Let’s just say I was nervous at the start of our school year, so to anyone looking to tackle such an endeavor, I completely understand any reticence on the matter. Hopefully, my experiences will be a reason to take a closer look at homeschooling or help you feel more comfortable if it is something you’re considering.
The homeschool program we chose was free, so I will touch on some positive aspects of teaching from home, challenges and frustrations we encountered, and how this experience enhanced the relationship I have with my two lovely kiddos. So, let’s take a look at my past year as a geeky parent: homeschool perspective.
Expanding Our Kids’ Horizons
Yes, I will talk about challenges in a bit, but the overall affect from being my kids’ teacher has been truly special. First, it’s safe to say that helping my kids learn is such an amazing experience. I’ve had the opportunity to help them with mathematics, reading, language arts, and we’ve gone beyond the scope of what might be taught in public school at such an early age. My kids are ages 6 (First Grade) and 8 (Second Grade), so having a chance to virtually travel the world with them was phenomenally fun.
Our homeschooling program, Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool, allowed Meghan and me to decide what kind of theme for their curriculum. Each theme included different subjects, so not only is this a FREE program, you get to decide what courses you’ll be teaching. Well, we picked a theme that included Geography and Earth Sciences. Having that flexibility to say, “Hey, this is really cool that our kids will learn some science and travel the world doing it,” was fantastic.
My kids LOVED science experiments. They love seeing chemical reactions, making guesses on what they think might happen, or sometimes, they’re just excited because they know they get to eat the marshmallows after trying to construct structures using them and pretzels. Their enthusiasm is extremely valuable, because it might spark a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) path for them as they continue to learn more and more. Along with experiments, we tracked different NASA missions, explored our solar system, and learned more about Earth.
My kids adored learning about places all over the world, including watching travel and food videos. So, if you’re wondering how much fun Geography can be, trust me when I say it is LOADS of FUN! My kids are obsessed with certain YouTube channels or shows that provide a wonderful outlook on the wonderful cuisines and cultures all over the world. We’ve also become accustomed to some go-to learning resources, along with staple activities, which have become a permanent fixture in our home. It’s been nice depending on educational resources that my kids continually engaged in.
Let’s just say that this past year Meghan and I have both noticed our kids being super engaged with the content they were learning. Plus, it’s been great to see them also branch out and find their own specific interests, and learning that it’s okay to like different things. Marsh loved learning about caves early in the year, while Adelaide was fascinated with mountains.
Facing Challenges and Trying to Adjust Strategies
As you all know, parenting in a pandemic has been exceptionally trying. Finding patience under normal circumstances seemed like balancing on a tightrope, but now, it’s turned into hanging onto that tightrope with your fingertips as the cord rips. The biggest challenge for me was dealing with my kids when there was a major lack of focus or when they missed their momma. Sometimes, those problems were intertwined.
First, my kids will sometimes rush and miss clear problems that they know how to solve. Even after repeating instructions or showing them how to work through a problem, there were several days where the ability to focus, listen, or both was just out the window. Yes, I lost my patience. Trying to balance life as parent versus teacher was not easy. There wasn’t a magic button to press to always temper that mindset, so there were times when all of us had to take deep breaths to make sure we were doing our best to engage in the moment. Other times, though, we would stop what we were doing to take a break.
That break could look different in many ways. One might be getting our shoes on and going outside to run around or kick a ball around. Another break might be me getting them to stand and wiggle our bodies around until I could get them to crack a smile and let them know that everything will be okay. Sometimes, it’s hard not to take things seriously, and when my kids aren’t able to pay attention for whatever reason, that’s one thing I’ve tried to learn: flexibility. Letting them have a voice to say, “Can I do my reading later?” was a very big deal.
Trying to help my kids problem solve has been one of the most challenging aspects of homeschooling in a pandemic, because they don’t have that social circle to figure things out on their own consistently. So, when they’re unable to problem solve when they’re unable to focus or they’re only focused on missing mommy when she went back to teaching in-person, I did my very best to change things up – even if it meant me looking super silly just to get them to smile or laugh. Yes, if you were walking by our house and saw a 6-foot-5 individual shaking or wiggling around like he was trying to shake off a thousand creepy-crawlies, you might’ve wondered what the heck was going on in the Lakata household.
