Monday, March 16, 2020

Sudden homeschoolers

With many states closing their schools over concerns with the coronavirus, many parents are being tasked to do something most have never considered: homeschooling their kids, at least temporarily.

It's one thing to start teaching your own children after much forethought and pre-planning. It's another thing entirely to suddenly become responsible for their education without preparation.

I've been asked to write an article on homeschooling children on a temporary basis. The article should be upbeat and positive. Since I can think of no finer resource than my dear readers, I thought I'd start by soliciting your advice and suggestions.

I'm working on the assumption most children will have lesson plans and books provided by the schools, so parents don't have to create these from scratch. Also, let's work on the assumption the parents have no interest in homeschooling on a permanent basis, but instead are just trying to cope with a temporary situation.

"Kids" can range from ages 4 through 18, so let's brainstorm for all age groups. Remember, parents are being dropped into this in the middle of things, so many are floundering around, figuring out what to do.

Some things to think about:

• Suggested online resources

• How to keep parents (usually mothers) from feeling overwhelmed

• Suggestions for games that teach (for various age levels)

• Suggestions for getting kids to see parents as teachers; how to become a teacher at home

I'm open to other subjects as well.

So let's hear 'em, folks -- give me your ideas for how "sudden homeschoolers" should handle things.


  1. Ignore the clock. Most likely, neither you nor your kid is prepared to tackle a full school day at home, all of a sudden like this. Teach however you can manage to teach, for whatever time you're comfortable with, and don't guilt yourself if you feel your kids aren't learning for as much time as they would be in public school.

    Maintain your health. Not just your hand-washing, toilet-paper-rationing, face-not-touching physical health, but your mental health as well. If you're not a home-schooling hermit already, you're probably not ready to become one, and "social distancing" is a great way to get cabin fever. It's more important you deal squarely with that problem than it is that Johnny spend another two hours on his times tables.

    1. One of the reasons schooling can be completed in less time at home is usually due to discipline. My sister-in-law homeschooled her kids after teaching in a public school and she usually had more than everything covered in half a day, and they finished the year’s curriculum earlier in the spring. Behavior challenges eat up a lot of time during a school day. Unless you’re the parent of one of the discipline problems, just your own children (free of distractions from classmates) will be able to learn what is being supplied by the schools in less time each day. Then you can turn to online resources for other activities.

      PBS claims they are offering many of their great educational programs for free right now- history, science, etc. Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a virtual tour, & I imagine other museums are doing the same. Scholastic has free resources available right now. This is a great moment for permanent homeschoolers to grab things up for free too!

  2. usually a reader not commenter but for the parent who cannot afford to quit or whose jobs have not stopped on ways to homeschool or supervise eduction from afar would be hepful.

    1. Barb - I am in the same boat. I was sent home to work remotely indefinitely. Hubby is in grad school and we now are homeschooling our kids.

      Although I have always wanted to home school, logistically it was never possible for us.

      Any help or suggestions would be so welcome right now.

  3. I agree with Joshua above. Don't feel like you have to teach all day like regular school. Do what you can and then engage them in other fun learning activities that aren't tied to school. Teach some life skills. Most of the educational software companies have opened up their services for free now. I'll share a link to many, many online resources for students to use during this time:

  4. Ron Paul has an entire homeschooling curriculum online for a membership fee but there are a couple of free classes for little kids for math and reading

  5. You can download free books on amazon to your kindle app. (You don't have to own a kindle you can download the app to your computer or phone) Most of them are from the late 1800's and early 1900's but they have such titles as: Science & Practice in Farm Cultivation; Heaths modern language series, the Spanish American Reader; Stories of Great Musicians; Astronomy, the Science of Heavenly Bodies; The Elson Readers, book 5; The Principals of Economics; Frontier Stories; and even the American Frugal Housewife. Just search under free books and one of these titles and it will suggest other old books like this. The great thing about these old books - no politics in them just good old fashioned facts and learning!

