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.
Tomorrow our county, considered the 10th largest school district in the nation, will embark on its Covid-19 pandemic inspired educational journey for many parents/caregivers and children as they log into their e-learning platforms. There are some who have prepared to take their students into the select private schools that are offering in-person instruction with smaller classes and new physical distancing measures. My hope and prayer for all my fellow parents is that the teamwork between you, teachers, and your children be strong and inspired by the hope of a new school year with so many new things to be learned for everyone.
My personal Bean homeschooling plan is to start my students fully in the first week of September as I have in the past. For the last couple of weeks and going forward, my mornings are busily spent with the children doing small lessons, reviews, and cleaning out our educational areas. My bed has been the staging ground daily for organizing countless piles of papers and projects. If you find that your home is a mess in preparation for your children’s first day of school at home, it will get better and yes it’s normal. If, however, your home is completely spotless then I sincerely applaud you and would love some tips on how to do better in this area.
My second podcast for CEO of the Home was recorded and released in late July and then I took off on a sabbatical by myself—it entailed me driving from Florida to Wyoming and back. In my haste to pack up and leave the household in good hands, I forgot to post it online for anyone interested. Simply put, it’s a small primer on how to approach a “multi-schooling” methodology should it be an option:
My sabbatical was 2 weeks in duration and afforded me the chance to let my mind rest from the constant barrage of COVID-19 news coverage, contentious social media platforms, and our local frenetic pace of life here in south Florida. I deleted all my social media apps and news alerts on my iPhone so that I wasn’t tempted to scroll through during the quiet moments that this trip gave me.
Also, I needed to rekindle my own love of learning. Wandering about in Wyoming gave me the opportunity to seek out new adventures like driving to a privately owned quarry outside Kemmerer and chiseling ancient rock for fish fossils. Picking up my paintbrushes to paint while sitting at scenic points in Yellowstone National Park gave me a renewed inspiration for playing with colors on paper. I’ve ridden horses but only through flat forests and swamps, mountain trail riding was a brand new experience for this flatlander.
Along with the silent hours I spent alone, I was able to think about what new things to weave into my children’s educational experiences moving forward. I had the blessing of commiserating with other parents who were traveling in Wyoming—it turns out that challenges my fellow Floridian parents have with this pandemic education prism are the same for other parents nationwide.
Tonight I also recorded my third podcast and I touch upon why I took this long break. What I didn’t address in it is that although I took this trip during a pandemic, I had weighed the risk and knew that my mental health was of utmost importance as I’m getting ready for another school year.
With that, I share my latest episode of CEO of the Home, Sabbatical and the New School Year:
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.
As many American citizens have been purging their dresser drawers and closets in these past several weeks, a de-cluttering process has begun in America’s education system as stay-at-home orders have included the widespread closures of private and public schools alike.
There is a silver lining, however, even with the reports that “distance learning” doesn’t work or that students and their parents are suffering in the absence of “brick-and-mortar” institutions.
What if this COVID-19 pandemic pause has helped de-clutter in a matter of weeks what has taken decades for educators and administrators alike to bring to our attention as parents and caregivers of our American students?
To encourage more discussion on this topic of the decluttering of our American education model, I’m drawing on my own experience as an educator and federal government worker along with some of my colleagues who are currently active in schools across the country.
For the sake of this argument, I want to distinguish upfront that I’m not referring to the unfortunate segment of students who attend our American public schools and come from homes who are unable to feed, clothe, and equip their dependent children properly. Although it is a legitimate concern, it requires its own space and careful analysis to help formulate solutions going forward from this coronavirus crisis of 2020. In fact, the one benefit from the exposure of this societal ill is that many more citizens are aware of how fragile the economic balance is for many students and their families — hopefully that conversation will continue as to how to address those issues including have to hand out meals to students because school is not in session.
In the weeks since our nation woke up to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless parents and caregivers have found themselves floundering to figure out how to balance the needs of their children suddenly at home all day. What happened to everyone’s schedule that centered around their students’ school hours? It was gone indefinitely and with it came a vacuum that appeared to threaten students’ ability to continue to learn and thrive in their respective grades.
The good news has been that veteran teachers and homeschool parents extended their expertise to friends and local communities via social media and news outlets to help out immediately during late March and early April. Thankfully other public centers of learning like science museums, educational websites, and celebrities such as children’s author Mo Willems offered virtual classes and online educational sessions free of charge to homebound students. Even at this writing, virtual story times are being offered by local libraries or by beloved public figures such as former First Lady Michele Obama. These lifelines help flustered parents who have had to balance work at home and are to log their children into these free programs available while waiting for their respective schools to initiate distance and online curriculums in a matter of days. The “virtual village” stepped up to help raise our children during an unprecedented pandemic on America’s soil.
