Homeschooling in the Coulee RegionMar 26, 2020 03:15PM ● By Lissa Carlson
Check out our list of resources and download Meg's handy schedule template at the bottom of this page!
We recently asked for input from Heather Bach of La Crosse and Kara Tomashek of Onalaska, two homeschool veterans. They understand the tough position we’ve all been handed due to social distancing circumstances, and that's reflected in their kind advice. We’re all in this together, at the risk of stating the obvious, even if we’re keeping a 6-foot berth while we’re at it!
Heather sees a lot of parents start out with ambitious schedules and plans, only to feel frustrated when it falls apart. “No one benefits from feeling like they are failing when they have barely begun,” she says. “Be extra kind to both yourself and your children while you get the hang of things. It takes everyone a few weeks to really get into a rhythm. Focus on praise and encouragement.”
With that, she encourages parents to explore different schedules and strategies while you’re learning what works and what doesn’t. Take your kids’ input into consideration as you experiment. “My son is wonderfully self-aware and has great ideas that work for him. I’ve learned to trust those ideas enough to try them.”
Admittedly, homeschooling can be exhausting, Heather says. “I suspect all the patience required takes a lot of energy,” she says. “Try to monitor yourself carefully so that if your patience is wearing thin, you take a break. The same goes for your kids: Let them take a break if you see they’re getting frustrated.”
Heather’s final piece of advice? Embrace and enjoy the conversations and time you’ll have with your kids that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. That may be the silver lining of these COVID-19 circumstances.
Kara wrote a persuasive essay against homeschooling in college, ironically enough. Perspectives change with time and experience, and it was the ability to tailor their interests and learning, as well as the chance to learn and grow with her kids, that inspired her and her husband to choose homeschooling for their four kids. It was a tough decision since she’d had some memorable and amazing teachers growing up, and that's an aspect she admits her kids will miss. Still, she says, “I knew I would regret not trying to homeschool more than I would trying it.”
Like Heather, she recommends setting a schedule that fits your family, or risk being asked a million times what you’ll be doing all day. Set times for breakfast, lunch, and snack or kids can wind up grazing (and your kitchen will be a constant mess). And set a rule for earned screen time on electronics only after school work and chores are completed.
Kara and her kids use a block schedule, but if someone becomes distracted by something interesting (recently, how soldiers lived in the trenches during WW1), they stop and investigate it.
Her biggest tip is to start the day with the most important subjects first. And don’t underestimate the academic value in cooking (fractions, measurements), laundry (sorting, measuring, organizing to put away), and snuggling while reading aloud.
Just as Heather’s advice recommends parents go easy on themselves, Kara’s does too. “Don’t compare yourself to a traditional homeschool family,” she says. “We had time to contemplate the decision, pick curriculum, and experiment with getting our kids used to it. You don’t need to be a perfect teacher, or try to replace your child’s teacher. Just be your best."