Solidarity, all you new homeschooling Mamas.

Hello, all you new new homeschooling mamas. You have a lot on your plate already, and now with schools shut down all over the U.S. for COVID-19 concerns, it looks like you will be teaching your little darlings. For 6 hours a day, anywhere between 6 weeks and… forever, you’re going to now be in charge of everything they learn, too.

Want to see my homeschool schedule I created and then printed out so I could tape it to the wall of our brand new homeschool room? March calendar

Just kidding. There is no schedule, there is no wall, and there definitely isn’t a room. You see, we’re already using all the rooms in our house, so there’s little to no chance that we’re going to magically find enough square footage for a brand new homeschooling classroom. And, about that schedule? I’m already stressed enough these days, I’m definitely not going to create an entire schedule for us to ignore. Sorry, kiddos.

Sooooo, congratulations on your new (unpaid) job, all you new homeschooling mamas?

Maybe you’re excited about this time and happy to have your kiddos home so you can homeschool them. Maybe you really do have lesson plans printed, schedules made, virtual field trips you’re excited about taking, and you are looking forward to getting a homeschool schedule down that allows the maximum family togetherness. If so, I commend you and I wish you well on this wonderful journey you’re about to embark on with your family.

But, frankly, this post isn’t for you so you can stop reading now.

RR Three kiddos homeschooling

This post is for all the mamas who never thought they would be homeschooling. And, yet here we are. 

The thing is, when most people think of homeschooling, they think of young children. They think of baking with their kids, art projects and finger paints, and maybe even teaching multiplication and basic math. But, the thing is: all grades are out of school, even the ones with *really hard* homework. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard a single person talk glowingly about teaching their teenager calculus. 

I know this is going to be really, really hard for many of you. I’m not going to tell you that you’ve got this, or that it will all be just fine. Because, honestly, maybe it won’t.

Maybe homeschooling for you will look like a battle of wills each day. Maybe your attempts at homeschooling will leave you frustrated and alone, and because of social distancing you won’t even have friends you can escape to later. Maybe you will find that something as simple as printing an assignment from a kids’ teacher becomes a three hour long process and you’re desperately emailing files from computer to computer to finally get that one sheet of paper one kid needs to make it to ink and paper. Maybe you will find you get three paragraphs into the emailed instructions for yet another online learning course that your kids are supposed to work on, and then instead of going through the 12 steps you just close the email to keep your own sanity intact. 

Maybe you will find that your kids do, in fact, get their stubbornness from you. Maybe you will find that kids home all day makes for a messy house, tons of noise, lax house rules, and little to no alone time to hear yourself think. Or maybe you will find that you are suddenly supposed to master trigonometry and chemistry at the same time as teaching your littlest one how to read. Maybe your every day struggles will suddenly feel so many times greater because the weight of the world is on your shoulders… and all the emails are filling up your inbox.homeschooling mamas

If your child has special needs, this new world of homeschooling is going to hit even harder. Your child may be missing out on vital resources only the school system can provide, and now you’re in a position where you can’t give them what they desperately need. For those parents, my heart goes out to you. Your kids may be feeling extra anxious, overly excitable, or just downright mad that their routine has been stripped away from them, and for you and for them, I mourn.

Maybe we don’t “got this”, new homeschooling mamas. Maybe there’s a really darn good reason we send our kids off to public school each day and hope that whatever teacher they are assigned is able to teach them these things. Maybe, just maybe, we weren’t all cut out to be teaching.

And, you know what? That used to be *fine*. No one used to judge when we decided NOT to homeschool our little ones. But yet, one mention of being apprehensive about being thrown into homeschooling during the school shut down and everyone and their dear neighbor has advice. Sign them up for this! Virtually join in this special online learning program! Meet me virtually at exactly 11:30 CST! Do this experiment/art project/messy thing and celebrate the day with your kids!

Thank you, virtual friend. I *might* end up doing that. Or, I might be in survival mode when I read your comment on my post and instead of feeling heard and acknowledged, I then feel even more less-than because it seems like everyone but me is cut out for this. 

The one thing it seems like no one is talking about.

You see, many of my friends are now learning the basics of homeschooling AND are expected to bring in a paycheck in this new and unfamiliar world, and no one seems to think that’s an unfair work load. I’ve never seen a teacher in a classroom teaching young kids while trying to do a separate and unrelated full time job online. It seems utterly ridiculous that us parents are now required to do both.