Then came the next phase of the stay-at-the-home educational process with the schools catching up and launching their virtual learning processes. The methodology varied from state to state, district and towns with one uniting factor that students would continue the course of their students at home without the familiar surroundings of their classrooms and teachers. While this virus has the medical frontlines occupied, America’s households became ground zero for our children’s education.
Reneé Flowers, a veteran teacher at Tullahoma High School in Tennessee writes, “While this situation is crazy — I also love it for multiple reasons: 1) the parents are involved at a level that they may not have been before and they get to see exactly what their children know and don’t know, 2) the communication between home has become more important than ever, and 3) these circumstances illuminate the need for data-driven decisions for students on an individual level.” Additionally, federal programs like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core” were trying over the course of decades to address issues that in a matter of weeks have come to the forefront of many American homes in a way that parents and educators alike couldn’t have conceived.
For other education workers, they have realized that being removed from the busy school environment has helped free up their time to focus on their students, whether they’re teaching curriculum or serving mental-health needs. Some faculty members may also be finding that they can better balance their own household’s needs. All the while also attending to their students in their respective locations using technology platforms such as Zoom or Google hangouts and such. Leslie Sporré, a guidance counselor who works in the Connecticut school system, shares that she is finding that this stay-at-home time is helping her know her own children better: “My first grader can work for 45 minutes and, in teaching him at home, I can give him frequent movement breaks and outdoor time so he is the most efficient and actually excited to learn. With all of the family time and physical activity and breaks built in, he is thriving!”
Again, it is worth mentioning once more that we should take a collective look at the gaping holes that we also see in our educational system when it comes to the ability of some students to thrive while others barely survive. A colleague of mine teaches in the St. Lucie county district in Florida and is reporting that out of her 20 students, only 12 are actually logging on for her online class session every day. “My students are so little that they rely on help and guidance from an adult to be able to participate in online school…when I finally get the parents on the phone, they tell me all their drama, toxic chaos and excuses why they can’t help their own child.” For this teacher, this moment in our American educational history has exposed the direct connection that can exist between home life situations and educational success. Children may be sharing even more of what their fractured homes are like when able to finally speak with their teachers whom they miss very much during this time of separation due to the novel coronavirus.
My hope is that this COVID-19 Pandemic Pause of 2020 will help generate some data and academic results to help both educators and the families of our American students find out how we can better serve them in our public and private educational processes. I’m sure most Americans can agree that this crisis has helped generate an untold amount of gratitude toward all educators of students that have had their school experience up-ended temporarily.
Final Note: Congratulations to the class of 2020, you are graduating during an incredible time and whether you can see it now or not, you will be stronger for it in years to come.
Welcome to Friday of the first week of homeschool, online, virtual, or whatever new form of school you and your children just completed. This short blog piece is intended to congratulate and encourage you on your new journey as our American nation pulls together to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those vulnerable in our population.
And, truly, I mean it when I say you’re amazing as this first week of alternative site schooling ends. We now have the rest of the school year to get through this “new normal”.
From a Homeschooling Veteran’s Perspective
When all this unprecedented school closures started occurring in my corner of the world here in south Florida, I felt the anxiety of all my friends and fellow parents/caregivers here and wanted to help with any weblinks or advice I could lend. Last week is now a fuzzy memory of what our normal lives were as this week is like we’ve all stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass to a new dimension with the same characters but the landscape feels so different and otherworldly.
As this first week unfolded, I was impressed by the creativity of various parents/caregivers with setting up their school spaces versus their work-from-home spaces. Some were able to carve out spaces from their living room or kitchen areas. Others adopted the notion that where each student was comfortable worked well even if it meant sitting on their bed or in a cozy reading nook.
Also, I would like to thank many other moms who inspired my own program by sharing ideas of how to help others like having students write notes to those who are stuck in nursing homes without visitors or encouraging cards for the medics who are on the front lines of dealing with those suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19.
Even though I’m a mother who’s been doing the home- and multi-schooling thing for several years, I can get into habitual ruts and found this past week to be invigorating when reading about other households and how they approached this new world of blending school and work into the domestic home front. The comic relief shared between family and friends has also been a priceless and necessary help for our collective mental health.
Yes, Learning Can Be Messy
At risk of offering more unsolicited advice, I feel the need to tell parents and caregivers to not be too hard on yourself when you look around at the “school” area in your home and realize it’s devolved into a messy affair. This may be mostly true for those who have elementary school and younger children in their midst. However, it can also occur for those who are older and perhaps are having the opportunity to create and experiment in ways they were unable to in the conventional school setting.
