Homeschooling in Lockdown
With schools still closed as the new term was due to start, many parents will be trying to help their children study at home. Here, Lizzy Costain offers a Mum's perspective from her experience of homeschooling her three children.
LIZZY COSTAIN, MONDAY 20 APRIL 2020
Dear Homeschooling Mothers of St John’s,
I’m wondering how you’re feeling right at the moment.
Life has changed very quickly for all of us, and some more than others. We seem to be surrounded by sickness, fear of sickness, economic uncertainty, social meltdown and many other things. Some of us are already struggling with illness ourselves or in our families. And we still don’t know how long all this is going to last.
On top of which, you have found yourself doing school at home by yourself - perhaps an unimagined situation until a few weeks ago. You may be feeling overwhelmed, confused, stressed and incapable. You not only have your children and teenagers at home with you 24/7 - with no normal holiday clubs, sports groups etc - you can’t even have friends over to make things a bit easier.
You may be wondering, how do I get through the next day, let alone the next couple of months? It’s hard, and made harder because you didn’t choose this. BUT we have a great God and he knows what he’s doing. In everything.
It surely isn’t a coincidence that just before all this kicked off we studied Titus as a church, and in our women’s groups. And here we are, lovely sisters in Christ, with some good works to do. You’re probably up to your neck in emails, books, shopping lists and children, so I’ve summarised some of our reflections below, which I hope and pray may help.
- God is good and kind, and is our Saviour. (Titus 3:4)
- We can trust Him to help us. We are not doing this by ourselves.
- It’s OK to find things hard - having a tough time doesn’t mean that good stuff isn’t happening. (Hebrews 12:11)
- Our children belong to Him. (Psalm 127:3) We may not have chosen to do this, but He did. In the end, this was His decision.
- You’ll learn a lot about yourself - not all good, as you’ve probably already realised! Take it to the Lord - He will not be surprised. He forgives, and strengthens us to obey Him. (Titus 2:14)
- What you’re doing is part of loving your children. (Titus 2:4) The word for ‘love’ (philia) is a tender, affectionate love of friends, and is similar to ‘kiss’. As Paul tells Titus, it’s something to be taught and learned - we are all His pupils too.
- My husband Nigel was given some advice by a wise friend when we started homeschooling: make sure you laugh a lot together. He took the advice seriously and it transformed our years of being with each other. (Proverbs 17:22)
- School at home should take less time than the normal school day, especially when children are young. At age 7, we did about an hour’s formal schooling a day in 15 minute sessions, and gradually increased over the years.
- Try to keep some structure to the day, but remember it’s not just you adjusting to this situation; your children are too. If you set a timetable, try to set one that is realistic and hopefully achievable. Perhaps keep it fairly loose to start with, and give everyone time to get used to each other.
- Get everyone outside for fresh air and exercise as much as you can. You will probably see how much little ones, sometimes boys especially, need to run off their fidgets. It can be hard work to play hard - but it often pays off.
- One of the best things we did over the years was to read books aloud to them. We still do it. Enjoy good literature; children can understand more when they’re read to than when they’re reading themselves and can play with lego, draw, etc while you read. Perhaps chat about the stories at mealtimes - get them to retell what they remember. This works with reading the Bible too.
- Children take in far more than we realise. Do what you can with the workbooks, but remember they will also be learning a lot from you about being a parent and what’s important in life - scary! Have a think about what you want them to learn. It may mean letting go of some things.
- Don’t fill every hour with busyness. Wonderful things can happen. Isaac Newton had months at home during the Plague in the 1600s when Cambridge University was closed for a year. And we all know what happened when he was ‘wasting time’, gazing at the apple trees in the garden...