15 survival tips for new homeschooling parents

Starting to teach your child’s a big deal.

Maybe it was always the plan – or maybe you’re responding to changed circumstances. Whatever – it’s a huge step. How will you know where to start with teaching your child? What do they need to learn? How will you teach it? Will it be a happy experience?

So today I’m here to help you unwind that coil and figure out your priorities for getting through the next few weeks. You can do this – you can keep your family running and learning in isolation for a few weeks – even if you never planned on teaching your kids before at all.

This is emergency homeschooling 101.

It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed

Honestly, it’d be weird if you didn’t feel a little stressed at taking over from your kids’ teachers for an unknown length of time.

I doubt I could walk into your job tomorrow and do it as well as you can.

And maybe you still have a business to run or work that you need to get done on top of homeschooling.

It’s a lot to take on so give yourself a little space to figure out how you’ll make it work – even if the kids have to watch TV while you do that.

Then just start. Just do a lesson or a learning activity with your kids. Any lesson that feels right. It’s like posting on your Instagram profile for the first time – you just gotta get something out.

Then you can review it and build on it.

emergency homeschooling

It’s also normal not to know where to begin

Sure, just start. But where?

If your kids’ schools are closed, you’ll probably have received some guidance on tasks and what to do with them, so you can start there and see where the weeks take you.

Otherwise, if you have nothing from school to work from, ask your kids what they’ve been doing in class. If you can get past the obligatory “nothing,” you’ll be able to piece together an idea of what you could look into.

Start by figuring out what you could do for reading, writing and maths if your kids are in primary school. Online resources like BBC Learning and Khan Academy  will give you ideas to get you going. (So will Facebook groups, Pinterest and Instagram.)

For older kids in high school, look for course syllabus information online and discuss with your teen what they’ve covered already.

Related: How to get your child to do what you want

Sometimes you’ll over-plan your lessons

And you won’t get through what you planned to because the task you thought would take ten minutes took forty.

It’s okay.

All teachers have done this.

It just means that you have tomorrow’s lesson already planned – and you learned something about how long your kids take to do activities.

Or you’ll get through your activity in 10 minutes and wonder what to do now

All teachers have also done this.

You’re going to take a couple of weeks (at least) to get used to teaching and figuring out which tasks are appropriate and what your kids respond well to.

Until then, be flexible and kind to yourself. Check out those online resources linked above for fun games to direct your kids to if they finish a task sooner than you expect.

A game on the tablet is perfect for the child who’s finished their task while you’re right in the middle of teaching their sibling.

Or if you prefer to minimize screen time, keep games like word dominos handy to direct a fast finisher to when needed.

Some lessons will fall totally flat – usually the ones you put most work into

The task you created will be too hard or too easy…

…because your child needed to learn something else before they could do what you wanted them to. Or they could do it already no problem at all.

It’s frustrating when you’ve made a lesson and it’s not quite the right lesson – but every time you see this happening and feel irritated with yourself, remember: you’re figuring our where they are and what they need to learn.

Every lesson is taking you closer to knowing exactly what you need to teach your children. Even the lessons that feel like they went terribly.

homeschool equipment

Related: 5 essential pre reading skills your preschooler needs to learn now

And sometimes your kids will not want to do what you planned

You put in time setting up a great activity that you think your kids will love. But they hate it. Sulk. Refuse to engage or do so grudgingly.

Give everyone a little time to adjust. You’ve always been their parent – but now you’re also their teacher and they are not used to that either. 

So sometimes you’ll just put the unpopular task away and do something else – but other times you’ll pull out all the stops to get them to engage – like using the strategies in this post.

Other times they will LOVE what you planned for them – but be prepared for your kids to be enthusiasm vacuums sometimes.

When you get your kid to enjoy a task they had no enthusiasm for you’ll feel like a superhero

Well – maybe it’s just me. Nope. I’m standing by it. If you plan a task for your child to do and they say no – but then you manage to get them to do it and they LOVE it? Yes – that feels amazing. You’ll find out.

