8 Moms Across the Country on What Homeschool Looks Like in the Age of Covid-19:

Tomorrow marks six weeks since Parker and Ever last attended Kindergarten and Preschool. How is that possible?! There have been high highs and low lows in our adventures in homeschooling, but something that always seems to bring a sense of peace is talking to other parents about how homeschool is going in their home. I inevitably leave those conversations knowing that so many of the challenges happening at our dining room table each day are also occurring in makeshift school rooms in residences across the country. There have also been so many resources and ideas that friends have shared that feel like the greatest gift during this time. Last week 8 moms from San Francisco, Austin, New York and other places around the country were generous enough to share how homeschool is going for them. Here’s what they said:

Taryn, San Fransisco
part-time social worker, full-time mom

How old are your kids?

My kids are 5 1/2 (twins!) and almost 8 years old.

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

Right now, homeschool looks a lot like a one-room schoolhouse.  We start every morning together with a morning “pod” or meeting, which is basically just the date & a question for the day (usually something of the “would you rather” variety).  We are fortunate that Benton’s school has had a *very* thorough online program for almost a month now, and so he just hops on the iPad and is pretty independent with his work for a few hours.  Eve & Ezra have considerably less content from their teacher, so I use what she provides us (along with my own resources) to be sure we do a little reading, writing, and math every day.  At 10am we break for either group exercise or drawing, then grab a bunch of snacks and head outside for an adventure!  We are lucky that SF has no shortage of trails, wide open fields, and bike paths for us to explore.  We head home for lunch, and then the afternoons usually include some combination of screen-time, baking or crafting, and group games.  By dinner time, I’m exhausted :). but overall this rhythm is working for us.

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

The most challenging part of homeschool has been not having any alone time.  I will never again take for granted my solo bike ride to work, or even simple tasks like going to pick up lunch by myself.  I would have never described myself as an introvert before this, but even though I am still proud of my extroversion, I am realizing that I do need a little alone time here and there.

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?

My absolute favorite free app has been Edubuzzkids.com!  They have tons of great worksheets that are perfect for my kids’ age, and helps to supplement what they are (or are not) getting from school.

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

My best mom hack has been…. making the kids do more of the share of the household chores.  I realized that the secret to getting your kids to put their own clean laundry away is to not care what their drawers look like (haha).  Seriously though, today they helped me change their sheets, make their beds, put their clothes away, and clean the toilets.  There’s no rush to it, so we can actually have fun with it.  And I feel like I’m getting to spend quality time with them, rather than be annoyed by their presence when I’m trying to do chores.  It’s a boring one, but it’s giving me life!

Jacky, Austin
former and future teacher, current stay-at-home mom

How old are your kids?

8, 6, and 3

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

A good mix of movement time, creative time, and academic time. And also a juggling act at a circus.

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

Having a 3-year-old who can get frustrated when I am helping my school-aged children and not giving her full attention. I’m learning if I can find a way for her to participate with us, even for just a minute, it seems to satisfy her enough that she is then happy to go on her way and play independently for a bit. But the process of learning that wasn’t pretty.

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?

Magnatiles. I’m a former high school mathematics teacher and current nerd and have always loved them. But now becoming, for the first time ever, an elementary teacher, I’m finding so many ways to use magnatiles in learning…and not just in mathematics! We use them for sight word practice and even write on them with dry erase markers and attach magnetic letters to them. The possibilities are endless. But my three kids can also build creatively with them together pretty cooperatively and be satisfied for long periods. That’s a big win.

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

Put snack times on the schedule for the day with a specific time. Snacks happen then rather than every 15 minutes when they want to ask for one.

Rebecca, Northern Virginia
Owner of A Daily Something

How old are your kids?

6 1/2, 5, 2 1/2, 8 months!


What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

We homeschooled before COVID-19, but to be honest, it looks a lot different right now. We don’t do our regular trips to the library, soccer or ballet, play dates, or any outings. To keep our days fun and lighthearted, we’re spending as much time as possible outdoors – thank God for spring – and really focusing on embracing nature study. My kids are still young enough that we can do this. We’ve been gardening, foraging edible plants, doing as much school outside on picnic blankets, etc. We have a loose homeschool schedule I try to stick to (it’s on my blog here).

