Today is the last day of the year and although it’s tempting to shout “we’re done”, most parents and caregivers are aware that the start of a new year doesn’t mean our labor of love stops for any breaks.
My quick message to everyone that had to help their children with their schooling during a pandemic year is: good job! and please give yourself grace if you feel that you fell short. This is every educator’s inner hardship, that struggle to feel at peace about how the school year has gone for their pupils under their stewardship.
This blog post is mean to be short, I’ve included a link to the podcast episode in the format of a candid interview with questions by Thomas Bean:
Happy and blessed New Year to you all: may God’s grace continue to give us the endurance to embrace each day we have.
Many COVID-19 closure weary parents, caregivers and educators haven’t recovered from the late 2019-2020 school year crash due to lockdowns across the nation. As many try to find a summer routine in the abyss of continuous coronavirus restrictions, school districts are having to formulate plans now for this upcoming school year 2020-2021 amid rising pandemic cases.
The new buzz word is “hybrid” model. I had no idea that my personal style of home education for our three children these last several years would be considered the new normal for some.
What’s a Hybrid Education and Will My Child Thrive In It?
Every school district has their own specific models but they generally follow something like this: a couple days in the classroom, a couple days at home, and possibly more virtual learning sessions.
Breathe in, breath out. While it’s preferable that all our students can return to their pre-COVID school routine, the reality may be that a hybrid model will work in lieu of that routine even if only temporarily.
The consensus by most parents (going forward, “parents” also includes caregivers/stewards) trying to facilitate their children’s learning during the last months of the 2019-2020 school year was that online learning doesn’t work. My heart sank when I heard this over and over again as I understood their frustration and yet was sad for their lack of imagination. What do I mean by that last part?
Let me start by acknowledging how difficult it’s been for everyone to adjust to the rapid changes that occurred in all manners of our society. The last thing many parents have been able to do is “embrace the moment” and try to participate in their children’s excitement for what each day brings. Many are trying to survive whether because of their jobs or have simply not stopped to actually participate fully in their kids’ learning each day. It is all-consuming to do so, there’s no way to sugar-coat that fact.
Whether we as parents like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered most of our regularly scheduled lives and that includes our children’s education routine. This amounts to a nearly total upheaval of what daily life was like for children and parents alike. This is no small matter. This is unheard of at least for the last century or so.
For a home-schooling parent like myself, nothing really changed for my own children’s daily schedules except for the fact that suddenly many of their peers now were joining them in this wide open expanse of learning possibilities outside of the “brick and mortar” school institutions. Granted, our extracurriculars were gone like swim team, dance, gymnastics, and Greek school. Suddenly I wasn’t alone either, many of my mom friends were now on the “front lines” of their children’s educational needs and curiosities—and it is EXHAUSTING.
If your child is going to spend time at home again as part of their education going forward in this school year especially due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, I want to share with you my experiences in the hope that you’ll be able to navigate this “new normal” in the short term until such time as the regular school program is back or if you may find that your child(ren) thrive in a new educational paradigm.
The good news is that most of you should be able to use your current school’s distance learning or hybrid school options if your school district is not having students in session physically this fall. Also, as I’ll share later, there are so many educational resources to pull from as supplemental material for your children.
Please understand that this is what has worked for me and my family but it should only be seen as a source of ideas as you formulate what works for yours. For instance, some families have found fellowship in co-op learning groups. Although I’m a member of a local homeschool group for support and field trip opportunities, I’m a loner per se when it comes to curriculum instruction. However, my children are enrolled in a Greek school that takes them (pre-COVID) physically to a school a couple days a week. Again, this educational adventure is particular to your household needs and capacity.
Typical Bean Kid School Week
It has taken me years to refine the following schedule and every new school year I have to make certain adjustments as deemed necessary by the children’s maturity levels and interests. This is how a typical school week went for us most recently in 2019-2020:
The Costume: As a personal rule, I wear a special suit jacket when it’s time to start our “school time” each day, along with funny glasses and my clogs or short heels to indicate that my school teacher uniform is now “on” and therefore I’m no longer just the children’s mama.
Monday – Thursday from 8:30am – 2:30pm. Friday: Music lessons offsite w/teacher, local library visit, and Greek school.
Mon- Thurs, from 8:30am -10am: This time period is like our homeroom time when I start the day routine with the students. In our particular case it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, and some songs. Then we introduce the day/weather/announcements. Given I have three students of different ages, I will have a topic of the day that I’m able to pivot from for the various grades in our home. For instance, if that month we’re focusing on daily themes that study plants and earth sciences, then we have age appropriate instruction for each student. This past school year 2019-2020, I had a 6th grader, 3rdgrader, and kindergartener respectively.
10am is Snack, Exercise, and Nature Time: I have a physical bell I ring as it indicates it’s time for the kids (and the dogs) to go outside in the backyard and take a break from studies. I take this time to prepare a snack for them in the kitchen if I haven’t already—I also treat myself to a coffee, tea, or even a cookie, etc in order to reward myself for making through the first 90 minutes or so of an intense homeschool day!