And the feeling when ‘you taught them that’ is awesome too

But you know that already because you remember the chest-busting pride when they learned to walk, right? Well, prepare to feel that way each and every time your kid realises they can do something new and breaks out into a huge grin and, yep, you taught them that.

It’s why teachers do it. And now you’re one.

Some days your kids will amaze you

…with their insights, with how quickly they pick up a new idea or skill and run with it, with the potential they see and the places their imagination takes you both. It’ll be great.

And if you have one of those moments where you planned a task to teach a specific idea but your kid wants to extend it, go with it if it makes sense.

S0 for example, if you got out a few items and coins to do a lesson on adding money or giving change, and your child loves it and wants to set up a shop in the living room and write out prices and make a poster to advertise it and whatever else – that’s the time to ditch the rest of your lessons and do what you kid wants.

They’ll love it and try so much harder because they’re invested and having fun – and you’ll realise they learned much more than you planned. (How to write prices correctly, features of a good poster, how advertisers get us to buy stuff…)

Other days they’ll make you wonder why you bothered

You’ll have days when everything you suggest is met with a sigh or a sad face. We all have those days, whether we’re the teacher or the learner – so push through.

Do what has to be done, prioritise, ditch the rest and play a board game or bake cookies. Tomorrow will be better.

You’ll have some incredible conversations

I know you have these already but you’ll have more – because you’ll be guiding them and exploring together. To kick start the conversation, try asking some open ended questions while you read or watch together. 

You’ll find out things about your kids that you never knew

Ideas, loves, hates, skills – you see another side of your child when you’re responsible for their learning journey. Let them tell you their stories and be part of them if they ask you to. It’s okay to trust them to lead for a while sometimes – and it might give you ideas for what you’ll learn together next.

Their interests can show you the way forward

Emergency homeschooling was never going to be easy, so if you’re struggling to make an impact with teaching your child, try following their interests.

If they love dinosaurs, you can count toy dinosaurs, read dinosaur stories and make up your own, paint and draw, build a dinosaur land out of building blocks, paint a massive T-Rex or try to make dinosaur sounds with percussion instruments.

With older kids, you could incorporate tech to engage them by having them create their own news video or investigative sequence.

If your child’s used to a classroom where there are 25 other kids – and the teacher can’t suddenly drop everything to follow their new interest in velociraptors – homeschool could be a lot of fun.

fun learning activities

But their struggles when they just don’t get it are painful

No matter how good you are at this homeschooling thing, you’re going to have a day when you teach a new thing – and your kid does not get it.

You’ve explained the thing, you’ve shown them how to do the thing a few times and you’ve tried explaining it a different way. They still don’t get it.

So what should you do?

Move on to something else and come back to it tomorrow – because it’s discouraging to keep failing. And by tomorrow, you’ll have though of a new way to explain or a different example or found a YouTube video that shows the exact same thing that you can watch together. (Because sometimes it helps to hear someone else explain it.)

And you might have to keep coming back to it – and that’s okay – just keep encouraging them and telling them you know they’re going to get it soon.

Oh, and this one is also definitely happening:

Related: How to get your child to love learning letters

You’ll ask them what they learned and they’ll say ‘I dunno’…

…or ask them what they did today and they’ll say ‘nothing’.

How many times have you asked your children what they did at school today and got that answer? Well, it’ll be worse when you did the teaching.

Don’t take it personally – they’re not doing it to upset you. And I bet you have days when you can’t remember what you did either.

And throughout all of this you’ll keep going

You’ll keep showing up for your kids day after day with new ideas – and I promise you’ll get better and better at teaching. If you’re listening to your kids and watching how they respond to different tasks, you can’t help improving.

So by the time this is over you’ll be pretty great at teaching – even though some days suck and you never asked for this.

Be proud – you’ll get there.

teach your child at home

This post first appeared on Kiddiesaurus.com, which is my education site where I share tips for parents who’d like to teach their kids at home.

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