There’s a Facebook group that I joined today to help parents forced into homeschooling because of coronavirus concerns. Either their kids’ school has closed, or they’ve voluntarily taken their kids out of school because someone in the family is immunocompromised, or they’re just not comfortable sending their kids to school right now. All of those are fair enough reasons.
So I’ve been commenting on a few posts, trying to help, and I find myself getting agitated at certain questions. Thought I’d do a blog post on it to get my thoughts out, and hopefully not be agitated when I’m trying to help people in there!
Many parents have posted questions about what to do if the school isn’t happy that they’ve pulled their kids out of school. So they’ve rung the school up in the morning and said their child(ren) won’t be in school for a while, and the receptionist has given them a hard time about ‘unexcused absences.’
Here’s the thing. They don’t live with your kids. YOU DO. They don’t look after your children’s health. YOU DO. They’re not the ones who get to make the decisions about whether or not your child attends school. YOU ARE.
So who’s the boss? YOU ARE.
All you need to tell the school is this: “Hi, school secretary. My kids will be staying home from school until this pandemic has settled down. I’ll let you know when they’re coming back. Thanks, bye.”
That’s it. You don’t owe them any more explanation than that.
You can send an email if you don’t feel you can stand your ground on the phone or in person. You don’t need to lie and say they’re sick if they’re not. Just calmly state the situation and leave it there.
If they ring you up to hassle you about why your kids aren’t in school, you don’t have to answer the phone.
You don’t need to be rude or arrogant either. Don’t stoop to their level if that’s where they want to go. Just say, “Sorry, this isn’t a good time right now,” and hang up.
You can do this. I have faith in you!
This is the first in a series of homeschool day-in-the-life type posts. I don’t know how many installments I’ll do. Maybe it’ll just be this one. Maybe I’ll do it for a week, or two, or several months. We’ll see.
See, I know a lot of people are having work shutdowns and their kids’ schools closing, and you’re kinda being forced to homeschool. And I’m sure that’s overwhelming to you since you’ve always just sent your kids to school like Normal People do. You don’t know it any other way.
So here’s what I’m gonna do for you. I’m gonna tell you what we did today in our homeschool. Every day, for as long as I can manage it. Because it doesn’t have to be stressful, or overwhelming, or ridiculously structured.
And I hope you’ll see from my posts that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do school every day (gasp!) or even at the same time every day. Home based learning doesn’t have to look like school.
So. Grab your cup of coffee and have a read. Or go hide in the toilet and read. Whatever works for you. Here’s what we did today.
Monday 16 March, 2020
8:40 Elijah (16 months) wakes me up wanting a feed, but doesn’t go back to sleep. He’s awake for the day. It’s a respectable time to get up (for a homeschooler) so I’m not too fussed. Get up and go to the toilet. Chuckie (8) is reading on the couch.
8:45 Make my cup of tea. Give Elijah some veggies left over from last night’s dinner. Sit down and check Facebook, email, laugh at coronavirus memes. Wonder if I should go shopping today instead of Wednesday, because supermarkets appear to be running out of meat. Not good for a family that likes to be keto as much as possible. And the farmer I emailed last night asking about getting a side of beef hasn’t responded yet – but he usually doesn’t till the middle of the day or evening, so I try to be patient.
9:00 (I think?) Micah (3) is awake and comes out for a cuddle. I tell him to go wee in the shower, but he doesn’t make it. So I grab a couple of flat terry nappies to wipe up the puddle in the kitchen…and the bathroom…
9:47 Look at the clock and realise the morning got away from me. Oh well.
9:50 Caleb (12, almost 13) wanders out of his bedroom.
10:00 Darrin wanders out of the bedroom half awake. Yay! I can go shopping WITHOUT KIDS!
10:05 I go get dressed, then check the Adelaide Costco group on Facebook. Apparently it’s nuts there, and there’s no toilet paper or mince (ground beef/hamburger). So not worth it today.
