Crisis Schooling

Crisis Schooling Tips and Tricks from fellow parents in the trenches

I have to tell you, friends, when we made the decision to stop homeschooling our kiddos and instead send them to a wonderfully small, academically rich classical academy charter school, I wasn’t fully prepared for the screeching halt that has become our life when they came home that last day before Spring Break in March.

You see, I braced myself. I had signed them up for this school with tears in my eyes. Not because I hated homeschooling, but because we had been doing it for 10 years and I wanted to test the waters of a new schooling choice. As Divine Providence would have it, the kiddos were seated one by one in the order that gave this momma heart enough time to adjust to the baby birds leaving the home academic nest. By the time the school year began, I had worked through those emotions and was truly truly happy for them to start this new adventure.

When the world stopped in March, bringing the kids back home, with oodles of books, and school loaned chrome books, I immediately felt like this was not homeschooling.

And it isn’t.

The phrase we are all looking for is crisis schooling. Homeschooling carries with it the idea of choice, even if you make the decision to school because you don’t like your local schools, it is still a choice we make, and one we ultimately own.

Crisis schooling on the other hand has been one that’s been thrown down in our lap. And it’s one that even us former and current homeschooling families are staring at with wide-eyed horror. It. Is. A. Lot. Too Much.

I have to be honest with you – by the time March rolls around, I am already waving off the year with a flick of my wrist, drooling over the new curriculum books and programs for the next year, and generally we are winding down by this point. We hit the books heavy in August and skate in on fumes by the time March and April roll around. We rarely, if ever, take a school year all the way into May. Truth be told, I am mentally done with the school year by the time Thanksgiving hits, but that is a whole OTHER post, friends.

Some of you may be wondering how the heck your homeschool friends manage homeschooling by your experience of juggling exactly 1000 balls of working and managing Zoom calls left and right. I’m here to tell you that your homeschool friends are wondering how you’re doing it, too.

This. Is. Not. What. Homeschooling. Looks. Like. On the daily.

Sincerely. What you’re doing is called crisis schooling and what YOU are doing is quite heroic. Percentage wise, most homeschooling families have one parent who schools and does not work while schooling is going on.

Is it hard? YEP. But is it at all the same level of stress that you’re undergoing? Not even a little bit. We can choose to do schoolwork at our leisure – start when we want – end when we want. Many of us choose to homeschool in large part due to the freedom.

So, if you were to ask me if what I’m doing now is homeschooling with my kiddos, I would say a hard no. What I am in this role is basically a home appointed teacher’s aid. And each teacher has their own method of instruction. Between managing the domestic front, I now have to guide them through their work, messages, emails, working with Jupiter Pods (which LOVE to kick back completed assignments as blank and have them redo it allllll over again – oh the wailing and the gnashing of the teeth!), and making sure things are submitted on time. All while balancing those needs with the needs of a 3yo who has recently decided emphatically that NOW is the time to potty train and a 3 month old infant whose needs are…well…predictable if not overwhelming.

I polled some friends who homeschooled in the past from families who have one parent home and not working and from those who both parents are working. I have my own perspective that I share below, but thought y’all would love to hear from a variety of folks who can offer different points of view.

Remember – we ARE all in this together; HOWEVER, we are all different, and our stress levels are different, and what works for one, may not work for another. We are unique and beloved, but we can definitely rally around each other and embrace our different paths through these incredibly trying times. God love y’all.

TIPS

Schooling with one stay at home parent

My best advice in schooling with one parent at home and you have little littles is to advocate for what works for your family. Schools seem to give decent leeway given the extenuating circumstances, so if you’ve yet to find that rhythm, try different things until you find what works. For us, when we homeschooled is that we have an order we stick to rather than a timeline. Rather than starting school right at 8:00 a.m. (ha, yeah right with an infant!), we shoot for the order of things that need to get done before school starts. That means, wake up, chores, change into (clean) play clothes, have breakfast, and then they start on schoolwork. I used to time the bulk of schoolwork when we homeschooled to coincide with naps, but that’s not practical in this situation, so we altered it to meet the needs of this situation. ~ Martina

I have a HS that’s public, two middle schoolers in private and one homeschooled. I find that your kid’s personality defines your experience. My HS and my 8th grader are laid back, follow instructions and are people pleasers. They want to do well even in distance learning. My 5th grader is a self pleaser, independent, strong willed, good leadership type qualities, but if something better is happening she’ll skip a zoom class or an assignment and just take the consequences with ill-grace. She’s the hardest one, so keeping on a regimen that’s written down is easiest for her and doing it exactly the same every day. 10:30 reading, 1:00 math, 2:00 Tuesday and Thursday math tutoring as an example.  
My third grader we use CHC since kindergarten, he is also a people pleaser, wants to get done and moving on to riding his bike or visiting his new niece across the street.  

I’ve homeschooled all of them in the past most of my frustrations were either my expectations were too large for myself or for them. When talking to other homeschool moms or teachers the tendency is to overachieve when achieving could be enough.
~ anonymous

I used to homeschool and now our kids have lessons from the classical school they attend.  Don’t feel bad about skipping the optional subjects. Do some things orally if possible. They need to read a set amount of time per day? Pop in an audio book.  Don’t be afraid to tell the school if assignments seem unreasonable. ~ Rachel U.