Although we definitely aren’t alone in this new world of homeschooling and working, I’ve found that this burden disproportionally falls on women. Many men are working from home as well, but judging from all my facebook friends, these men seem to have far less homeschooling to do. In fact, the joke of the week seemed to be posting about a time the kids interrupted the men working, showing it as the novelty that it typically is. 

The real kicker in all of this is that some of us aren’t *just* new homeschooling mamas. We are having trouble learning the ins and outs of multiple platforms and getting up to speed on dozens of subjects for our children’s lessons, all while we’re also new to working from home and learning the ropes for that. Even if we’re not new to working from home, we’re definitely new to working at home while having to teach multiple aged children all their many subjects and lessons.

Just think about how hard that really is for a second.Homeschooling kiddos

Maybe you have a job that can easily be done within 20 minute chunks while kids are doing their lessons, or maybe you have one of those jobs where no one will be mad if you disappear for hours while trying to help your kids work through some particularly hard instructions. That’s awesome for you, but I think we all understand these are the rare unicorn of jobs.

Even if you do have a lax schedule and a great boss, you’re still at the mercy of the age of hyper-connectivity. Emails by the dozens dinging while you’re busy explaining to a kid a difficult lesson {that you, yourself had to look up because you had no idea how to do}. The mere sound of multiple emails dinging can make all of us who work from home immediately feel stressed, as we assume they are urgent and need to be addressed right away. Now getting dozens of emails from our kids’ teachers as well as all of our work emails is enough to make a mama crazy. 

What about all those self employed folks, making their own hours and rolling in the dough while doing only a bare minimum of work? Yeah, I made those people up. Self employed is actually the most stressful place to be these days as there’s zero safety nets in place for all of us. We typically work long hours, many of which are on the back end and don’t actually generate income, and you can’t make an income if there’s just no work available. Understandably, it is also incredibly hard to adapt your business model and change with the economy when you’re also in the throes of learning to homeschool.

A good portion of my friends are self employed like I am, and it makes perfect sense. Mamas have always been at the mercy of school calendars, learning improvement early releases, summer breaks from school, and random days off. Because of that, a lot of us turn to some sort of self-employment job track so we can be the best parent to our kiddos when school is out. But, when we need to slow down work or the economy dips, we feel the slow down first.

I hate that so many self-employed friends are struggling right now. All of us are really feeling the stress these days, and we have no one to turn to. We know we can’t weather months of this new economy, but we have to keep trying to get checks rolling in and stay afloat for as long as we can. And, now we get to learn to homeschool on top of it. Try to put yourself in our shoes and imagine the scenario in which this stress will go on for weeks – but more likely months – and have a little compassion for all of us who are facing this as our new reality. 

Side note: support your small businesses! If you’ve got a secure and reliable job and are basically guaranteed to be able to weather this road ahead, help your fellow humans out!

Us self-employed mamas are the first ones you call when you’re running late from work and want us to pick up your kids from school and keep them an hour or six, or you need someone to fill in for you for whatever project you signed up for but now can’t make the time for. It’s your turn to help us out now. For some, it’s as easy as buying a gift certificate and using it later, or continuing to buy local whenever you can. In the case of bloggers, it’s as easy as clicking on a few posts or sharing on a favorite social network. Trust me, we won’t be picky which one. If you like our recipe, share it. If you learned something new from us, share it. If you connected with an article we wrote… you get the idea. It doesn’t cost you a dime, but it just might help save our houses. 

Speaking of which, let’s say you recently lost your job or were laid off as a result of COVID-19. If so, I’m so incredibly sorry. The stress you must feel right now certainly isn’t made any easier as you’re now required to homeschool as you search for all those {non-existent} jobs. I cannot even imagine how anxious and alone you must feel, hunkered down for safety while worried about how your family will survive this. My heart goes out to you and your family. Kids in field

This is all so new, so please give us new homeschooling mamas time to process all of this. 

One day I might feel okay with everything, excited about this time with my kids. Because, like you, I adore my kids. Like you, I also feel like the years are slipping by and I would do anything I could to press the “pause” button. Like you, I’ve also had the thought that maybe this *is* our pause button. I mean, our government officials are literally telling us to cancel all plans and stay home with our kids.