10:10 Micah comes out carrying a shirt and undies, but no pants – and wearing only his pajama shirt. He puts those on and then I take him outside to find some pants off the washing line.
10:15 I decide I can’t be bothered nagging kids about schoolwork today, so I tell them they can have a day off from their workbooks. Everyone’s happy.
10:20 All the kids are playing outside now. Peace and quiet inside for a few minutes.
10:30 Leave the house to go to Aldi. Decide on the way out of our street that I’ll try the NEW Aldi (which is actually closer, but trickier to get to) instead of my usual one.
10:35 Arrive at Aldi and get my trolley. Go inside and I can’t believe my eyes – 99c/kg for bananas! They’re upwards of $3.50/kg everywhere else. Grab as much as I can and shove in a produce bag – which breaks and drops my bananas on the floor. Separate them into TWO produce bags, and put them in my trolley.
10:36-11:10 Load up my trolley with meat, veg, random stuff we actually need like washing liquid and paper towels. Yes, we’re running low on toilet paper, but we have enough for at least another week, and there’s none on the shelves anyway.
11:10 Line up in the checkout queue. Somebody behind me puts the separator bar too close to my stuff and starts unloading their trolley. I have to shove things in wherever they fit. Ugh.
11:25 Check my email in the carpark, and find the first real thing that the coronavirus has disrupted for my family. We had an appointment scheduled with the US consulate on Friday to get our youngest two boys their Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (basically proves that they have US citizenship because they were born to a US citizen), but they’ve cancelled the trip to do it in Adelaide. So we’ll have to wait for a reschedule.
11:30 Arrive home. Big 2 kids unload the car and bring stuff inside. The cat escapes, and Caleb catches him to bring him back in.
11:35 The littlest wants some Mum time, so I sit on the recliner with him. I finally realise that he’s probably upset about his wet nappy, so I give him to Caleb to change him. “Can’t you smell him?!” he exclaims. Nope, honestly, I didn’t smell him. But I’m not sad about that.
12:00 Go in the kitchen and put the food away. Darrin starts an electronics lesson with Chuckie, then a friend rings to ask him something. He’s on the phone for roughly forever talking, while the youngest 2 kids compete for the Loudest Child Ever award. I get Caleb to take them outside so it’s quieter.
12:30 What, is it that time already? Crap. I haven’t even started lunch. Start cooking lunch.
1:15 Lunch is finally ready. Feed everyone, including myself.
1:30 This is the time we were supposed to be at the park doing a nature walk with our homeschool group, but we’re still eating. Don’t think that’s gonna happen for us today.
1:40 Pretty much everyone has finished eating, except Chuckie (who likes to take his time with everything) and Micah. Elijah’s ready for his nap, so I feed him and he crashes. I tell Darrin that during this crisis, I probably shouldn’t take the little kids to the shops, since they always touch everything. I should go alone. Oh darn. I’m SO upset.
2:12 Darrin’s work alarm goes off, so he starts to get ready for work.
2:40-ish Darrin leaves for work. I put Elijah in bed.
2:45 Caleb asks if he can use his computer. I say no because I’m stirring him, but he sulks off to his room anyway. (He does have a tendency to obsess over his computer…)
3:00 Chuckie still isn’t finished with his responsibilities (chores, shower, etc.) so I tell him we probably won’t get to the park at all because everyone will be going home by now. Oh well.
3:01 Caleb asks again if he can use his computer. I ask him to chill out, and he gives me attitude. I tell him it’s entirely possible if he’d reacted differently I would have let him, but not now. “Oh,” he says, and heads back to his room.
3:15 Micah wants paper to draw on, but refuses to use the other side of the paper he’s already been drawing on. Cue the tantrum.
3:30 I sit down and start to write this epistle.
3:45 Chuckie is finally finished with his list. He asks if he can play on screens, I say yes, but Munzee first (we have a family clan and we need daily activity for prizes).
3:55 Caleb comes out and gets ready to use his computer (the rule is if they’re finished with their lists by 4 pm, they can use screens till 6).
