In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of students have returned home en masse to continue their education and join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of families who have already been educating at home. In the midst of an uncertain time, parents struggle to balance their already busy schedules with the added responsibility of educating their children.
It’s not every day that a pandemic happens. In fact, a pandemic of this proportion occurs maybe a handful of times in a century (3-5 times). And when a pandemic occurs, it causes a lot of disruption in our lives, not to mention . . . at least 32.5 million public school students attending at least 64,000 schools have seen their education interrupted because of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 250,000 people worldwide.
As a homeschool veteran of 21 years, I remember the day I chose to homeschool. It was a daunting concept and I wondered if I could do a good job. This gives me compassion for all of the families who did not choose home education, but now as a result of COVID-19, find themselves suddenly thrust into a way of life they did not ask for. And many of these families have both spouses working. While I also worked and home educated, many of the early years I did not have to work. Parents who are educating during Coronavirus will need to tag team and reach for support. Below are tips and secret tips (the secret sauce) of what helped our homeschooling experience be a thriving one, even in the face of a lot of personal hardship.
Education at home is challenging enough when chosen. Lots of planning and preparation went into successfully home educating our children. One point of clarification – home education is different than schooling at home. Most of the students impacted by COVID-19 are schooling at home with an education that has already been planned and prepared. They might access this education online. This is different from traditional homeschooling where the parent both plans and implements the education. I make this distinction to help those who are overwhelmed by the thought of educating their children on their own. You are not alone. Veteran homeschoolers who have gone before you have survived and even thrived. And they were also not alone. They had curricula that they, too, used to help them instruct their children.
Along the way, there have been many lessons learned, moments of failure and success, but it has all been a joy and a privilege. Below are some tips that helped me through the years and I pray will also encourage you or a loved one who is endeavoring to educate at home. It is possible . . . and more than that, it is biblical. God will help you as you seek to do what He called you to do . . . to teach your children and train them in the way they should go.
Your venturing into homeschooling might have been a misadventure, but it does not have to end that way. Give yourself time to plan your homeschooling. A few hours on a Sunday night before the week starts, set a game plan and put that plan in a place where it is visible to all, like on the refrigerator. One spreadsheet can list all of your children’s coursework on a schedule, and then there can also be a spreadsheet for parents, as well, to keep on task. Put together some charts to help navigate your way through each day. A chore chart that has fun ways for children to reveal that they did their responsibility can be motivational, and a schedule so everyone knows what comes next. These things will help you to establish a new rhythm. Sometimes when crazy times occur (and they will), the plan for the day is an anchor to remind us of our purpose
Secret tip: No one ever fully perfectly adheres to a schedule. Give yourself space and flexibility. Whatever you did not accomplish could be extra homework later for the kids or put to the next day.
Set up where materials will be kept and where each student will have their own workspace. Baskets and plastic drawer units are great to have on hand. Check out the link for tips for organization in the resource list below.
Secret Tip: Sometimes having duplicate materials can be helpful, if possible, so you don’t waste time hunting for supplies needed.
Build in breaks for students and parents. Maybe 5-10 minutes an hour or half an hour every 3-4 hours. There can be incentives like favorite activities that are recreational and have to be earned that students can do during the break. Having activities as a carrot or reward can also be an incentive for schoolwork to be done, which brings me to my next tip.
Secret Tip: Be intentional to guard the time wasters that can kill your schedule. (a.k.a., video games, cell phones, surfing the web, television shows, talking with friends), or you will never get to that margin you need.
When my children were little, I had a little school bus box (ironic, I know), that was full of treats. When my children achieved a certain objective that day, they got to pick from the treat box. As my children got older, the same incentives were not as effective. Find what interests your children and what will motivate them.
Secret Tip: If getting good grades was not enough of a motivator, then privileges could be provided or taken away.
The goal is not just getting school accomplished, but to grow in character and to do all things well. We read many wonderful pieces of literature (Thank you, Sonlight Curriculum!) that motivated us all toward excellence. Reading simply makes for smarter students. And when the books are interesting and about the pursuit of excellence, they serve to produce that fruit, as well.
