By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon

I’m sorry you had to meet it this way. And right up front, I want to let you know that this isn’t how normal homeschooling looks. For kids whose “socialization” is questioned by every well-meaning elderly woman in the grocery store, my homeschooled kids are heavily invested in their communities. We are not used to staying at home.

What we’re all experiencing – this attempt to create learning experiences while cut off from everything and everyone we love – it isn’t homeschooling. And if you’re pretty sure you’re losing your mind on day 10 (or 2), please know that all the seasoned homeschool moms are right there with you. This is complete crap.

I also want to acknowledge that we all want learning to continue, and we all want to make the most of this time while simultaneously hoping it will be over soon. For me, sanity has meant having some realistic expectations about learning at home. I’d like to share them with you, in hopes that it will make this time at home more bearable. I mean, meaningful. Whatever.

First, realize that homeschool rarely looks like traditional school. If you are trying to schedule out eight hours of activities a day, you’ll crash and burn on day two. Some homeschoolers do run on a schedule; I find it easier to make a reasonable to-do list and work things out as we go. Flexibility has become my friend.

Also, the very nature of school means that lots of time is wasted. Please don’t think I’m being disrespectful to teachers (I was one!); it’s just the nature of any experience involving lots of kids. You know how much easier it is to run to Target with one kid instead of three? Well, now picture running to Target with 30 kids. There…that’s where all that time goes. All that to say, if your kid finishes all the assigned work in an hour or two, seems to understand it, and appears to have done a good job…call it a day. You’re good.

Second, embrace unstructured time. This is actually a gift that too many school-aged kids don’t get to have. For us, this can be time outside (in the backyard, of course), Lego-play, or acting out imaginary stories involving their favorite characters. (Right now you are totally nodding and thinking, “Yep, her kids are homeschooled, alright.” Yes, yes they are. They suffer from a terrible affliction called an imagination, and I hope they never get better.) But seriously, release yourself from the pressure of filling every single minute of their time with something meaningful. Put down that list of free educational apps and just let them play. Or lounge and talk. Or dream. Those things are just as beneficial as PBS kids.

Third, get creative with your time, especially if you’re working with more than one. My kids are still young and they DO NOT work independently. While there are some common things they work on, each child requires a lot of one-on-one from me. I’ve discovered a few online programs (Spelling City, Burning Cargo, and Reflex Math are favorites) that allow them to practice their skills while I work individually with a sibling. Each morning, one boy practices his piano while the other does Spelling City and I work with my five-year-old daughter. Then they switch. It gives me a good chunk of time with the little one right off the bat, which is very helpful with younger siblings. Work with them first, and often they’ll be happier playing by themselves after that mommy time.

And finally, give yourself me-time. I didn’t realize how much I leaned on extracurriculars to provide that breathing room until those things were postponed indefinitely. But you can still fit it in. Read a book after they go to bed. Work out at home. Paint your nails. Watch a show. Don’t think you have to wait until they go to bed, either. Let them see you take care of your own body and brain. If you work from home, let them see you work. What a great example! (Plus you’ll be treated to years of them telling strangers completely inaccurate information about what you do for a living, which is super fun.)

If you hear nothing else from me, just remember to give yourself grace. Your kids will catch up on reading and spelling if you don’t do it just right, but this is probably one of the few times that you’ll ever have this much time with them. Apologize when you lose your mind, give lots of hugs, eat together, put down the phone (it’s all bad news anyway), take naps, and watch TV when you need to. We’ll all get through this, and we’ll all be better for it. (Or at least, we’ll all be fine. Manage those expectations, mama.)

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