  6. It's time to bake cookies and cakes. Learn measurements and factions - and you get cookies too!

  7. I strongly encourage parents to NOT try to duplicate "school". You can go a long way by giving students good books to read. They will find good thoughts, grammar and spelling. The little ones can be read to. They will love it. In addition to reading fiction, it is good to read historical fiction, biographies and travel brochures. Have the students go through travel brochures and plan the vacation of their dreams. Have them map out the itinerary, plan and total cost of tickets, hotels, restaurants and side trips. How many weeks of a minimum wage job would they have to work to pay for the trip? What difference will it make since the gov't. takes money out of the paycheck before you even get it? Why do they take it out?
    This project leads into all sorts of worthy activities.

  8. I'm using this i saw on Facebook

  9. When I first started homeschooling I was BROKE. Between the internet and the library I have found my needs met. And the joy of homeschooling, spending the day and growing with people that I really love, love, love, is such a blessing.
    Here is my go to list of free,online schooling resources for preschool thru adult education.

  10. In the short term, without any preparation, the two biggest pieces of advice I would give parents is 1) DO NOT try to homeschool for the length of a normal school day... you can get through everything in 2-3 hours with 2-3 kids that it takes 6-7 hours to do in public school. REALLY. And 2) DO NOT RECREATE THE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT - this is a great opportunity to learn by DOING - Cooking or baking for math, planting a garden (math again & science, measuring), play real board games with real people (good sportsmanship is an important social skill!), learn a new card game (you can find demos/explanations online if you don't have a copy of Hoyle's, learn a new card trick, read aloud, plan a grocery budget and the week's worth of meals (financial planning), call the grandparents and ask the living through WW2 rationing was like this, get them to tell the kids stories from when they were little. Teach the kids an age appropriate skill/hobby - let any of the mechanically inclined kiddos disassemble any non-working items you have (we gave my youngest the busted lawn mower for this). If you own your own home, let the kids paint pictures on the basement walls (my parents let me do that when I was 10... hearts and musical notes all over the concrete block laundry room wall - 40+years later, it's still there...
    Go for walks, runs, bike rides, skateboard, blade, anything to get their bodies moving - turn the backyard into an obstacle course and let them teach the dog how to run agility. Just DO NOT let them spend hours on their damn "smarter than they are" phones.

  11. I worked at an elementary school once and you would be amazed at how much time at school is spent doing other than learning. Getting in line for the "next" class, recess, lunch subject matter that is not appropriate (sex education) and so forth. You can get more done in 4 hours than a whole day in school. I agree on getting learning resources through technology, especially for the older kids. The thing what will stump most parents is fear, it did me. Schools make it seem as if only the most educated can teach, really? Think alternative, this will be a great way to connect with your kids, see where they are really at in academics, only you know your child and the best way to teach them. Projects can be great teaching tools. This just may make the future of teaching with just a few teachers and a lot of tech and visiting school once or twice a week for socializing. Be creative.

  12. Post Alley CrackpotMarch 16, 2020 at 6:45 PM

    I'll offer a long view of things after this crisis has resolved in some way or another ...

    People who are becoming "sudden homeschoolers" previously took for granted the convenience of externalities, both social and economic: they were able to use the government-run school systems as a way to outsource breakfast and lunch meal prep as well as a way to outsource both "day care" and education.

    Now that people are going to have to become more directly responsible for taking care of more of their children's needs, they're also going to be able to see that while the immediate shift of responsibilities isn't going to be pleasant for many of them, after a while it's not going to be as bad as they'd thought.

    And so once things settle down, people are going to ask the right kinds of questions, such as: "why are we paying so much for government-run education", "why is the school breakfast/lunch programme run by government instead of the community", "why can't homeschoolers get vouchers as a rebate on their taxes", "why is our school system so big and expensive yet it doesn't do things well", and so on.

    But the questions certainly won't stop there.

    Not only has "the present regime" in office been unable to stop the bureaucratic incompetence of the CDC from screwing up the rapid deployment of testing kits, but also "the present regime" in office has been unable up to now to get the FDA to cease operating like a bureaucratic fiefdom.

    Most people regard the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution as some left-over assignment of legal responsibility, but it's there for a reason: if anything, the people who are home schooling now out of being forced to do it will be demanding that their governments hand over powers to "the people" themselves.

