Just at a month ago many of us opened up our own personal schools. Some of us named them while others reluctantly held out to hear it was all a hoax. For a number of tiny housers, homeschooling and roadschooling are old hat so nothing really changed. But if your student was one of the millions of students locked out of regular classes after the close of schools in almost every state in America in order to slow the spread of Coronavirus, you may have reached for the wine bottle, shed a few tears, and/or fired off emails begging for help from peers, teachers, and anyone else you could think of.
Scouring social media for education resources and armed with Google Classroom assignments from your kids’ school, you probably resolved to home-school and battened down the hatches for the challenges ahead.
Even though we roadschooled when we lived on the road and then homeschooled when we anchored down in our small house, this recent adjustment had me sort of imagining calendar days filled with Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts, iPads, phones, and a laptop, all hooked up around the house, half-eaten snacks on every surface in the living room, and more! Because we have now had our daughter in a more traditional learning environment for 3 years we were left feeling a bit out of practice for this new “school-from-home” situation. So how were we going to make it all happen? How would we keep her learning at an acceptable pace, manage our essential jobs, and establish a structure and routine comparable to what our daughter had become used to?
We tried to adopt these tools and we hope they may help you too. It isn’t too late to establish a home school. After all, we are seemingly in this for a bit of a long haul.
NAME YOUR SCHOOL. It seems silly right? Why would you need to name your home school? It is basically the same as your kid coming home and doing homework, right? Wrong. Kids need normalcy. The school they are missing isn’t just called “The School”. It is called John F. Kennedy Middle School or Oakwood Elementary or something of that nature. Providing this sense of normalcy in kids’ daily lives can help them feel less anxious and more secure during this uncertain time. Not to mention having a name for your school: creates a sense of belonging -and- may reflect your personality or values
DISCUSS RULES AND EXPECTATIONS. Just as you have rules and expectations in your parenting, so should you have as a teacher/facilitator. In our house the very first rule is “You still have to wake up at XYZ time and you still have to go to bed at XYZ time.” These sort of rules serve a double purpose. 1) It helps provide much-needed structure in your child’s day. -and- 2) It allows you to maintain your parent/kid relationship and you to have adult time so you can unwind and breathe a little.
ESTABLISH A CONSISTENT SCHOOL SCHEDULE. More traditional schools operation on a daily schedule. So should your homeschool. If your child is older, have them set their own schedule and share it with you. If they are younger, help them create a schedule more suitable to their age. Success will come with a schedule that is as close to their traditional school schedule or at least conforms to the expectation set forth by your child’s teacher. For example, our daughter starts with Chapel at her school. So, we do the same. Afterwords, she transitions into her English workbook and her Literature. So we do the same. Kids are accustomed to their schedule, and it’s part of their routine. So this time of transition is made easier if they continue following their normal schedule.
In a traditional school day, the teacher is physically there to prompt your kid or remind them to turn something in. But in the virtual world (which today’s homeschools seem to be), kids can forget or ignore that unwanted assignment. By keeping your student as close to their typical schedule as possible, you can help them make sure they are tackling all their subjects and meeting all their goals.
CREATE A DESIGNATED SCHOOL SPACE. For some, this is quite easy. For tiny housers? Not so much…at all! With most of the family being at home now, privacy and space may be hard to come by. Add to that life in a tiny house and this new arrangement can seem almost impossible. Fortunately, there is no reason to have a designated school room or even school desk space for your child. Make it your mission to just create a consistent space that has a flat surface, a comfortable chair, and an electrical outlet (for those Zoom classes). NOTE: You do want to make sure the workspace is free from distractions like the TV or a gaming system. Don’t make it harder on all involved than it has to be.
TAKE BREAKS. I can’t stress how important this is. Think about your life at the office or your place of work. Do you sit there for 5 hours at a time without getting up to walk around, say hello to a colleague, go outside and see the sunshine, or grab a snack? Absolutely not. Why expect your child to then? One of THE MOST important things we learned and are learning even more now is that all students need to take breaks and have recess. Our children need to stay active and break away from their studies throughout the day. At more traditional schools they have a few minutes between each period to say hello to friends, walk the hallway(s), or get a drink of water. They need this. Walk away from the academics and let your child play basketball or ride his/her bike. Go for a walk around the neighborhood together. It isn’t healthy to stay stuck in front of a computer all day or in front of books. Again, keep them away from screens though. They need the sun, the fresh air, and aerobic activity.
So do we have it all figured out?
Don’t be afraid to muddle through. This is a learning time for all involved. If your home school is one that has to take a break during the week and have a movie/pizza day, go for it. If we have learned anything in our lives as a tiny house/small house family, it is that relationship oftentimes trumps formality. Teach your kids, yes. But love your kids and make the most of this “school-at-home” time as well.