10:30 – 11:00am is the time frame that I start calling the children back in. When COVID-19 restrictions went into place, this was also the time I did a P.E. workout with them typical of elementary and junior high complete with a jog and exercises like jumping jacks and leg lifts. Again, I adjust to each child’s level even during break. The younger ones will linger with playing in the dirt and I’m okay with that as it helps their cognitive development.
Post-11:00am: For our family, this is the time frame that I have the older students log into their virtual academy classes through Scholé Academy. Many states like Florida also have virtual public school offerings. For those students who aren’t in an online class, then I’m with them helping teach and moderate their basic curriculum work like spelling workbooks or a math exercise.
12 Noon – 1:30pm: this is a rolling lunch sequence, meaning if a child just got done with their online class after break, then it’s a good time for them to have their lunch. I keep a lunch menu list on our announcement board in the kitchen to show the kids what their choices are and they typically will make their own lunch unless they need help for safety reasons.
2:00 – 3:00pm: Depending on online class schedules is when our school day typically ends.
3:00pm onward: Pre-Covid pandemic, we typically would do dinner prep as we got ready to go to afternoon swim team practice or Greek school which is usually around 4pm until 6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Each child is given one night as the chef where they have to pick the menu and execute it (with Mama as sous chef of course).
Wednesdays is STEAM, STEM, and all things SCIENCE: I typically reserve each Wednesday as our science lab experiment day. It is a messy and yet necessary affair to conduct these science experiments and exercises with the students so I find it helpful to have a day dedicated to it for set-up and clean-up purposes.
Thursdays: Art day. Thursdays are the days we start out with an art instruction and project/exercise first. In my case, I was educated heavily in the arts and am an amateur artist in practice. I believe the visual arts are very important for students and if a parent doesn’t feel capable, there are many art teachers/tutors and art centers around to delegate that instruction if needed.
Friday Fun Day: Perhaps it’s a throwback to when I was working in offices all week long, but I like to celebrate the end of the week with the children and so I reserve Fridays as the day for them to see their piano teacher (or FaceTime now in pandemic mode) and hit our local library to research, return, and check out new books. Also, personally it’s our second day of two days of Greek school where we drive 45 minutes to their classroom with other teachers and students (again, pre-COVID).
Refrain of Love: We as Parents/Caregivers are Our Children’s Security, Even in Education
I have heard from and read about so many who feel inadequate to “teach” their own children.
I get it.
There is not a day that I don’t go to bed and wonder with some degree of anxiety as to whether I was able to meet our children’s educational needs during the school year.
In fact, each year in June, I have to meet with a Palm Beach County district school teacher who reviews my children’s school year work and portfolios in order to make sure that they are progressing satisfactorily. If so we are given the green light to close the books on our school year until we start again at the end of the summer. I’m thankful they’ve “passed” every year up to this point.
That said, for my husband and me, we revisit our education choices for our children every year. Most asked question of us is “Are you going to homeschool them through high school too?”
I have no idea.
I repeat, we analyze the progress of our children every year and if they are thriving then we keep going on the same course with adjustments like new online courses or curriculums. This is probably similar to when parents decide that their child should be transferred from one school to another in their best academic interests.
Curriculum, Materials, and Resources
Like toothpaste offerings in the drugstore, there are so many things out there for educators whether they are working in a public school district or simply a CEO of the Home mama like myself.
My personal choices for our children are a la carte when it comes to things like mathematics and sciences. I lean toward classical learning when it comes to children’s literature and grammar. In other words, my overall curriculum is tailored from various sources to each child’s needs during that particular school year cycle.
Yet, that may not work for everyone, there are also box kits from places like Mother Goose Time for preschoolers or others like Charlotte Mason website that give families a one-stop shop when it comes to formulating what curriculum they’ll use.
Below is a short list of resources I’ve personally used in the past and present. If you know me personally, I also invite you to reach out to me so we can find a time to chat about any more questions or concerns you may have as you figure out what’s going to be the path forward for your children in the short term.
Note: For those reading this who don’t know me personally, this is a short background note. After attending both public and private schools growing up, I began teaching while an undergraduate at University of Florida in the late 1990s as part of the federal program America Reads. I had the honor of teaching a small cohort class of 2nd and 3rd graders in Bannockburn, IL during 2000. 9/11 occurred and my husband and I decided to help serve in our U.S. government in Washington, DC where I logged experience working on legislative priorities for a Florida congressman (including education issues) and time as an appointee at the U.S. Treasury with the George W. Bush administration. In 2008 I was reborn as a mother in this world when we welcomed our first child. It’s 2020 now and we have two sons and a daughter, ages 12, 9, and 5 years old respectively. I began homeschooling nearly a decade ago as we lived with and looked after aging grandparents. Today I follow a hybrid model with all three while also finishing my MBA degree at UF this December. The following article is meant to help others by sharing my current experience and some resources to help you on your journey if you are exploring alternative methods of educating your children—especially given the temporary uncertainties ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic situation.