    Want a humanist spin on the current events?

    Then have your kids read Albert Camus's "The Plague", in both English translation as well as French if they're also learning French.

    I have two suggestions for your article then beyond this: there may be an updated version of Lenore Skenazy's "Free Range Children" that may be worth consulting, and then there's the possibility of borrowing from university libraries.

    Some areas have a policy of their state-run universities extending borrowing privileges to students in the surrounding area. In some areas, this may not be better than your local library for a lot of needs, but in others it may be a very welcome resource, especially for specialised topics.

    Also, there's WorldCat to search all of those libraries, so you can find out whether there's something you need elsewhere that can be brought in via inter-library loan.

    Some local libraries may not have a policy of accepting more than a very small number of inter-library loan requests because of costs, but those libraries may also be willing to consider establishing accounts for the payment of inter-library loan transfer fees.

  13. Cincinnati Zoo is doing a live daily FB stream highlighting an animal and offering an 'activity' for families to follow along with. I have not looked at this, but they featured our beloved Fiona the hippo today.

    A local Christian preschool is offering twice a day offerings. Daily they have a lesson/activity, and at bedtime are offering a story book reading and prayer.

    Those are just a couple of things I've seen offered locally in Ohio.

    Conner Boyack is offering half price memberships to the Tuttle Twins free enterprise series.

    Several bloggers you may or may not know are offering their gardening series on a 'pay as you can' basis.

    If I come across any more, I will add to the list. I have been sharing what I've come across with my DD. GS school already had an online portal, but what I've come across can only add to it.

    OH...PBS kids...offering a daily lesson plan around their regularly scheduled shows...

  14. Read, read, read. Then discuss it together. There is nothing more important.

  15. I homeschooled our 3 boys for about 18 years. We finished in 2006 so I am a bit out of the loop when it comes to curriculum. Here are some thoughts:
    1. The teacher needs to be out of bed before the students. Make a cuppa something, get showered and dressed, make your bed and have some quiet time before the kids are up.
    2. We always had devotions at or right after breakfast. If that is not your thing, then give your kids an inspirational pep talk.
    3. The kids would then go get dressed, brush their teeth and make their beds.
    4. Then we would start the academic day, but would often break it up with something fun - a dance party, singing at the top of our lungs, a basketball game ( we had one of those nerf hoops in the living room).
    5. Recognize your kids have different learning styles. One son was very slow but always got the job done. The other two were quick but sometimes inaccurate or sloppy.
    6. Your family is a team. My boys and now my grandchildren can be very competitive with each other. Teamwork may not come naturally but I now have the confidence that my 40, 37 and 31 year old sons can accomplish a lot of good together.
    7. Don't raise your voice at your kids in anger. No child is motivated by that. I found that the boys were very motivated by a checklist. The checklist became their task master not me. And when everything was checked off their list - they were outside.
    8. You don't have to do everything. You are a team, remember? 😀 The boys had chores, folding laundry, setting the table, loading and emptying the dishwasher etc. I was working part time as well as homeschooling and I could not do it all myself.

    That was a great time in our lives. I'm so thankful we were able to homeschool. Give yourself grace - you are not going to wreck your kids education because your are not a 'professional' (even though I have great respect for teachers). Love your kids, read great books and have fun. You've got this.

  16. The above comments are spot-on. There is NO NEED to make your home a copy of the school.
    I have used Ambelside Online ( for years as a resource/starter page. It is thick with information and TONS of free resources and links to those resources. On their home page there is an item labeled "AO Help Emergency Lesson Plan" - 4th item on the left. There are also grade/age specific plans. There is a LOT in this website, but a parent could pick an choose what they want to use. There are many ideas which do not require the purchase of a book. My cautionary advice is don't freak out and don't be overwhelmed by all of the choices. If children get nothing more than some math and reading for a few weeks, nothing is lost. My other advice is to have a schedule that starts every morning at the same time and that school is done right after morning chores and before other distractions; if you don't start school in the morning, there is a strong chance you won't do it that day. Find good books and don't be afraid of older books; many of the modern suggested reading lists are very fluffy reading. If you loved a book as a kid; chances are your kid will love it too. If it is beyond their ability; read it to them. When you start reading out loud, you may find you are a bit rusty; but it gets better and your children will love it.

