Ever have dreams about homeschooling your kids, but never got the opportunity to? Now that you have no choice because of school closures, are you constantly fighting with your kids to get their work done? This is my sixth year homeschooling and I still butt heads with my kids sometimes. But our challenging days are few and far between now, and my kids (age 10 and 7) are starting to take charge of their own learning.

There are countless online resources that are available now for children’s education that you can browse and you can likely get some great tips from your child’s public school teacher. But if you just can’t seem to get the hang of homeschool, you may need to revamp your routine.

Schooling at home is way different than the brick-and-mortar option and we can’t expect it will work the same. First of all, you are their parent(s)! Your intimate connection with each other is fantastic but can cause some issues in this new situation. Homeschooling involves a finely tuned relationship that takes time to develop.

The lack of other students your child’s age in your new ‘classroom’ can also be an issue. In a public school setting, other students tend to add encouragement, friendly competition, and energy to your child’s learning. My oldest son tried public school for a while and we found these all to be accurate. At home, the only other kids are their siblings, if any. Siblings are not only at a different grade level, but can also add more intense competition and strife.

All this, added into the potentially unsettled feelings you and your child are experiencing as a result of COVID-19, and you have a sticky setting for your new homeschool relationship!

Getting off on the right foot is extremely important. You need to set up a comfortable, supportive and fun atmosphere, a place where your child can be in a relaxed state to learn. If your child is feeling uptight, and forced into a whole different routine in their already sensitive state (and yours!), you could have problems that become hard to undo.

So what does this atmosphere look like? Well, it starts off with tuning into what your kids really like, what they are interested in. Leave your own ideas behind for now – sitting them down and making them do worksheets on Day 1 is a bad idea. I know because I tried it.

At first, your homeschool routine could simply be playing games together, reading out loud, painting a large mural together, using sticks and internet videos to learn how to sword fight, learning how to finger knit, or acting out your favorite story with homemade finger puppets. Hockey interests? Great, try designing a new NHL team together. Loves horses? OK, research what a quaint little backyard stable might look like. Maybe listen to some of their favorite music while ‘working’ (my kids love to mix math and rock and roll).

Find the right time of day that works for you both, not when you are tired or hungry.

Try something other than sitting down at a formal desk or table. Find a relaxing place to hang out together that you both enjoy. Better yet, get the kids to make a special space! Be in the moment and have fun. Turn off your phone. Have a great time together, NO interruptions. Try for a half hour at first and see how it progresses!

You can add in more curriculum-based projects later on once you have a better feel for your new relationship together. Everyone in Canada, North America, the world, is in the same situation with schools being closed. Your child will not fall behind with grade expectations if you take this precious quality time that we have been given and focus on this new exciting part of your relationship.

When I went to a more child-based learning process, our school time progressively got better. Now, my children are mostly doing what they are interested in (we are the sword-fighting-samurai family right now from Ancient Japan), mixed in with some curricular expectations. And it’s working. Just today my 10 year old asked me to print out extra practice sheets for long-division, because he felt he didn’t totally get the process yet. I told him he had to stop being so responsible, but I printed some off for him anyways.

You can develop your family’s own school routine that’s fun, rewarding and memorable, one that you can all enjoy together. And heads up, you are doing a great job already!

Time on the land – take a child with you