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.