4:00 I realise I haven’t turned the page on my planner, then notice stray papers on my desk that need to be dealt with.
4:12 It’s quiet. The bigger 2 are playing on screens. Micah is watching Chuckie. Elijah is sleeping. Ahh… I decide to laminate some stuff. End up laminating roughly a billion recipes I’ve printed out over the years and decided to keep. (Only the good ones, not everything.)
4:40 Go help Micah make his bed. Make sure he puts his clothes away. Give him a chore to do (sweeping, it’s not gonna be perfect because he’s 3 but it gives him something to do).
5:05 Elijah wakes up. I know he’ll be up a little late tonight, but I’m not too bothered because he had a nice LONG nap. And I’m making another cup of tea to get me through the evening.
5:15 Sit down while Micah goes to tidy his toys (because he wants to play on screens too!) and the minute I sit down, Elijah starts yelling. He wanted to go in the big boys’ bedroom but he’s not allowed. Poor baby. So he goes into the lounge and starts eating Micah’s lunch leftovers instead.
5:20 Micah comes out of his room yelling, “My hat got broken! Fix it!” Then, “I need to get a new hat!” I fix the hat, check his room, and tell him he can play on the computer for a while.
5:30 Elijah brings Micah’s plate over to me and dumps everything on the floor. Rice everywhere.
5:40 I get the dustbuster out of the laundry room and clean up all the rice. Realise I forgot that I had towels in the washing machine that I was bleaching, and needed to soak…so they didn’t soak after all. Can’t be bothered going back and doing it over again, so I just put the detergent in and run it on the wash cycle.
5:50 The 10 minute warning for the kids to get off screens goes off on my phone. Chuckie puts away his screen (it’s running low on battery anyway) and Micah tries to argue that he doesn’t need to get off the computer. I tell him no, he doesn’t need to YET but he will in 10 minutes.
5:58 Caleb shuts down his computer. I tell you folks, this is MOMENTOUS. Usually I have to nag him for another 5-10 minutes and threaten to switch off the power point to get him off. Today he does it himself with no nagging, and before time’s up. I ask him if he’s feeling ok, maybe he has coronavirus? He rolls his eyes at me.
6:00 The ‘get off your screens NOW’ alarm goes off on my phone. Micah wants to keep playing. I say no, it’s time to get off. He screams his little lungs out. I turn off the computer. He screams louder. I pick him up to give him a cuddle. He keeps screaming. I’m almost deaf now. Finally get him calmed down and he goes to watch a short video with his brothers while I try to figure out what we’ll have for dinner. I decide there’s enough leftovers in the fridge, so I won’t cook anything. No problem.
6:10 Move the car out of the way so Caleb can get the bins out to the street for collection in the morning.
6:20 Can’t remember if I set the temperature on the washing machine to ‘hot’ or not for the white towels. Argh. I don’t think I did…
6:25 Make sure everyone goes and grabs some leftovers for dinner.
6:45 Caleb comes out of his bedroom in his pajamas. Already? It’s not even 7!
6:50 Decide to make some seed crackers. Mix up all the ingredients while my dinner is in the microwave. Let the cracker mixture sit for 10 minutes while I eat my dinner.
7:20-ish Put the crackers in the oven and bake. Run the load of towels again, this time with hot water.
7:30 Find a puddle on the floor in the lounge room. I ask Micah what happened? He said he did a wee in his pants. ARGH. Send him to the bathroom to clean up, ask Chuckie to get a terry and wipe up the mess. Send Micah to get his jammies on.
7:45 See the video on my timeline from our church, stating that all services and all gatherings have been suspended for 3 weeks. Tell Darrin in our chat. He says he expects to be off work by the end of the week. He’s a bus driver. They’ve started being really meticulous about cleaning the buses and everything, but still…that’s a lot of work every night to clean & disinfect every bus. And tram carriage. And train carriage. Fortunately Darrin doesn’t have any part of that – he just drives them.
