More (probably unnecessary) Homeschool advice

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Tips from Johanni Ackermann

A few people have asked me advice for the sudden reality of home-schooling they have been catapulted in overnight. At first I was reluctant, there’s SO MUCH advice out there. And who am I to add my voice to the already screaming masses? But here it is, in my six years of having my children with me at home every single day and before that being a teacher. I think I can compare the two scenarios and try and add my two pence. 

1. You ARE going to fail.

Because you are human. You are going to be very tired at the end of the day. That’s normal. Wanting to cry and feeling frustrated is normal too. Embrace it! It brings you closer to God. It makes you depend on Him more. He meets us in our brokenness. I find it helps if I pray every morning before I open my eyes for extra grace and patience and love for each of my children. And wisdom and discernment. 

2. Lower your expectations.

The teacher gave you a mountain of work not knowing when this will end. She DOES NOT do all that work every day with those children. Relax! So much time is spent on admin and discipline and getting the herd organised. By the time the children go back to school she’ll re-assess. These are unprecedented times. The teacher also doesn’t know how to home-school, she gave you work for a classroom setting, not a home-schooling setting. 

3. Every child has a love tank.

You need to fill it each morning otherwise there are lots of tears and unwanted behaviour the rest of the day. For my son that means lots of cuddles and tickles and for my daughter it means paying attention to whatever she’s telling me in the morning and playing along in one of her imaginative games. If your child acts out during the day, stop whatever you are doing and just hold them for a while, or affirm them, or spend some quality time (depending on what their love language is.) More often than not negative behaviour is a cry for your attention. 

4. You have one of two choices: stick to the regiment or ditch the program and try a different way!

Some people feel safe in the regiment and that’s fine. They’re even good at getting their children to march in line! But you can try something different. Here is a secret: the best way to teach a child is through relationship! Build that relationship! Chat with them over tea. Build puzzles. Play board games. Bake cakes. Do what you enjoy doing too. I love reading, so I’ll read to my children for hours. I don’t like ball games so that they do on their own outside in the afternoon. But I don’t feel guilty about it because I have invested in their lives in a way that I can manage! 

5. The only thing you really must worry about is their maths and language.

I would say for everyone up to primary school age you only need to spend time on these two subjects. For a five/six year old there will be fifteen minute segments of each. Older children slightly longer. So 15 minutes letter recognition, 15 minutes reading aloud, 15 minutes CVCs, 15 minutes word recognition, 15 minutes counting, 15 minutes adding, 15 minutes subtraction, 15 minutes penmanship. You get the picture. You should be busy with structured learning for 2 hours AT MOST. NOTHING ELSE NEEDS TO BE STRUCTURED. My children have a blast with sticky tape and glue and paper. I don’t need to guide them in that. Only in the cleaning up afterwards! 

6. Even if you don’t get round to the maths and language they’ll be fine if you read to them. 

When you read what we call ‘living books’ (so not text books and books about interesting subjects) they learn so much! They expand vocabulary, learn how to formulate a sentence, learn about diction and they learn to visualise things in their mind, an important skill needed for both maths and creative writing. 

EXAMPLE: I’ll take the example of Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. It has penguins, explorers, the North Pole, the South Pole etc. You can look at maps, read more about penguins, watch a penguin documentary, read more about famous explorers, plan an explorer survival kit, learn to read a compass and a map, all from just reading a book about a family who got a penguin in the mail. And I don’t know about you, but I also enjoy learning new things! (For a list of English classics per age see Surely there must be one for other language groups too? AND a lot of them are available, as pdf’s online since their copyright have expired.) 

7. Keep screen time for late afternoon when your nerves are frazzled, and you need to cook supper.

Screen time is like drugs. (Type in ‘Digital Cocaine’ and watch a Youtube video by Brad Huddleston). They want more of it and it leaves them lethargic and in a bad mood for the rest of the day if they start out with it. Your child does NOT need to do ANYTHING educational that involves a screen. Their brain function is NOT heightened when doing ‘educational’ things on a screen as much as it is with reading a book. AND try to put away your phone for AT LEAST the morning. You’ll survive without it! 

8. When tempers flare go out into nature.

Even if it’s just your pavement where they can draw with chalk and you can look at the trees and the sky. Also, say sorry when you lose your temper. 

9. Set boundaries.

I need to take a mental break around lunch time. My children know that for half-an hour after everyone’s had their lunch I sit on the couch and read a book. They can be with me in the room, but they can’t ask me questions or chat to me. And that’s fine too! They had my attention the whole morning. 

10. Take a day off.

Do something different. Bake together and eat the cake for tea time. Work in the garden. Do chores together. Anything that floats your boat. I’ll say it again, these are NOT normal times we’re living in. Who knows when schools will re-open? Use this time to invest in your relationship. 

11. And then the word that fills all school-going children’s parents with fear: SOCIALIZATION. 

Oh dear, what now?? NO friends all day till June? Unless you live with a pack of wolves (and even wolves have complex social structures) your child socializes ALL DAY with OTHER HUMANS. Socialization does NOT mean they only interact with their peers. They can learn all the things they learn from their peers from YOU or your husband and their siblings. Shock! Gasp! Horror! And you can teach them good socialization skills to boot. How to greet properly, how to enquire after someone’s health, how to ask nicely, have a proper two-way conversation in full sentences or how to handle conflict without name-calling, fist fights, bullying (the way children would resolve things). I would say those are great socialization skills that they do not just ‘pick up’ from their peers. You can teach them that! 

12. Don’t be scared. You can do this.

For years you’ve been fed the idea that the school knows best about educating your child, but that’s just not true, YOU do. You care about your child the most. You love them most and you have a good relationship with them. They can learn SO MUCH more from you than from anyone else! Use this time to invest in them. It is endlessly difficult, but it is SO REWARDING. No relationships in life are easy, why do we shun away from the ones we have with our children? You will grow in ways you did not think possible. Also in your walk with God. Stop the negative talk, enjoy the journey. IT IS DIFFICULT. But God entrusted your children to you. YOU CAN DO THIS!