natural learning experiences they provide. So, take this time to teach them, or allow them to self teach! If they can read, give them a cook book and perhaps by the end of the quarantines you’ll actually have some help with dinners on the regular. Have a yard, or even just a porch? What a great time to teach them how to grow something (bonus points if it’s edible!). Family yoga or fitness time offers a multitude of lessons about health, or about anatomy/physiology if your students are older.
5) Try to Enjoy It
I understand there will be moments of grief, frustration, and even upset during this time. I get it. But, you may never get this chance again. Think of all the times you longed to be home with your kids, to enjoy their cuddles or laughter or wittiness. Well, that time is now. I can already imagine that some of us will long for this time again (although not under the circumstances). Taking this time to cook or learn other life skills is the best teaching you can do for them. Have something you love to do? Teach them or somehow incorporate them in the activity. This is an AWESOME time to do activities like creating a family crest or collaging a family vision board. Creating artwork or planting things that you will be able to look at months or years from now will allow you to then remember this time you had together. I also really enjoy watching movie trilogies or sagas together (like one a week or one a night) and then doing reviews together. You could easily incorporate writing or art activities here as well and vary the movie content to the ages of your children.
The Tools At a Glance
Wanna go full throttle on the homeschooling and keep it more traditional? My recommendations are to hit each of the core subjects (reading, writing, math) each day, which obviously, in my case, looks very different for a second grader, a middle schooler, and a high school freshman.
If you are fortunate enough to have internet access and devices to utilize it, now is the time. If not, books and hands on experiences work just as well if not better, and local bookshops are suffering right now so see if you can order some workbooks from them, if possible (Spectrum is one I really like, and you can order online or see if you local shops already carry them). Many school districts are (or should be) in touch with families about resources to access … use them.
If not, here is a rough breakdown of some of the best teaching tools, in my humble opinion:
(Or you can do like me and just google “printable worksheets for Ninth Grade” and see what you can find.)
Photographs by Annie Spratt via Unsplash
Leah Maurer is a mother of three, canna-journalist, and activist who lives in Portland, Oregon. She is a co-owner of The Weed Blog, a cannabis news and information publication, where she serves as the Editorial Lead. She helped found New Approach Oregon, the organization responsible for drafting and campaigning for Measure 91 (cannabis legalization in Oregon). Additionally, in 2014 Leah founded a group through grassroots efforts alone called Moms for YES on Measure 91, which proved to be pivotal in the passage of the Measure. After the successful passage of cannabis legalization, she helped co-found the Portland Chapter of Women Grow and lead it for over a year, creating the largest and fastest growing chapter in the company’s history.