And, *normally*, I would be thrilled to spend extra time with my kids. My kids are delightful, and I relish the time with them. I enjoy watching them learn new things and seeing the pieces click together in their heads. When I’m the person that helped them make that click, I get a rush that is truly amazing, and it makes you feel connected in a way that you will never get just sitting in front of the TV together.Homeschooling plant

This love of family learning is why I’ve been supplementing their learning since they were born – reading books with them, researching topics they showed interest in, even picking vacations based on learning opportunities, helping them collect junior ranger badges, and looking for any and all opportunities to learn from our adventures in order to foster a life long love of learning. And truly, I am ridiculously involved in literally every aspect of our kiddos education. I volunteer in the schools every single week without fail, I join all the committees and parent groups, and I even made the switch to a co-op school 4 years ago because I wanted to be involved. We adore our school… and especially our teachers, and I love that I know nearly everyone they see each day.

But, I never signed myself up to be a teacher for a reason.

That reason is that I was never cut out to be a teacher. 

So, when half of all parents are now supposed to don a hat they never intended to wear and become new homeschooling mamas like it’s no big deal, I have issues with that. And, when those parents are also required to make money for their families to keep them from going under financially, I have *really big* problems with that. 

Depending on what time of day you talk to me, I might have a very different reaction to this new homeschooling world. Maybe I just had a mathematical breakthrough with my oldest and am still on cloud 9 from that. Or, maybe the kids and I took a nature walk in the glorious sunshine, and the whole time I was savoring each moment knowing that walks could potentially be prohibited in just a matter of time. Most of the time, I am just happy and grateful to be together and to be safe in a very uncertain world, and just wish that I didn’t have the pressure of being a Pinterest-loving homeschool mom at the same time.

So, I’m just not going to be a homeschool mama. Instead, I’m going to just continue to be the best mama I can to these amazing kiddos. We’re going to learn everything we can about the world around us, just like we always did. We’re going to continue to tackle too many art projects each week, because we’re famous for our never-ending art escapades. We’re going to bake, play games, have lots of imagination time, and laugh until our sides hurt. We’re going to get outside and enjoy the sunshine as long as we’re able. We’re going to keep on learning with the Math Hacked system we started on together to better absorb math facts. And, most importantly, I’m going to use this extra time with my kiddos home to bond with each of them and learn everything I can about these awesome kiddos I’m raising. Mama and kids

As for actual schooling? The older kids are going to fit in as much school work as they can during the littles’ naptime, and hopefully that will continue to be something that they can do independently so I can continue working as long as possible to bring in a paycheck. Yes, I’ll check their work and make sure they didn’t forget anything huge, but beyond that, I’m seeing this as a great opportunity for them to take some responsibility at the same time. 

A final note.

I know that being forced to become new homeschooling mamas is by far not the worst thing that can happen to a parent, whether they are trying to work from home or not. But, I know many parents are currently struggling to stay afloat in this new reality. Post after post of homeschool schedules and Pinterest projects coupled with all the helpful emails from all 16 of our teachers makes me feel like I’ve already failed at this new homeschooling gig and it’s only the first few days of all of this, so I get it.   

The one thing I know for certain I haven’t failed at? Creating and keeping up gratitude journals with the kids. We write in the journals every single day and we talk about gratitude together. Their answers thus far have been entirely thoughtful and I love hearing what each is most thankful for each day we’re hunkered down at home. They never cease to amaze me with their huge hearts and their compassion, and it’s been a great study of just how blessed we really are. 

In these difficult and uncertain times, we are thinking of our readers and the community at large and hope that you are all staying healthy. We mourn for those who have lost a loved one to the disease, those who have uncertain unemployment, and those whose lives have been turned upside down by the events of the past few weeks. We especially want to thank those who are on the front lines fighting this pandemic—nurses, doctors, health-care workers, emergency responders, and other vital personnel. We truly appreciate all that you are doing to keep our communities healthy. 

Resources for all you new homeschooling mamas.

While I don’t have many great ideas for you, I have been sent plenty of resources from friends and neighbors. They range from free internet for 60 days from Internet Essentials all the way to virtual field trips you can take with your kids.

Virtual field trips – zoos, farms, even the Louvre!

Coloring pages for little artists

List of companies offering free subscriptions for new homeschooling mamas

Free internet for 60 days

Junior Ranger Program

Virtual Museum Tours

Scholastic Learn At Home Resources

You’re welcome?

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