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

For me – staying focused and not getting distracted by the “need” to be working. I really have to separate my time working and my time mom-ing and homeschooling to be most efficient and productive at both!

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?

Amazon Fire TV has a few great phonics and early reading apps made by Dezol – “Sight Word Search” and “Learn Beginning Sounds” are two we’ve found to be very effective and nonsense free.

The kids really love when Joe does math with them – which we try to do several times per week. Dividing and conquering the homeschool day – if possible – makes a huge difference. Even if that means the kids are doing math with dad for 45 minutes after dinner. Whatever works for your family!

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

Haha! When all else fails: put on classical music, get out the watercolors, and let the kids go crazy! Tell them to look out the window and paint whatever they see. Works like a charm. Something about the classical music instantly calms everyone, and watercolor paints ALWAYS result in beautiful works of art! I LOVE seeing how each of my children interprets what they see out the window very differently!

Carmen, New York City
travel creator at Top Flight Family

How old are your kids?

I have two girls. Sean is 10 and in 5th grade, and Ella is 7 and in 2nd grade.

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

We’ve finally settled into a bit of a routine. After showers and breakfast, we start at 9 am with reading. All three of us have our own books that we read silently for a half hour, then we spend 5-10 minutes summarizing what we just read.

Then we log onto Google Classroom and take a look at what their teachers assigned them for that day. Our schools are continuing to assign what I consider an unrealistic workload. If we did everything assigned, it would take us 7 to 8 hours per day. So I’ve let their teachers know that we will do as much as we can in 3 hours, and cap it at that. We prioritize English and math, and only tackle other subjects if there’s extra time.

I’m really not that concerned about academics right now. As long as we’ve maintaining a base level of English and math, that’s fine. It’s an epidemic. My main priority is to keep everyone in relatively good spirits, as this is going to be a marathon, not a race. So if the girls slip a little academically, so what? We’ll have plenty of time to catch up later, under better circumstances.

Our girls go to public school in NYC, but we were actually already planning to transition them to home school in September. So on the one hand, this has allowed us to dip or toes in those waters a little bit. But on the other hand, I don’t actually consider what we’re doing now to be “real” homeschooling. To me, a big part of homeschooling is actually deciding as a family what our kids are going to study, and finding creative ways for kids to learn. What we’re doing right now is just the same old public school as before, but done via distance learning.

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

The most challenging part for us is that my kids are still too young to be able to be fully self-sufficient in completing their assignments. So for those 3 hours, my attention has to be fully on them to help them out. I try to multi-task by having my laptop open so I can at least answer some emails while they work, but it never happens.

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?

They’re not very impressed with any of the online resources our schools have assigned, to be honest. The part they probably enjoy most about our new routine is reading.

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

I’d encourage parents not to stress about limiting screen time right now. Once the girls are done with schoolwork for the day, I pretty much let them watch as much as they want. What I’ve found is that after awhile they get bored with their screens, and imagination takes over, so they start doing other things, like playing with dolls, or toys, or creating crafts projects, or baking cookies in the kitchen. This is happening without me prompting them to put their screens away.

Margaret, Austin
managing editor of Wildsam

How old are your kids?

5 and 7. Well they would want you to know 5.5 and 7.5

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

Breakfast around 730 and school starts around 9. I typically run the morning and Matt has the afternoon shift. We each try and get in 1.5 hours of instruction. My rhythm is typically spelling and grammar workbooks for about 30, reading for 30 (Caroline can read chapter books to herself and I work with Ford on this book set that we LOVE) and then we write letters to friends/family. Plus they usually get around 30 mins to do epic reading, dreambox math or headsprouts reading. They also love mystery science. Matt focuses on math, science, etc in the afternoon.

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

Trying to keep excitement and energy up and honestly, integrating the school’s virtual learning. We are keeping that to a minimum.