8:05-ish Talk to the kids, at least the older ones, about what’s going to happen. The fact that I don’t really know what’s going to happen, and that their dad might be off work for a while so we won’t be able to afford any extra stuff like chicken & chips from across the road, ordering pizza, etc. Caleb’s most concerned about his birthday party on the 27th – we’re supposed to have a BBQ at the park, but if they start restricting gatherings and things of that nature, we might have to change plans. I’d rather not, but it’s a possibility. But thanks to my trip out this morning, at least we have enough food for a couple of weeks.
8:35 Check the crackers. Not quite done. Put them in for another half hour. Go read to Micah.
8:55 Tell Micah it’s time to stop reading books and go to bed. He tries to argue with me, of course. But I deflect it the usual way, and he hasn’t worked out yet that I can deflect it so easily – I ask him, “do you want to go turn off the light?” Instantly he’s agreeable again. So he goes and turns off the light. I ask Caleb to go find Micah’s stuffed Minion and his drink. Chuckie comes in to go to bed and climbs up on the top bunk.
9:05 I walk out of the kids’ bedroom to go check my crackers again. Now they’re done. I leave them on the freezer to cool (we have a chest freezer we use as a cooking surface, because our kitchen is too small). Caleb and I sit down to watch Star Trek: Voyager.
9:50 Voyager finishes. Elijah’s still awake and fidgety. Not surprising since he only woke up from his nap 5 hours ago. So we watch another episode.
10:30 The second episode finishes, and Elijah is a total lump on my lap. I get up and put him in bed. He doesn’t even need resettling this time, he’s so far gone.
10:45-11ish Peel the seed crackers off the baking paper. Can’t say I’m a fan of Aldi’s baking paper, except the fact that it’s wider than the Glad Bake I’d been using previously.
11:10 I check my email and find a message from our Boys Brigade captain. The ANZAC Day events have been cancelled. This means Caleb doesn’t have to go to a rehearsal, or the vigil the night before. (About 20 years or so ago, the ANZAC memorial was vandalized the night before ANZAC Day. Since then, youth organisations in & around Adelaide have held a vigil at the memorial to stop it happening again. Boys Brigade is one of the organisations that attends the vigil.)
11:15 Warm up some frozen strawberries in the microwave and pour cream over them for a snack. Caleb finally stops talking about Minecraft, shuts his door, and goes to bed.
11:25 Sit down at my computer to write out the rest of the day, and try to remember approximate times for everything we did today.
11:40 Realise I’m feeling pretty tired, so think about going to bed.
11:45 Start writing the intro to this blog post, then copy & paste everything in. Make a few edits. Hit publish.
I’m a part of several Facebook groups for small biz owners. I’m noticing more and more are homeschooling! This is great, because I’m homeschooling my kids too. It’s good to be in contact with others who are doing homeschooling and home business.
It’s a lot to have on your plate, for sure – homeschooling and home business. So some planning and forethought is definitely required!
If you’re on the fence about whether to send your kids to school or homeschool them, here are three words to bear in mind.
Simplicity. My husband and I have decided that for the most part, we’ll focus on the three R’s, and let everyday life and the kids’ interests take care of the rest. Because when a child can read, they can learn about whatever they want through reading about it. If they can read and do basic arithmetic, they can get by quite well in society.
The workbooks we’ve decided on for our boys are things that they can do on their own. Sometimes they’ll ask for help, and that’s okay! We don’t expect them to know everything, because they’re learning. But when you have multiple children, a home business to run, and the regular home upkeep, it’s good that they can work on their own for the most part.
Flexibility. This is important, because no two days are the same. Some days you’ll have a sick kid, or an excursion (field trip). Sometimes you’ll decide to go on holiday (vacation) during the normal school term – because you can! And those days when you have meet-ups with other homeschooling families, and take care of that thing that non-homeschoolers always worry about – socialisation!
And then some days, you just need a mental health day, and tell the kids to watch TV.
