By Martha Mangan
My friends told me I was crazy when I started home-schooling. Now, after 20 years of home-schooling all six of my children, everyone wants to know how I did it.
As we head into autumn, the Covid-19 pandemic has cast uncertainty on school openings across the country and flung many parents unwittingly into a home-schooling environment, stressing them out as a result. Instead of panicking, I urge parents to cherish this time as a brief opportunity to learn and grow together with their child(ren). A few lessons I learned from two decades of teaching mine:
First, your school or district will be grateful for anything you can do with your child to contribute to their education. Do not fret over whether you are sticking exactly to the core curriculum. Remember this and take what is assigned and do your best to pivot it into something you and your child are able to do in a reasonable (and enjoyable) time frame.
Next, keep some home in home schooling. Teach your children the importance of making their beds in the morning, wiping the kitchen counters off after breakfast or calling to order a pizza – all of which are valuable life lessons. Growing into responsibility and accomplishment right along with their new academic achievements is what transforms a child into a young adult.
It’s also OK to spend a few dollars on peace of mind. One of the realities of home schooling is that you almost never have a gauge for how your child is doing against “everyone else.” You just have to trust that you and your child are doing your best. No one knows your child as well as you do, and no one can foster their excitement and interest like you. These are the essential ingredients to learning; not competition and standardization.
That said, it was helpful for me to refer to a few resources to ensure that what I was teaching my children was calibrated with their grade-appropriate knowledge. A few of the books I referenced included “What Your 1st Grader (through 8th grader) Needs to Know” by Ed Hirsch Jr., and “A Parent’s Guide From Preschool to Eighth Grade,” by William Bennett.
There will, of course, be days when it seems like home schooling isn’t working. At times like these, just remember that reading, math and life skills are all you really need to cover. When my youngest daughter was in sixth grade and still home-schooling, another one of my sons had a tragic accident that required three months of in-hospital therapy. All three of us had to move from Western New York to Colorado while my son was in an acute spine center.
Needless to say, my priority was my son, who was learning to walk again, and only later did I express concern to a high school principal that I felt as if I had forsaken my daughter’s education. Her response that “as long as Mary is reading and able to add up the medical bills, she will be fine.”
While home-schooling was harder than kissing my children goodbye in the morning, the rewards we all gained from being home together far outweighed the sacrifices. Now that traditional school is, for many of us, no longer an option, I hope these lessons from my own experience alleviate just a little bit of your apprehension.
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