Again, you’re doing great and perhaps having a mess is a nice visual to help us all honor our school janitorial staffs even more. Another inspiration for me this week was how many parents/caregivers started giving their children “life lessons” right away in how to help clean up in the home itself. I will start applying some of those ideas in my own school area as I’m certainly not a good janitor.
As for the inevitable bickering that can occur between siblings, I’ve applied the same mantra to my own as maybe many of you have this week. I remind my students that whether it’s their brother or sister is irrelevant, the conflicts they practice with them will come back again with their friends, future romantic relationships, work mates, and so on. It helps to diffuse the current frivolity by presenting a vision of what the future holds for them one day. Conflict resolution is a constant life skill that we can help our students recognize today.
You Must Do What Works for Your Household
What’s truly new about this experience for many is that your children are now at home and not in the fold of the school building. They’re now in your building. The stress for everyone is at a level I’m not sure we can measure at this point. Many others like myself would like to take this moment to say that you must do what works for your household.
If that means Spring Break starts this week, then so be it. If that means your school meets on the living room couch, so be it. If that means you let all your elementary school-aged kids out into the backyard for a few hours a day instead of sitting at a desk, by all means so be it. If that means no screens, great but if it means screens everywhere then so it shall be.
If there is anything I can share in terms of advice from my perspective as a homeschooling mother, it’s that having students at home means being flexible and ready to change the lesson plan and schedule as quickly as our kids have their growth spurts and mood swings. We are receivers in a way and can only respond to help nurture and calm at times. The school curriculum can wait if a snuggle or a rest period is in order.
In short, you make the call on what works for your household and the students therein and no one is grading you but you. Please give yourself grace. Remember that not only does it feel like your home is in a state of chaos, outside at the regular grocery store we see a surreal sight daily:
We’re All in This Together
School districts and the various private schools have spent this week scrambling together their efforts to rewrite and create a new path forward for how they will decimate your students’ curriculum for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year. We’ve all had to exercise patience under the most stressful of circumstances that our population has known, save that of the WWII generation.
In the meantime, it has been heartwarming to witness how parents and caregivers have pulled together to share ideas, information, and simply recognize what an incredible job school teachers and faculty have every day under normal circumstances. I appreciate the sharing of ideas through social media of how to help others, online school and learning ideas, and groups with chats online to help parents and teachers alike. Thank you all for what you’re doing to help not just those new to the homeschooling/virtual schooling arena, but also assisting us homeschool veterans.
In these abnormal circumstances, may we continue to remember that we’re all in this together.
It’s also more important than ever to share with each other if anyone is struggling and needs financial assistance, help with new ideas for homebound activities, and just commiserating with sharing photos of our respective cups of tea or glasses of wine to celebrate the end of each week:
I cannot applaud everyone enough as you navigate what works for you and your household as you figure out what facilitates your children’s learning at home—especially for those of you who must also delicately balance having to work from home, still leave home for work, or in some cases having just lost your paying job.
Note: It cannot be said enough, may all our hearts and spirits continue to send love and pray for those affected by today’s shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.
For most parents, today’s news will hit us as 9/11 did in that we will remember where we were, whom we were with and how quickly we wanted to get back to our children if they weren’t already physically with us.
In the quick moments I was able to share with other parents today I heard and read about a couple of things that concern me because it’s too reminiscent of that knee-jerk reaction we humans have when confronted with appalling behavior by another human(s).
Gun ban or gun control will be the word buzzing in the aftermath of today’s tragedy in Connecticut–perhaps even more so than when recent senseless shootings have occurred in our nation like Columbine, Beltway sniper shooters, the Arizona congresswoman and the Kansas City Chief football player. Unfortunately there is no true control over the sickness or outright evil that may transpire in one’s mind to execute such horrific outcomes in taking other lives. Banning guns completely to the public in our nation may help cut down gunshot crimes and yet would also mean that the possibility would rise we’d be seeing crime scenes so awful that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.
Homeschooling: Although I am personally in favor of homeschooling, it’s not because of random, unthinkable moments like today and Columbine. It’s understandable that many parents and caregivers these days are a nervous wreck when dropping off the children at a school that may have them be exposed to drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse by bullies or some kid who was disgruntled and sick arriving to massacre. These days there are so many choices for a child’s education that we cannot blindly choose homeschooling or any other option out of fear that our children will be vulnerable–again, we cannot control this random variable manifest by illness or pure evil.
There certainly needs to be a lengthy conversation on whether we need to consider various new regulations on issuing gun licenses and purchases but let’s not “invade Iraq” by trying to take away the right to bear arms.
The issue of safety at the educational institution is in a constant state of revision and it will continue to take the faculty, students and families of those students to find what is the right path at this time.
May we find a way to get through this for those close to the pain and those who hurt for them.