Take time for yourself everyday.  
That will look different for everyone, but it’s something I’ve been a firm believer in from the get-go, and find myself needing *more* self-care than before, because I am giving more of myself than before.

Don’t feel bad if you are doing the bare minimum for school, or are not even getting that most days. This is a short time in our children’s educational career.

One of the things that I love as a homeschooler that may or may not be possible with crisis schooling families is to combine things – my children are all studying the same history period, the same science concepts. We read books aloud altogether.
~ anonymous

I recommend picking a “main” place to do school work. We are using our dining room. Our kids leave the dining room to find a quiet spot to take a test or read but all their books, laptops, school supplies etc must come back to the dining room to be put away at the end of the school day. This keeps all the things in one spot and allows me to check over work plus keeps the house from getting overrun by school items. ~ Marion W.

Schooling with both parents working at home

Keeping some sort of schedule. Including schoolwork, and lunch times. We also ALWAYS have at least 1 recess everyday. They need the mental and physical break and so do I! We also have designated spaces where we keep all school and work supplies. Sometimes we move around to different spots to do the work but we always start and end in that spot so we don’t loose anything! ~ Katrina K.

I bought a Kindle for the 4yo to also do “school” while the big kids do school. I work primarily during nap time. ~ Sarah S.

 I only work part time, but the gamechanger for me is that I spend 15 to 30 minutes each day listing all of the work, by family member on a checklist and where everything is located online. I also keep both a monthly calendar of all phone and video meetings and a daily checklist. On that checklist, I note all of the meeting id codes and passwords so I don’t have to look them up. I also have a list of everyone’s school ids, passwords, etc for quick reference and I plan who will be on which device, where and when. 

Just having a refernce sheet and checklist for everyone in one place greatly reduces the scramble and the stress during the grind of the day. I also am okay with my house looking like a wreck during the week. We do what we can and the clean over the weekend.
~ C.W.

The key is to have very low expectations. Don’t compare yourself to others. We do the bare minimum. And we don’t do that well, lol! A few things that have worked-our schedule is based on my work schedule. I work weird hours and I sleep for a time in the afternoon. So all our school work is done around that schedule. I try to manage the process, but my older kids are pretty much on their own. I try to isolate my most disruptive child. I let my kids start their work at staggered times-this works for me. If the older kids sleep late, it helps me get my work done. We did invest in additional computers and that was a sanity saver. During the week we lock up tablets and phones to preserve the Wifi and keep the kids focused. This also makes it easier to force them to help with chores. As far as the online meetups-I just don’t do them unless they are crucial. I have had to let our teachers know that I can’t do them and they understand. Most of our teachers have kids at home with them, they understand they just need to know your situation. I also have invested some money in special craft and art supplies for the kids to help keep them busy and out of my hair. If your school is still giving you assignments 5 days a week advocate strongly for a 4 day week with Friday for makeup work. This is so helpful to families especially those working and juggling computer access at home with multiple kids. ~ Amy N.

My husband is working full-time, sometimes at home and sometimes at the hospital. My hours have increased, and I’m now gone 3 days a week. We invested in a chromebook for our youngest, which the older kids who had chromebooks issued by school can use when cameras decide to be finicky. We also replaced our router to improve our wifi coverage. (That might have happened regardless.) 
What helped us was starting to write everything down – who has what call and when. From there, we figured out which older kid could help a younger and who could make sure they ate lunch, who would assign chores and make sure they got done, etc. We take about an hour after Mass on Sunday, which seems to be a good time to prep with prayer. 
It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s better. Three weeks time go for us!
~ Amy M.

For me, it is to be prepared for how my schedule is for the day and how much can my kiddos get done while I am in meetings. Mornings we do chores, breakfast, etc. Then I have coloring activities, I look for interactive virtual tours of museums, I did invest in some learning apps (ABCYA) which you can limit what they can do if you want them to focus on a particular area. I found some sites that have various worksheet. My goal is to keep them working/busy. Then we started distance learning, that became more challenging from a tech perspective (long story). I try to schedule my meetings where I can have a little time to check in on them. My 4th grader does ok and he helps my Kinder kid. We have lunch together and we take a walk. I will let them play after lunch and then come back and do some reading and call it a day where they can watch TV. Some days are good. Some days are NOT. ~ Renee F.

My biggest problem is not knowing when I will work. I am an interpreter for deaf children for our school system. The teenager i interpret for has a very tumultuous home life. Sometimes she’s with mom, sometimes dad, sometimes grandma. All different times to work. I try to schedule her for 2pm so I can work with my kids first. I have one adhd child that we are adjusting meds for (her meds last too long for this type of schooling and she’s underweight, so we want her to be able to eat if she can) and the smaller one is a ball of wires. He needs the structure of a classroom, too many distractions at home. He outright refuses to do work sometimes, no matter the consequences. He literally stayed in his room for the week except for mealtimes (there’s nothing in there but a bed and books). I’m at a loss. ~ Lucinda M.

If your company qualifies for the paycheck protection program and you can afford to, take the emergency FMLA time at 2/3 thirds pay. I’m working 10 hours a week at my regular rate and then 30 hours are billed under covid-19 childcare issues and paid 2/3 of what I normally earn and I keep my benefits. This is funded by a federal grant. If I hadn’t done this we would all be in the mental hospital by now. Or I would have had to quit which would be causing enormous financial strain. ~ Ada

Have any tips you’d like to add? Share in the comments, friends.

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