I was trying to help my kids move beyond whatever roadblock was preventing them from learning in that moment. Yes, I looked ridiculous. Being a teacher is such a challenge, because each kid might need something different to better learn. So, when I say how much more I appreciate teachers who have classes of 20 or 30 or more, please know I mean it. Understanding that Marshall likes absolute silence when he needs to focus, while Adelaide needs to write out math problems to solve. It’s been a year full of these little things that have created a challenging experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.
Oh, if you have a sliding glass door, use a dry-erase marker and do school work on it. It is a great tool to do math problems or write sentences for the kids to decipher types of nouns, verbs, or adjectives. It’s an extremely fun, hands-on way for the kids to learn. Plus, it’s another way to shift gears if focus is a problem, because it gets them up and they can move around while trying to solve problems.
Forming Bonds That Are Incredibly Strong
Our kids have handled this pandemic as well as humanly possible. Without having social bonds, missing friends and family members, they’ve been able to form an even greater bond than I thought possible. They play so well together, and they’re very thoughtful of each other’s feelings and what each other likes when it comes to books, games, and TV shows. Yes, they’ve always been close, especially since they’re only 19 months apart, but this past year has allowed them to really cope with not having others around.
Plus, if they’ve wanted to do something, we’ve been a little more flexible. Meghan and I want our kids to be kids. Does it mean we say, “Yes,” to everything? No. But, when they ask for a sleepover, sure, let’s do it! We’ve taken their mattresses down to their playroom and let them stay up later. Also, if we’re moving mattresses, it pretty much a guarantee that they’re going to have a few nights of sleepovers downstairs. Also, there have been many nights when they’re downstairs and we just listen to all of the cackling going on. Our kids have turned into each other’s comic relief, and when they start to laugh, I stop and just listen. That’s part of my way to cope, listening to them, knowing we just want that – to hear their laughter in some way lets me know we’re doing okay.
Something that Meghan pointed out was the bond I’ve formed with the kids. Again, not that it wasn’t strong before, but she noticed how the kids depend on me as the primary parent. They come to me with questions or ask me to play. Yes, they’ve always asked me to play, but I guess being home all the time means it can happen more often. And, no, I have not figured out the whole self-care, take time for myself yet during this past year. Having Meghan mention this bond makes me happy. As a parent, and probably deep down as a person, I like being needed. I liked hearing that we’ve grown closer together. It makes me feel that throughout this past year, I’ve done something right.
We even have new normals: We bake together, we’re outside when the weather’s nice, and I’m watching my kids hit “home runs” over our neighbors’ fence time and time again.
Personal note: Clive and Sharlene, thank you again and again for always throwing the balls back over, without ever batting an eye. We’re lucky to have you as neighbors and friends.
Plus, my kids have found ways to be creative and make their own games. Sometimes, they’ve literally taken a LEGO tire, and used things like a bowling pin or kaleidoscope, to bat it back and forth with each other trying to see how long they can roll it. Other times, they’ve chased each other around or done races in the backyard. Or they’ve simply enjoyed blowing bubbles, because who doesn’t love seeing them.
Homeschooling and Moving Forward
Would I homeschool again? Absolutely! Will we do it again next year? We’re not sure. A lot of this decision will be based on when vaccines will be available for kids. I will absolutely homeschool next year, regardless of if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and I want to teach them again for another year. They’ve learned so much, and so have I, and I relish the opportunity to do it again.
So, if you’re considering homeschooling, I hope this has been a positive look at what it might look like for you. Yes, there were moments of frustration and trying to learn how to be an effective teacher for my kids, but they were few and far between the many amazing days, which was most of the school year. One thing I would offer as advice: Try and separate the parent from the teacher. I never used punishments to try and achieve better productivity when they weren’t super focused. Taking away screen time or books or outside time was never tied to our schooling.
I wanted them to learn and find ways to help them learn in the best way possible. Hey, we all have bad days, so I didn’t want to discipline those days. Some days when focus was a problem, I gave them breaks. Other days, I pushed them to stay on task to try and work through it. I wouldn’t call it a perfect system, but in the end, the goal was to try and get them to learn and maintain some semblance of fun while doing it. That’s what I hope we achieved this year – and I hope it’s something for you to look forward to, if you’re considering homeschool.
Are you considering homeschooling your kids in the future? If you already do homeschool, what have been some of your highlights of the past year? Have your kids learned any new activities or found new TV shows or movies that have become staples in your household? Share your thoughts with us over on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to give us a follow while you’re there!
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.