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  • Writer's pictureellicemiles

An Unexpected Journey: Lessons I've Learnt as a Novice Homeschooler

Two months ago I became a home educator. That was not really on my list of things to do in my life. I love my kids, I love spending time with them and I also love sending them to school, then picking them up at the end of the day and hearing about all the things they've done. Mainstream education was always my choice and I never looked back. I've loved seeing them learn and grow

and I've also loved topping up their education at home whenever I wanted to or felt it was needed. In short, sending my kids to school has been great for us.

Back in August last year, our family had a huge change; Stephen got a job in the middle east, Dubai to be exact. This was his first job as a newly qualified teacher. We were so excited for this opportunity but it did mean that he would be away from us for 4 months. It was an incredibly difficult 4 months but with lots of support from family and friends and lots of help from God, I got through it.

Even more excitingly, Stephen's school extended his contract, which meant he would be returning to Dubai in January. We knew we couldn't be apart any longer as a family, so we made the decision to join Daddy for 6 months. An adventure in the desert! However, this adventure would come with a challenge I had not anticipated; homeschooling our children. I spent the weeks leading up to our move researching and asking existing home educators for advice. I even had a timetable carefully written out and colour-coded. I was going to do this like a boss!

Then real life kicked my butt! The kids and I travelled on our own because Stephen had to go ahead to start his job. There was a terrorist attack on Iraq whilst we were in the air and the plane had to be diverted to Istanbul, where I had four kids and sixteen pieces of luggage to take care of. Again, by the grace of God, we managed to get through that and eventually arrived in Dubai. Just over one week later, Stephen broke his wrist and had to have surgery and a few days later I was in bed with pleurisy. We made friends very quickly! People from church came to the rescue; they babysat my kids, made meals, ordered pizza, took me to the hospital, prayed for us, sent us messages and so much more. It was a brutal but also beautiful experience. But it kicked my butt!

Needless to say, home schooling went on the back burner! After a few days, I decided that I was going to take time with the kids to settle in and then gradually start to introduce home schooling. I folded up my timetable and filed it away for once I had things under control. Not long after I had this breakthrough, Stephen handed me a teacher's planner that he wasn't using (his school had given him a nice shiny new one). I opened it and made some notes of where I could start.

Okay, so I feel like I'm kind of 2 months ahead of all those people around the world who are now needing to home school their children because of the corona virus. This does not in an way, shape or form, make me an expert in home education but I am kind of an expert at making mistakes, hitting roadblocks and constantly adjusting the path. I wanted to take a moment to share some things that I've learned over the past two months that have helped me to get to where I am today. I'm still lacking in many ways as a home educator but I might be able to help someone out there to navigate this unexpected journey.

I want to share with you 5 lessons for the novice home educator like me. However, I want to say to you first (kind of a disclaimer, I guess) that not all of these will apply to you because of the dynamic nature of being a parent and the fact that home settings and family circumstances are so unique. I do hope that something I share, will help someone out there, even if it's just lesson number 5.

1. Decompression is key.

Children who are in mainstream education are used to a very structured environment with a series of tasks, a school day that is at least 6 hours long and being in a room with twenty or more other students. They need some time to decompress. I read an article on this that suggested visiting museums, parks, the beach etc. but right now with many countries either carrying out social distancing or even in lock down, this is not possible. So, what I suggest is do things with your children that make you smile: bake, play board games, watch movies, read books or magazines, do arty and crafty things, play in the garden as much as possible, dance, sing, tell each other jokes, eat your favourite foods. Right now, kids need to feel relief from the pressure of daily life and they need to let go for the time being, of their strict school day routine.

Of course, there are parents out there who are going to be working from home and schooling their children at the same time, so you need to do whatever you can but even if it's just making a nice breakfast that you all eat together and then setting up some fun activities for your children to get on with, they will benefit from some time off from school.

I did this decompression thing for about ten days, unintentionally for the most part, but it really did help when it was time to start homeschooling. In fact, the children were asking me to start about two days before I did; they were ready for it.

2. Start with the Basics

I'll be completely honest with you, the colour-coded timetable ended up, as my friend used to say, being "filed appropriately" (binned). It is not practical, nor is it necessary, to try to imitate the day your child used to have at school. I decided to start with numeracy and literacy. I purchased age appropriate text books (pictured below) and we started working through these. Any time the concept seemed new or needed practising, I would look for some activities/worksheets/games to reinforce them the next day or over next few days.

I've heard that many school are providing resources for parents to use over this period; even better! Use them and supplement in any way you want to.

3. Independence and Life Skills

Now is the perfect time to teach your children some of the things that will help them go out into the world independent and self-reliant. In the second week of home school, dino boy learned how to make omelettes and he has been making them ever since. He is in charge of omelettes now and not only has this developed a skill but it's also made him feel empowered. I've also been giving the kids more responsibility with household chores, which has been good for them. I think I did too much for them back home and it made them a bit lazy with helping around the house. Now they do it (almost) automatically.

I've also been teaching the twins how to tell the time, which requires lots of practice and lots of patience on my part. There are some fun ways to practise though, like playing 'what's the time mr wolf?' (look on Pinterest).

Life skills you could teach:

- tie shoe laces

- tell the time

- cook/bake

- wash clothes

- iron clothes (if they're old enough to be trusted with hot things)

- fold clothes

- lay the table

- first aid

- follow a recipe

- age appropriate DIY (change a light bulb, hammer a nail in, use a screwdriver etc.)

4. Routine and Flexibility

My children need routine, they crave it in their daily lives. Heck, I crave it too! So, I decided we would do home school at the same time every day, we would have snack time and lunch at roughly the same time and we would do certain activities at the same time. It helps them establish daily habits and they know what to expect, so compliance tends to be more consistent.

However, and this is a big however, I also need to be flexible and children need to learn flexibility as well. One day, we were all feeling a bit cabin feverish, so we did home school at the park. This included them finishing a task and then playing on the equipment, then finishing another task etc. Another day, friends of mine were going to a camel farm, so we abandoned our normal routine and joined them. The educational benefits of that experience far outweighed anything they missed that day.

Maybe they spend a morning making cards for elderly people who are feeling isolated at this crazy time, maybe you all go for a drive in the car because otherwise you might end up strangling one of them, maybe you have a 'cookery lesson' because you want to cook a meal for someone who is struggling. Most of the time I try to stick to our routine but one of the things I love about homeschooling, is that you can tailor it to suit you and the needs of your family.

5. Educational Armageddon

Note to self: you are not going to destroy your child's future career prospects because they're not learning all they would be at school, whilst you are homeschooling them over the next few months. Whatever you're able to do, will be enough. Even if that's just completing the worksheets your school has given you, it will be enough. So relax, okay?! There is so much more to educating a child than ticking boxes and you have a lot to offer them as their parent. I genuinely feel like if all my kids did over this six months, was read and practise their times tables, they would be fine.


These are just some tips to get you started. In my next post, I will tell you how I added on to my literacy/numeracy mornings and started really getting into home education. Stay safe and stay calm. We will get through this together.

Just a small slice of crazy and unexpected reality.

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Eloise Amos
Eloise Amos
Mar 24, 2020

I did my first day of home school today and I'm so glad I read this post before I started! I was relaxed, with no concrete schedule but more of a list of tings we'd like to do. I was present with my children. It was a very rewarding experience and helped me to almost forget about the dramatic events unfolding around the world. Reminded me how precious time is with my 4 little ones. 😊❤️ Thank you as always for sharing your wisdom in such a real way.

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