Rhythm. Sort of like a schedule, but not as strict! Our rhythm most days means schoolwork & chores in the morning, then lunch, then kids on their computers while I work in my office. My husband’s work start times are different each day, so sometimes we’ll have lunch at 12, and other days not till 1:30 or 2. But regardless of the actual time that everything happens, it happens in a certain order most days. This way, we all know what to expect, and everything gets done.
Often, I’ll do some work in my office after the kids are in bed. Or if I’m still getting the baby to sleep, I’m on the couch watching Buffy. 😉
And we try to keep to this rhythm during the school holidays, too – although without so much book work!
So this is how we do homeschooling and home business.
Are you homeschooling? How do you do it?
Most of you, I assume, take your kids to school in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon, and the hours in between are your working hours.
My family is a little different. We’re homeschooling. Now, the reasons for that are many and varied, but the main thing you’re probably thinking right now is “How the heck do you manage to work at home when your kids are ALWAYS there?!”
Or, maybe you’re considering homeschooling, and wondering how the two can fit together.
So I’d like to share a typical weekday in the Smith house.
A day in the life of a homeschooling family
8 am: My alarm goes off. I get up, check social media, emails, and play games on my tablet for a few minutes to get adjusted to the day. I know a lot of people recommend against this, but it works for me. Also, I usually make myself a cup of tea, and try to remember to drink it before it goes cold!
Anywhere from 7-9 am: My kids wake up. If I’m lucky, they wake up AFTER I do, and I get a bit of peace & quiet to start the day off, which REALLY helps. If I’m not, they wake me up with their fighting at 7:30, and I know a miserable day is ahead.
9 am: My 8 year old starts his lessons in my office/sewing room. We use workbooks for most of his learning. Until this week, he was working on them in the lounge, whilst his younger brother was playing nearby. This week, we began letting him use my office, and things go much smoother. He doesn’t complain as much, and it takes him half as long!
10 am: My husband gets up. He’s a bus driver and works the night shift, so he HAS to sleep late. This is the point where I can go off to the shops if I need something, even if it’s just a half hour break from kids fighting! (Yes, even homeschooled kids fight. Can’t get away from that one, I’m afraid.)
11 am: My husband spends about an hour with the kids, teaching maths, science, or geography. While they’re doing this, I usually tackle the dishes and cook lunch.
12 or 12:30: we all eat lunch together and watch something on TV. The 8 year old likes Megastructures at the moment, but if Dad has his way, it’s Top Gear. Actually, any engineering show goes over well with most of us. What can I say? We’re geeks. 😉
1 pm or so: I go into my office and work until my husband needs to go to work. This doesn’t happen every day. My husband’s schedule varies, and he starts work anywhere from 2 pm to nearly 5 pm. On the late start days, I get a lot of work done in the afternoon.
After Dad goes to work: mostly we all just potter around, play on computers/tablets, watch a bit of TV, play. Sometimes, if the kids are quiet enough (but not TOO quiet!) I can get some work done while they play. On Friday afternoons, we usually meet up with our homeschooling group at a local park.
6-7 pm: dinner time. The kids & I are pretty laid back about dinner. Sometimes I just tell them to grab their own (if there’s enough grab-able food in the fridge), and other nights I cook something for all of us.
8 pm: Start bedtime routine. (I’ve never understood why people think kids should go to bed at 7. That just means they get up earlier!)
9 pm: In bed listening to music with the kids. Once the 3 year old falls asleep, I’m free to do whatever I want.
Sometimes I work after the kids are in bed. Sometimes I’m so knackered from getting them to bed that all I want to do is curl up on the couch with whatever TV show I’m currently watching.
Then, anywhere between 10:30 and 1 am, my husband gets home from work. I’m in bed at 12, but rarely asleep when he gets home. So we chat a bit about how our nights have been, then he usually watches something on TV and comes to bed later.
For the moment, this works for my family. I know that things will change as life goes on, and we’ll adjust. I’ll still make time to get my work done.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to mean the end of your biz. It can actually be an educational tool too!