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?

Headsprout for me and mystery science for them.

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

Writing letters! They love it and it is such a sweet way to stay in touch, practice writing and also alphabetizing (I have caroline look in their school directory for the right address). They’re getting so many back…it’s so cute and sort of like camp. I still make lunch everyday (during breakfast prep) in their lunch boxes. I actually think it’s small things like that that are helping a lot!

Liz, Oakland

founder of SayYes and The Huddle

How old are your kids?

12, 6, and 4

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

My 12 yr old has a pretty structured online school in the morning, usually until around noon. Then he and I do a HIIT workout together for his daily PE exercise requirement. My 6 yr old has a hard time with homeschool, there’s some zoom classes twice a week and a few activities but it’s hard to keep her on task and engaged. The 4 yr old is just a wild card here. She generally just likes to sit on my lap the entire time I try to ‘homeschool’ the 6 yr old (which only lasts from about 9-11 in the morning). No curriculum for my 4 yr old in preschool. It’s so hard!

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

The age spread and so many hats to wear while trying to run my own business and being a homeschooling teacher! Also, my kids are way more cooperative and motivated with their actual teachers. My 6 yr old for example is a perfect, cooperative student at school but quite the opposite at home!  Lastly, even on the best day they’re only going to do about 2-3 hours of work. How to keep them off screens the rest of the day is a challenge.

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?

They love Khan Academy, ABC Mouse, and EPIC reading apps. We also are starting Freckle this week for math with her school account.

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

A few things:
1. A youtube workout with my 12 yr old is a daily activity here, fun to do together. We love The Body Coach daily workouts or the PopSugar HIIT ones. It keeps me fit too!
2. My kids only do school work in the morning. I don’t try to make it last all day- it’s too much to ask of everyone, especially my patience!
3. At 2pm everyday my kids can watch an ‘educational show’. We’ve been watching Mankind about the history of humanity on Amazon Prime Video. it’s really good. I’m supposed to use that time to work but I get sucked into it!
4. We caved and bought a trampoline which has been great for sibling bonding and getting those wiggles out before bedtime.
5. Scheduled workouts. Every day at 11:30am Henry and I do a HIIT workout on youtube, and then at 4pm everyday I do yoga. Having that structure has been crucial for me to keep my mental health in check. I don’t usually do more than 20 or 30 minutes of each but it still gives me a sense of much needed balance and health.

>Julie, St. Louis
Owner of JulieBlanner.com and creator of Business of Blogging course. 

How old are your kids?

10, 8 + 6

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

Our school assigned each child a chrome book. After they get ready and enjoy a little free time in the morning, they sit down for a 10 am lesson with their teacher via Zoom. Then they complete their must do work, followed by some fun can do work and a half hour of reading. Our district asked that our elementary school children spend an hour a day on their work (some lessons submitted to teachers for approval/grading), but the can-do assignments have been a lot of fun and they enjoy working through them. Some assignments have included writing about their experience at home, what they want to remember about this time in their lives, things that changed etc. Others have been fun drawing assignments, virtual visits to museums, zoos and more.

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

Technology! Some teachers were quick to adapt while others struggled with it.

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

Having our girls help one another. As a working mother, it has been challenging coordinating their calls, assignments, etc. They assisted one another setting up their calendars and with any technical issues they encounter. This has given them a great sense of responsibility.

Jessica, Austin
nurse practitioner 

How old are your kids?

I have one son who is 16.

What does homeschool look like for your family right now?

My son does zoom classes from our guest house. My wife and I are both health workers so we are still working full-time outside of the home. His school has laid out very detailed online programming. He also has access to online tutors for additional help. His daily recess is walking the dogs before lunch.

What is the most challenging part of homeschool?

Not being able to actually supervise the work he is doing since we are both at work.

What activity / app / product for homeschool do your kids love the most?  

Zoom

Best mom hack you’ve discovered in quarantine that you want to share?

We have learned how to supervise through nest cameras, ha!

What says you, reader? How’s homeschool going at your house?

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