Secret Tip: Redoing assignments was not beyond me if my kids turned in half-baked work. And those painful moments have reaped benefits many times over as my now adult children remember that the standard was not setting the bar low, but high.
Honestly, I have never been so fond of the “it takes a village” mentality because sometimes there has been the perspective that other organizations should be instructing our children, and the parents are bystanders. God gave children to be trained and taught by their parents (see Genesis 18:19 and Deuteronomy 6:7). . . don’t get me started. All this said, it is biblical to have a cloud of witnesses who we are accountable to, who support our endeavor. It might be grandparents, friends, or homeschool compadres we have met along the way, but having other people who our children are accountable to for some aspects of their education is both wise and also an incentive to our children to do well. And one of the best sources of encouragement to our homeschool was a homeschool cooperative.
Secret Tip: Meet with a friend who is talented in an area you are not talented in and vice versa. You both an get a break and serve where you are more skilled.
#7 Homeschool Cooperatives
The most significant contribution to our home education was the homeschool cooperative that I founded and led for eleven years. I had participated in another homeschool co-op early on and realized how beneficial it was to providing enriching activities, group instruction, and excellence in academics by having qualified teachers instruct in difficult coursework. Co-ops also provide a little reprieve for parents and typically only meet once or twice a week, where the remainder of the week is spent completing the work and preparing for the weekly meetings.
Secret Tip: During COVID-19, homeschool groups are not able to meet, either. Meet with other families and network via Zoom or another web conference tool for weekly encouragement.
Starting college in the high school years via dual enrollment was a tremendous blessing to my four adult children. And it has the added benefit of shifting the education to the college. My fourth child graduated high school with an associate degree from Liberty University and is now graduating with a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing at 19-years-old. Dual enrollment can save time and money.
Secret Tip: Right now https://www.sophia.org/ is offering FREE registration for college courses through July 31, 2020. My youngest son just enrolled in eight classes. He will be a high school sophomore this fall.
Sometimes there are hard spots that your child just cannot overcome. And sometimes there are courses that parents just can’t instruct well. There’s no shame in either hiring a tutor or in involving a grandparent or other family member to take the reins for that coursework.
Secret Tip: Now during COVID, there are free tutoring options and websites to help, too. Check out the resources below.
Don’t forget that the first subject of the day should be God’s word. Starting this habit will affect your children in incredible ways. The Bible curricula I have purchased over the years have had a profound impact on my children.
Secret Tip: Do a short study together as a family and watch God work in everyone’s lives.
It Was Worth It All
Here on the other side of home education, I have two more children graduating from college this year, two others graduated last year, and one high schooler remains (who is now attending a Christian private school online). I can say that it was worth it all and I thank God that we homeschooled all the way through and the neat thing is, they thank God, too. Here is a podcast this week of my daughters and I reflecting on lessons learned as they grew up in our homeschool household.
I pray that you are encouraged that the situation you find yourself in now is an opportunity of a lifetime. I confess that I never understood why parents did not want their children at home. I cried at the thought of them going to school. Education at home will try your souls. It will cause you to dig deep and maybe to cry out to God for help. But the fruit from educating at home can be beautiful. Enjoy these moments. They will not last forever.
Below are some resources I pray will bless you or someone you love in their endeavor to teach their children at home. The endeavor is about so much more than an education of the mind—hearts and lives are changed as we gather in the God-directed sacred space of learning.
All for Jesus,
Free Resources for homeschooling During Coronavirus Crisis: https://www.today.com/parents/how-homeschool-during-coronavirus-crisis-t176020
Free Resources for Schools During COVID-19 Outbreak:
5 Tips for Homeschool Organization:
 Valerie Strauss, “Millions of students could be home for the rest of academic year because of coronavirus, officials warn”, Washington Post, March 16, 2020 at 6:59 a.m. EDT.
 “Total Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths,” Our World in Data, accessed May 6, 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/total-deaths-covid-19)
Denise Pass is the Executive Assistant to Jeff Rogers, and also an Author, Speaker, Worship Leader and Podcaster with her ministry, Seeing Deep Ministries. Visit her website at www.denisepass.com.