“Would you speak to your teacher like that?” I snapped my six-year-old, getting up from the table where I was trying to do some school work with her.
Even as I was saying it, I knew it wasn’t a fair comparison. I thought back to earlier in the year when an educator who I was interviewing summed up why so many parents and kids were struggling with remote learning and home school: “It would be like your boss suddenly showing up in your living room,” she had said.
I knew that opting to homeschool my first-grader for the year would be challenging, but this fall was worse than I imagined. By December, I was ready to throw up my hands. We took the whole month off to try to figure out how to complete the rest of the year without driving each other nuts.
Coming into the new year I decided two things: my relationship with my daughter was more important than her hitting academic benchmarks, and that arguing about school would just undermine any love of learning she had. I knew I had to break the cycle of schoolwork feeling like a chore. If she learned something along the way, that would be an added bonus.
So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well this new approach is going. Here’s what’s working for us.
Outsourcing Education With Outschool
A post in a mom’s group on Facebook caused me to have a look at Outschool, one of the millions of online platforms that have blossomed during this unique school year. Outschool offers online classes for anything you can think of — from first-grade math to Chinese to cooking.
I decided to give it a try. The classes range from about $9 for half-an-hour to about $30 for one-on-one tutoring. Just reading the class names got my daughter excited. She’s obsessed with horses, and found every horse-themed class, covering subjects from social studies to writing. After her first one she was hooked, and I was impressed with how much she learned in half an hour.
I was so thrilled to see my kid smiling about something academic that I decided to keep at it. I signed her up for a one-on-one tutoring session. It wasn’t horse themed, but my daughter still came out smiling, proclaiming that her instructor was a much better teacher than me.
Right now we’re spending about $45 a week on Outschool classes, which adds up. Still, I’ll happily pay that to have a kid who is learning and a few less headaches along the way.
Call my old-school (pun intended), but it doesn’t always seem like my daughter is learning when she’s playing games on my phone. So, I spent the fall pushing her to do worksheets and read physical books, while making us both resentful.
Lately, I’ve been letting her spend more time on learning apps. Our favorite is Khan Academy. I give guidance — like telling her she has to spend time on math or reading, not drawing — but overall I can see that the app is helping her make progress, not just wasting time.
Focusing On Tiny Timeframes
In the fall, I tried to do school in half-hour blocks, but that was an eternity for both of us. This month, I’ve experimented with doing ten-minute schooling sessions. Sure, it’s not much, but we can usually both keep our cool for that long and get something done. Knowing we’re only navigating a short time keeps us both focused. Plus, if things are going well and my daughter isn’t counting the seconds until we’re finished, we keep plugging along.
I went into homeschooling knowing that I would never be a Pinterest-perfect homeschool mom. Still, I was hoping to at least have my daughter read from the same book every day, write in her journal and complete sections from one math workbook.
Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t care about my desire for organization. So, I’ve just let it go. She’s more apt to do a journal entry on her sketch pad than in her writing book; she might read a chapter of a story then not pick it up for days. I’ve stopped fighting it: as long as she’s doing a bit of school work, I don’t mind where it happens.
2020 taught me to never say never, but I hope to never be homeschooling again after this school year. For now, however, my family has found ways to make this stinky situation a little more bearable, and that’s enough to be excited about.
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