The COVID-19 pandemic is a whole lot of badness. But one thing we keep thinking about as we try to navigate the scary: the unique opportunities that have come about as part of a shift in our society to social distancing. Innovations related to a new home-based workforce. Increased family time spent as a close-knit unit. People eating homemade meals at home. And with school closures, everyone’s homeschooling.
Being introverts who are semi-retired and already working partially at home, these cultural changes haven’t affected us much. We also prepare most of our meals, and we’ve been on the homeschool bandwagon since Aspen was born.
Why homeschool in the first place? When Trent (ever the early adopter with a true entrepreneurial spirit) first proposed it, Dawn’s eyes widened in horror. She envisioned a scene of white boards and book stacks and the typical things that go on at school… only at home. But with further research, she realized homeschooling has come a long way from that antiquated vision. Here are some reasons we love homeschooling:
- Flexibility – We love slow travel, as you know, and we want to be able to do it without constraints from school schedules. “Worldschooling” has never been easier given our worldwide connectivity and internet resources.
- Efficiency – The amount of time actually spent learning in a typical school day is a mere fraction of the time students spend at school. With all the travel, transitions and disciplinary actions that take place, it’s simply not an efficient use of time to go to school for 6-8 hours a day.
- Quality – We believe in the idea of self-directed, experiential learning, as evidenced in this post we wrote last fall about all the learning Aspen accomplished on our Caribbean trip last fall.
Right now, parents are being forced to homeschool their kids. How do you feel? Many people have said to us that they don’t feel qualified to be their childrens’ teachers. Let us reassure you, you are absolutely qualified! Don’t you think you know your child better than some random teacher? You know their personalities, their learning styles, and their interests. How can you be less qualified than a stressed out teacher in a schoolroom who’s trying to apply the same lessons to a group of 35-40 completely different individuals?
With all the online resources out there, it’s never been easier to come up with activities for your kids. And if you don’t believe us, check out this post by a very experienced unschooling mom (unschooling = a subset of homeschooling which derives any structure of learning from the child’s organic interests) for more confidence and inspiration.
So what do we do with Aspen? First off, she’s only four years old… so at this point we don’t push anything on her that requires her to sit and concentrate. We don’t use a hard schedule, and we’d recommend that during this tumultuous and stressful time, you relax any tendency to overschedule your kids, even if they’re older.
The natural flow of our days (during social distancing) is like this: wake up when we wake up, make breakfast, spend a little time learning and playing, do some exercise, maybe a little more learning and playing if she wants, then fun TV. We take the opportunity to recognize learning when we’re just doing everyday, mundane things: math or chemistry while cooking, money and value while playing with toys, spelling and phonics for new words she hears. We capitalize on her innate desire to gain independence through learning – something that’s common to kids of all ages.
When we’re not just learning as we’re doing, we use a handful of online apps that gamify learning: Khan Academy Kids, Teach Your Monster to Read, and ABC Mouse. We’ll eventually start IXL, which offers multi-subject learning for grades preK through 12 via a monthly membership (that our local library will cover – look into this for your area).
These apps are either free or inexpensive. There are lots of others out there, including full-on curricula – religious and secular alike. And in the midst of the current climate with COVID-19 and economic troubles, many programs are offering free or nearly free resources. This blog post has an exhaustive list of programs that are currently free due to school closures.
We bet some of you will become homeschool converts long after schools are back open. The close relationships you will foster with your kids are part of this will stand out as a big positive during a difficult time!