homeschooling: a brave new world

Homeschooling has been in the pipeline for a few years and the COVID crisis has suddenly rammed it down the throats of parents around the world as schools are ordered to close to stop the spread of the pandemic.

Children now have to learn on their own -the lucky ones perhaps with siblings or meeting friends online through a video link. Others have to learn with little or no tools, under the supervision of a disinteredted parent. Other kids have no access to any education, due to parental constraints, financial or personal realities, or just lack of interest and commitment from a parent or adult guardian.

Are you up to the task?

Teaching. Is. Hard.

Teaching your own children is particularly hard: it's very easy to confuse the boundaries between "parent" and "teacher", and for homeschooling to work well you need to be calm and patient.

Try to remember when you were a kid: "which teachers did you like in school?" "why did you like your teacher?" "what did you enjoy the most in school?" - since it's likely that your kids inherited some of your likes and dislikes, put that knowledge to work and make the best of the homeschooling project.

Try to think about those teachers you had so many years ago and how they would come back to you with smart, sarcastic or cruel remarks. Do you want to be remembered like them?

Teaching can be done effectively without losing your sanity if you follow our "Three Challenges"

3 homeschool challenges for a "Stay-at-Home-Dad"

Just like many other things in life, in education you get what you put in and with homeschooling, you will be a witness to the success (or failure) of your processes. This is why I call the following, "homeschooling challenges":

  1. Build a conducive environment - the process of education depends on the teachers, the students, the facilities and the resources. The interaction between these creates an evironment where knowledge can be distributed to a larger audience. Try to replicate the conditions of a classroom somewhere in your home: no distractions, no access to mobiles or games, a schedule and routine, a syllabus for learning, access to resources.
  2. Be positive and supportive - effective learning requires a kind, dedicated and patient teacher. There are many resources online talking about the "qualities of a good teacher" -get yourself up to speed and build a positive and supportive foundation. Your child's education is worth the effort.
  3. Make sure your new role meshes with your life: homeschooling is "another project in your life" but is not "the meaning of your life" (unless you happen to be a dedicated professional teacher!). Balancing homeschooling to your daily routines is the key to a positive learning experience. Use a spreadsheet to plan your time, your classes and the "free time" activities, and find resource online for this

The real trick is (3): making sure this works with the rest of your llife. Every child that needs your support puts additional strain on your life. A good strategy is to teach children of similar ages at the same time -so they can reinforce each other during class. Other strategies include having the older children as "teaching assistants" helping the younger ones -but this may not work in some families with teenagers and primary school children. You have to do your research, and keep trying.

There are many resources available about Homeshooling, so an understanding of the process should not be difficult to do. Start investigating everything related to homeschooling: resources, legal status (this varies from country to country), strategies and resources.

There is ample material for free out there. In particular, I can recommend the Khan Academy - it's free, it's very high quality education and it is an invaluable resource for kids, all the way from primary years to University.

The time to act is now. The challenge is tough and it may not be a pleasant journey, but it's worth it and education is the best gift you can give your children.