  17. Our local library may be closed now, so I'm not counting on that as a resource.

    Studying the privations that people suffered and survived during the Great Depression and World War II can give helpful perspective during this time.

    My children like to create "survivor challenges" for themselves that last a few hours: set up a little fort somewhere, stock it with food and books and useful things, and then stay in it.

  18. I'll agree with everyone saying don't try to replicate school at home. Keep it simple. I also agree with reading books as my top recommendation. If you don't have many books at home but do have internet, there are a lot of free older books at Project Gutenberg or can be downloaded from Amazon in kindle format. You don't need a kindle as they have apps for reading the files on other platforms. Sometimes, the public libraries have an online area where you can check out kindle/nook books for a couple weeks (ours has a decent selection of children's books). Even libraries that are closed typically have the website working still.

    There are a lot of math resources online to print out. If you want to allow computer games, Tux of Math Command is a free download and covers a wide age range. Even my older children have goofy days and play it to see who can beat the level the fastest (usually doing multiplication or division facts). For some science fun, American Chemical Society has a National Chemistry Week archive with downloadable pdfs designed for 4th-6th grade (things to read, games, kitchen chemistry experiments- archive has at least one per year going back to the late 90s) and ChemMatters activities for high school age. has American history and government downloadable courses for all ages. Board games and card games are a great idea.

    Crafting- learning how to mix and blend even crayon colors can be fun, especially with a child safe adult coloring book (our local Dollar Store has some that are animal or flower based- even my children who hate coloring normal coloring books enjoy the more intricate pages...sometimes I can find free printables of more complex coloring images online).

    Does anyone have a favorite website or downloadable pdf for exercise and movement in a small space? I like videos like the Walk On series myself (and most don't take a lot of space but have plenty of movement), but I'm thinking unintentional homeschoolers may want something more child based.

  19. There is BBC bitesize for children of all ages, the uk website the schols use have been opened up free while the schools are off

  20. Patrice, thank you for raising this question and to the posters who provided useful information regarding resources, approaches and daily schedules.

    While we do play with our children and enjoy interacting with them, we want to provide them with some normalcy in these times. School is an anchor for our children's routines and we would like to put some of that back in their daily lives. If nothing else, schooling can help fill days with something other than free play and chores.

  21. Please teach the Bill of Rights. That should do it.

  22. This made me,a homeschooled graduate, laugh.

  23. Advice for for high school chemistry or physics- hopefully the students have their textbooks from school. For high school video lessons, try Georgia Public Broadcasting. Their older video courses are here: Their newer chemistry one is Their new physics one is If school is out long enough that you want to actually give worksheets or tests or possibly even do a few labs, you might be able to get the teacher materials (information on the various websites). Not all textbooks cover material in the same order, so you'll have to look at the titles/summaries of each video and find the right one. Hope this helps!

  24. for younger kids... elementary primarily get the paper out or copy things (pictures/ words) of things to look for outdoors (weather permitting of course). Make it a scavenger hunt, or I see X game. Not only gets them out and exercising and off devices, but teaches us to interact with the kids. There are many variations of this type of game to play....

  25. My coworker on FB that "it was day 3 of watching her mom's grandkids and she was really tired of it", lol I thought that was hysterical. You have to find the humor in these things when you can, but of course we are Er nurses so dark humor is our thing in stressful times. Be Well. I am praying for us all.

  26. I would think the issue might be that these parent's are not truly allowed to homeschool as we know it. I am sure that the public schools will provide a list of what THEY expect the child to complete. I doubt they will allow much room for the creativity that typical homeschool parents use. And very few homeschool families stay at home all week. In fact, most homeschool families I know are struggling a bit with the social distancing as much as their peers. Honestly, I feel for these sudden forced homeschoolers. They have the worst of both worlds and this is a terrible introduction to homeschooling.