I’ve had lots of questions about homeschooling in the past few days, from people who know I’ve been homeschooling my 10yo and 6yo for the last 5 years. And while I’m pretty clueless about homeschooling during a pandemic, I can offer the 4 valuable ‘R’s of homeschooling to all those families suddenly joining us from around the globe.

This one’s for parents. Put your lifejackets on first! The scourge of homeschooling in normal circumstances is overwhelm. Who knows what this will be like in the next few weeks/months, but I can offer you some personal reassurance here: even if your kids don’t officially learn anything in the next 6 months or so, I’m pretty sure it will all be okay in the long run. I can confirm I have already put this to the test, and it works! Homeschoolers often try to ‘life learn’ as much as possible, by just having a good time and doing interesting stuff, until we freak ourselves out with all the unbridled freedom, begin madly printing worksheets and go all Demon Headmaster on our confused, chilled-out offspring.

Kids will catch up super fast when they are ready. My dyslexic/dyscalculia daughter took a couple of years longer than standard to master the 1-10 maths basics (and I lost a lot of sleep over this), but when she finally got it, she was doing multi-digit multiplication within the next year. Plus, the little sponges won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll keep learning because it’s what we all do 24/7 anyway: even if they only learn how many toilet rolls their parents panic buy in a pandemic. The key is to channel their learning away from parental indiscretions into more fruitful areas.

My kids seem to like it, just not when it reaches military levels. One of the last questions they usually ask me at night is what the plan is for tomorrow (and my response is ether smug or irritated, depending on how organized I am). However, over time I have devised a general plan, which goes, in this order:

Health and self-care first: exercise, get dressed, take any vitamins, etc.
Some core schoolwork: the basics, as interesting as I can make it (success rate: variable)
Playtime: i.e. do what you like because mum is busy/needs a rest
Projects: all the fun we can muster in hands-on subjects (again, success rate: variable). In the olden days (i.e. a fortnight ago) this often used to involve us leaving the house for extracurricular activities.
Time outside and fresh air if possible.
Chilling out/dinner/stories/bed
NB: This plan goes smoothly approximately one day a week, if I’m lucky.

Ah we homeschoolers love a good resource! In fact, we are all like pigs in mud at the moment because so many online education sites have kindly made free resources to help everyone out. The homeschooler printers are burning hot! Mine too, even though I already have enough great resources to educate the nation, and it is with great sadness that I know I will only get through about 1% of them during the course of our homeschooling years.

Resources are another avenue for overwhelm. Google can quickly feel like a large black hole of helpfulness. I suggest you pick just a few resources, good ones that interest you and your kids, and do them slowly and well. As a starting point, Twinkl.com.au are offering free year resource packs at the moment. (https://www.twinkl.com.au – I think this is an international site too, so check out .co.uk and .com also.)

My kids thrive on responsibility. Give them a little feeling of power and being in charge of something (even if it’s just being above the pecking order with the pets) and they will lap it up. Look for ingenious ways to pass on your to do list. My husband and I share a secret high-five each time our daughter thinks it’s a bonus to clean the guinea pig cage because we let her listen to her audio book while she does it. Work those angles and be sneaky, parents! Your sanity matters!

Finally, I’ll leave you with a story. Yesterday I took my 10 yo daughter to the shops. We went to get a few things, see what was left and marvel (her)/worry (me) about the emptying aisles. My daughter loves collecting dead bugs for her entomology collection (she did not get this interest from me!) and on the way out she spotted a much longed-for Christmas beetle (already deceased). The joy in her voice and excitement in her face as she knelt over it and tenderly collected this tiny cadaver for her collection made me whip my phone out, trying to catch the moment. Which was, of course, impossible. But it’s one I’ll remember. In part due to her fabulous reaction, but also because I’m very aware that on another day we would have been hurrying in and out of that shop so fast we would probably have missed it.

Happy homeschooling. Stay well, stay safe, stay sane!