From Homeschooling to Quarantine Schooling

As a follow-up to my recent post about more families choosing to homeschool this upcoming fall I was thinking about what a change that would be for so many.  I was wondering what I could write that could be helpful.  First, I thought I would share what a change coronavirus brought upon our homeschool.  Because even for us homeschoolers, quarantine schooling is very, very different.  

Here is an honest look into our “homeschool” during Coronavirus Lockdown in NY.  Please keep in mind that we are at the epicenter of the outbreak and things might not have felt as severe or life-changing where you live.

On one hand, I did feel uniquely positioned to make a change from homeschooling to quarantine schooling.  I certainly felt at an advantage over parents whose children were now home suddenly from “real” school.  Many people have said, “this must be so easy for you!”  The truth is it’s not.  It’s disruptive and different, just in a another way.

We live in NYC and life as we know it was shut down on March 16.  I had actually become a little nervous earlier than that so my kids had already been kept home from some activities since two weeks earlier.

But the lockdown meant an official end to our Wild + Free meetups, field trips and book clubs.  An end to my daughter’s dance class and weekly Friday playdates.  An end to my son’s robot class and boat building class.  No more swim lessons or forest school.  As you can see, homeschoolers are actually not “home” all that much.

Beyond outside activities, what it also ended initially was my bandwidth for creativity and magic in our homeschool.  The stress of our new normal, watching the infections rise and death toll climb.  The very personal and sad loss of a beloved family member.  The initial need to be watching the news constantly (the adults, not with the kids).  The fear of going to the grocery store.  The worry of food shortages.  The stress was very real.

In search of family support, more space and better stocked grocery stores, we decided to head out to my in-laws on March 13.  They had invited us to stay with them.  My husband thought it would be for the weekend.  I thought it would be for two weeks.  We are on Day 93. 

In terms of homeschooling, I knew it would be helpful to set up a rhythm for our days while we were here.  Children love predictability and take comfort in knowing what to expect.  I decided we would have “homeschool time” every day from 9ish-12ish.  This would not only give us plenty of time to get our work done, but also give the other adults in the house a few hours of uninterrupted peace.  Then the kids could have plenty of free time in the afternoons.

Now, what do we do with all that school time?  I only brought a few books and a bunch of workbooks with us (I did not bring most of our Montessori learning materials because they are big and take up a lot of space). So, we write in our gratitude journals, work in our handwriting and math workbooks, do our phonics lessons, read books aloud (everyone takes a turn), create things with cardboard, crayons and tape, listen to music and work on projects from our Story of the World curriculum.  We love this curriculum – great stories to read aloud and an activity book that you can photocopy with pictures to color, maps to label, word searches and more.  The kids are also taking free online piano lessons during this time.  They also love using an online phonics program called Reading Eggs.  Often, the kids will take breaks and play with the toys in my in-laws basement (many are their dad’s old toys!).

As you can see we kept things very simple.  In the beginning, this helped me feel like we were still accomplishing things even though my focus was elsewhere – mainly stressing out about coronavirus. But, on a positive note, without any outside activities – we have had a LOT of dedicated academic time.  Much more than usual.  By keeping things simple and with so much time, the kids have been flying through our curriculum!

As this lockdown continues, my mindset is changing.  Previously, I was in the mindset of, put your nose to the grindstone and just get by.  Lately, we’ve been more apt to work on creative projects.  A friend of my father-in-law has also started giving the kids Tae-Kwon-Do lessons via Zoom!  And we’ve been able to get out of the house and spend time outdoors at state parks and beaches.  While we are out of the city, we are really trying to take advantage of our close proximity to gorgeous nature!

With their free time in the afternoon, during the colder months we focused on indoor art projects.  They tried oil pastels and enjoyed old favorites like air dry clay, watercolor paints, water beads and sticker mosaics.  We’ve learned how to make bread from scratch and strangely really, really like doing that.  The kids are spending TONS of time outside now.  But for March and April, the weather was really crummy.  So we enjoyed TONS of Disney+.

The craziest part of all of this is that after all of this change, my kids are fine.  They have each other.  They have always been best friends and they play together ALL DAY LONG.  Of course they miss their friends, classes and home.  But they have been such troopers and quickly adjusted to their new normal.  

I think being with loving family members is the main reason for their resilience. My kid’s grandparents love spending time with them and enjoy playing with them.  They are truly wonderful.  Quarantining as a larger family unit has been a very special experience.  It certainly would have been very different (i.e., sad and lonely) if we had just been the 4 of us in our small apartment.  With more hands there is more attention, more patience and more love!  

 We are SO fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with my husband’s parents.  I’m sure this could not be the situation for everyone.  We are extremely, extremely grateful.  My mom even drove to visit us from NJ twice.  And let me tell you, 5 adults:2 children is the perfect ratio!

I think that while our quarantine schooling did keep us on track with our academic goals, more important lessons happened from spending so much time with family.  I’m so happy my kids could have so much time with their grandparents.  How cool is it that my kids had the example of their grandpa reading the newspaper – the real newspaper, not internet news – every single morning?  For me, personally, I’m so grateful to have learned so much from my mother-in-law about how to take care of your home and family like a boss!

I hope we can all look back on this time together as a gift.  The gift of time together that no one was ever expecting.

Quarantine Schooling is very different than Homeschooling.  So if you are planning to homeschool this fall, consider that it might look different than it could if there were no corona.  I am wondering what will be open?  What will I be comfortable with?  How busy do we really want to be with outside activities?

We will be heading back to Brooklyn soon so things will change again for us.  Good thing children are so adaptable!  And I guess so is our homeschool.                                   

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