Dear SHM,*

*Suddenly Homeschooling Mama

You’re excited, overwhelmed, scared, unsure, ready to brave the unknown.

This is new territory for you, no matter how you arrived: with tentative baby steps, large leap frog jumps, or a sudden pandemic.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to try this homeschooling thing and this seems like a – albeit weird – God send. Or maybe this was the very last thing you ever wanted to do.

At least you know we’re all in this together!

Somewhere out there, Fievel, is another mama mouse with the same feelings you’re experiencing, and thank goodness for social media and smartphones (canIgetanAmen), because we can connect with them posthaste when we need support, laughter, a shoulder to cry on.

How to navigate these waters? Well, first we learn to doggy paddle before we try to swim a long distance marathon.

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Suddenly Homeschooling: Temporary or Permanent?

Are you homeschooling temporarily or are you in this for the unforeseeable future?

This changes how you will approach this sudden lifestyle change.

Maybe you’re homeschooling only temporarily, perhaps because your family is:

  • Social distancing during a worldwide pandemic (maybe you heard about this?)
  • In the middle of a move during a school year and don’t want to suddenly put your child in their new school midyear
  • On a wait list for a charter school and know it’s likely going to be a few months before they get in

If you’re a temporary homeschooler for these or other reasons, your approach to schooling at home will look much different than those who are in this for the long haul.

SHM #1: Suddenly (Temporarily) Homeschooling

First of all, what you’re doing, well, it’s not really homeschooling, not in the purest sense of the word.

Yes, you’re supplying Johnny with some online help, and a pack of new #2 pencils, but really you’re treading water until you get to wherever it is you’re going, and that’s perfectly fine.

Long-haul homeschoolers have had ample time to try out and test different curricula. They generally have a like-minded group of friends and families who are in this with them, have had time for trial and error, and are more relaxed, simply because they know they have all the time in the world to get this thing right.

You, dear SHM, you’re different.

You’re counting down the days for when your family can get back to their particular brand of normal. For you, this homeschooling thing is something you’ll hopefully look back on and laugh uproariously about.

Until then though, what will your homeschooling look like?

Set a loose schedule.

More like a routine than a strict schedule, your days with your suddenly homeschooled kids doesn’t need to be written out down to the last second hand of every hour.

Please do yourself – and them – a favor and be loose and flexible with the 1-6 months of homeschooling you’re finding yourselves in.

Honestly, most veteran homeschoolers recommend something they call “deschooling,” when your bring your little darlings home from public school. They need time to decompress, and so do you.

Don’t jump in the first day with eight hours of school time. Ain’t nobody need that unless you’re trying to get into NASA or the CIA or something.

Don’t feel the slightest bit guilty if your first entire four weeks of homeschooling is wearing out the Netflix, sleeping in, or refusing to open a book.

Then, when you’re sufficiently recharged and ready to go, you can put together a routine.

A loose schedule or routine can look something like this:

8:30 am – Breakfast and clean up.

9:15 -9:30 – Tidy up bedroom, brush teeth (get dressed if you want, but come on, we’re homeschooling! Break in those jammies!).

9:30-10:30 – Read approved book.*

*Here’s an engaging list for girls; here’s one for boys

10:30 – Snack and stretching or run around the house. In other words, munch a little and get moving. Call it “P.E.”

11-12 – School.

12-1 – Prepare lunch and clean up. Notice I didn’t say come to the table when Mom makes lunch. Make your own. Take turns with days. Serve Mom. Get creative.

1-2 – School subject of their choice. Online cooking class? Guitar practice? Impromptu spelling bee?

2-3 – Board games, card games, online educational phone games, computer games that Mom deems appropriate.

3-4:30 – Free time. Maybe it’s Netflix, maybe it’s reading a book of their choice.

5-6 – Help with dinner (or disappear outside so Mom can prepare it in peace and quiet).

Obviously the schedule looks different depending on the ages of your kids.

Got a napper? Fit that bad boy in after lunch. Got highschoolers with their eyes on college next year? Gonna need some more academic time.

This schedule is your… um, I was gonna say the B word, but let’s just say, make it work for you not the other way around.

Related: 47 Educational Movies for Homeschoolers So You Can, Uh… “Educate.” Or Take A Shower. Or Nap.

Give yourself grace.

You’ll have plenty of time for “normal” life later. Enjoy this super weird time. Make memories.

In twenty years will your grown kids look back on this time as the best summer/season/pandemic ever, or will they be traumatized by the experiment that was homeschooling?

Books by Melyssa Williams

Don’t freak out that you’re going to ruin them.

When we’re used to someone else doing the bulk of the education in our children’s lives, this can be a terrifying niggle.

Don’t panic. You might forget to teach them Common Core math, but we all want Carrying the One to come back anyway, so maybe they’ll thank you later.

One thing that helped me mightily when I was homeschooling was another mama gently telling me,

“You know public school teachers don’t finish their text books on time either, right?”

Give yourself some grace.

SHM #2: Suddenly Homeschooling for Life

That’s a big goal you’ve got there, but you likely have an excellent reason.

While I’m not necessarily a fan of big, sweeping, all-in, plans for the future (I tend to think God laughs when we do that), there are times when a full-blown, determined, I’m-all-in, committed plan is best.

Examples? If you…

  • Have a child who has been horribly bullied at school
  • Are living off the grid
  • Believe it’s working wonderfully for your whole family
  • Have a child with a disability that traditional school would magnify

I’m sure there are other reasons, just be careful not to blindly plunge ahead without giving a lot of thought and prayer to each individual child and year ahead.

Homeschooling is not best for everyone, every time. Change my mind.

Oh yeah, I said it. I went there.

When you’re homeschooling for life suddenly, your thought process is going to be different than a parent who is only homeschooling for a short while.

Related: Should I Homeschool? A REAL Quiz

You need to spend quite a bit of time researching curricula for one thing.

And after you do that? You’re gonna need a really big glass of wine, because Jesus, Mary, and the camel, there are a lot of choices out there.

Once you’ve picked out your curriculum, be prepared to hate it and want to burn it three months in.

Trust me, it’s easier to put this in your schedule.

Set a Strict Schedule

9 am – Math

10 am – Language arts

11 am – Science

12 – 1 – Build bonfire in backyard and burn curricula. Have children roast S’mores over the ashes of your dreams and hopes.

2 pm – Pour a glass of Chardonnay and start researching new curricula while the children run amuck.

Hey there! Yes, you! Have you read my books yet? You should! Check out my works here.

In all seriousness, be scheduled about being flexible.

As with your friends down the block who are suddenly temporarily homeschooling, give yourself some grace.

And the kids too.

You’re going to fall down a lot before you become that Homeschooling Mama Warrior you so want to be. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Just keep swimming.

So, How About It?

What about you?

Have you found yourself, like so many of us, suddenly homeschooling?

What have you found to make the experience a joy and not a burden?

Read next: Confessions of an Accidental Unschooler

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