Schools all over the country are switching to online classes, which means families everywhere are grappling with a new challenge: having to school at home. Instead of having our kids leave in the morning to be taught by professionals, they’re right there, sitting at the kitchen table, needing to be educated. You’re stuck with them, and they’re stuck with you.
Maybe you’re thriving during this new way of living, but maybe you’re feeling lost. We took the liberty of calling on the experts: home-school moms.
Whether you've always admired them, or always found them weird, you are now one of them.
Proud to be a longtime homeschool mom before it was cool pic.twitter.com/HzBD30WQQP— Millie Acres (@on_acres) March 20, 2020
“I’ve had several friends who are in traditional schools who have texted me like, ‘I’m freaking out!’” says Kelly Ballard, a home-school mom of 16 years and the board director at her home-school co-op, PATH.
Ballard says her first piece of advice for her friends is to take a deep breath.
“There’s going to be a season of adjustment,” she says. “Your home life won’t look like what their daily life at school will look like, and that’s OK.”
Tracy Mulligan, a Plano home-school mom for 15 years, concurs.
“Just breathe and take one thing at a time," she says. "It’s the same thing as homework. You’ve already been sitting down with your child doing homework; it’s work at home.”
Every home-school parent we spoke to emphasized flexibility and giving yourself some grace. Your kids’ days will not look the same at home as they did when they were attending school, but that doesn’t mean you're doing a bad job.
“This is a new normal ... so I think it’s really important that we release that sense of perfection and what it needs to look like, and be flexible,” says Joyce George, a Frisco mom who has home-schooled for 13 years and who wrote a blog post on this subject.
George says people always tell her that they lack the patience to do what she does.
“My kids will not tell you that I’m a saint when it comes to patience. I too will get upset. I too will get frustrated with anybody else,” George says. “This to me is like any job that exists in the world. You’re gonna have good days and you’re gonna have bad days. But it’s OK because that’s what makes us all human.”
The moms also emphasized that the beauty of home schooling lies in its flexibility. “Take a good look at your child and their learning needs and how best they work,” George says. “If it gets done, it gets done.”
Schooling at home is about creativity and seeing to your child’s specific needs.
“You don’t have to sit at the table. If your child likes to sit outside at the patio table, that’s a great place with nature around,” Mulligan says. “If your child needs to be around kids and they work better not being isolated, then siblings can do little projects together — like Scrabble to work on spelling, things like that.”
Some kids like to be sprawled on the floor, and some need space to work alone. You'll come to learn how yours are most productive — whether they work best later in the day, or by taking many short breaks to run in the backyard.
Ballard recommends having a “work before play” philosophy and setting a consistent example.
“The biggest thing when we’re all at home together is that adults lead by example," she says. "So if you’re asking them to do their responsibilities first and play second, then you need to be doing that.”
Another thing to remember is that there are plenty of resources out there. If you’re lost with how to help your child on a specific subject, there are YouTube videos on seemingly every subject, and an Instagram account made for parents home-schooling children with dyslexia. There’s no shame in getting help, and the internet has lots of it to offer.
“You’re probably going to run into some test subjects that you’re not great at. ... It’s a great chance to reach out to friends and barter, like, 'I’m really good at editing papers, but I cannot help you with the math at all, or when it comes to physics or chemistry,'” Ballard says. “FaceTiming with friends like, ‘Can you help Junior with chemistry?’ It’s another way for people to stay connected, for people to feel like they’re giving to each other of their strengths.”
Likewise, if you're an accountant, offer to help someone else’s kid with a math problem. The world is being thrown into a new way of parenting, at least for a short while, and it’s understandably a strange and sudden transition.
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Daily life will return to normal one day — we think. Home-school moms everywhere, however, are wondering whether fewer people will send their kids back to public school after this pandemic lifts.
“I definitely think it’s changed the perspective and given more of an appreciation for those who home-school for sure,” George says. “And I know a lot of people are going to be like, 'Please, let’s go back to life and go back to normal.' But I definitely think it will open up a lot more perspectives. … For some children based on their needs, maybe they have learning needs or special needs, maybe this will actually become illuminated as a better solution for their family.”
Ballard sat in a meeting with her co-op this past Tuesday, and they discussed the anticipation of a small bump in their membership as some parents realize that home schooling isn’t as hard as they thought it would be.
“The big thing I’ve always heard my friend say is, ‘Ugh, I could just never do it,’ and so it stands to reason that there will be a percentage of people who discover they can,” Ballard says. “Not that one is better than the other, but that they discover they can do something they never thought they could.”