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Homeschooling amid COVID-19

More science at the library

With schools across the nation closing in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, I’ve seen many parents reaching out to homeschooling parents for advice. I think it’s important to note that even homeschooling right now looks much different than normal. Many homeschooling families take part in weekly co-ops that have stopped due to the virus. We love going to the library, either just to see the cool science displays and get books or to go to story-time and chess club. Now the library is closed other than the drive-up window. Public parks are off limits as well. Even something like grocery shopping, which, if nothing else, gets us out of the house is no longer an option for the whole family. In short, just because we homeschool doesn’t mean we’re used to being home all day, every day either.

Science at the library before COVID-19

Having said that, there are some things that may make the transition easier. Some of it will depend on your school’s plan for the time away. Students with online classes will have less flexibility than students with assignments to do at their own pace.

Breathe

One thing that is always recommended to new homeschoolers leaving public or private schools is to take time to “deschool”. Basically, that means to take a few weeks or months to not do formal schooling. Instead, relax, play, let children do the things they enjoy, visit museums, libraries, bake together, watch favorite movies together. The “deschooling” time is to give children and parents time to connect and adjust to a new normal. This time also helps parents learn what types of curriculum and learning resources are a good fit for their children.

Obviously, under the current circumstances a full “deschooling” period isn’t practical or necessarily needed, but taking a few days to chill is definitely a good idea. Right now, everyone is stressed and cooped up. Trying to achieve something remotely like a normal school routine will be so much easier if everyone has a little time to process the changes.

Formal school time doesn’t have to take 8 hours

In school, there’s 20-30 different students with different needs and different personalities, all assigned to one teacher. Under those circumstances, lessons will take longer. At home, students work at their own pace with a teacher able to give them more one on one time, if needed. Sometimes, if the student finds the subject particularly difficult or very interesting, it takes longer than a single subject would in a classroom. Most often, though, it takes far less time.

I’ve seen the color-coded schedule charts floating around on Facebook that map out a typical eight hour school day. If that works for your family, great! If you’re finding that formal assignments are done by noon, and you have no idea what to do with the other three or four hours of school, don’t panic. Know that is more of the norm for homeschooling.

Learning isn’t always on paper

Children learn through play. Adults learn through play, too, we just usually call it something else. Unstructured playtime lets children use their imagination, problem solve and learn through observation.

Baking teaches reading instructions, measuring, fractions, and vocabulary, as well as the basic life skill of being able to prepare food. Spending time outside allows children to observe nature, as well as the physical benefits of fresh air, exercise and sunshine.

Homeschooling making slime

Even screen time can be educational. Gaming teaches problem-solving. Many shows, even some you wouldn’t expect, incorporate educational elements. If nothing else, kids need time to relax with something they enjoy just like adults. With all the sudden changes and concern over COVID-19, kids are likely to be feeling anxious and stressed, too. A little grace is good for everyone.

Home economics is a class, too.

Obviously I’m not saying turn your children into your own little housekeepers. It’s important, though, for everyone to have basic cooking and cleaning skills. When everyone is home all day, there’s more cooking and cleaning to be done, and more time to do it. Teach little ones to help with age-appropriate chores. Older kids and teens can take on more responsibilities.

Online educational resources

I plan to write a longer resource and activity post next week, but if you need something to get started, here’s my personal favorites:

  • Starfall.com Pre-K-3rd grade. The free site has tons of stuff, and if you decide to upgrade, the full paid site is only $35/year.
  • MobyMax K-8th grade We use it mainly for some of the math and reading, but they cover just about every subject.
  • Khan Academy Everyone. Seriously, it’s K-adult and covers a multitude of subjects.
  • Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool This is a complete, free K-12 homeschool curriculum. You can jump in anywhere and pick and choose, or use it all. Most of it is done off of the computer, so it’s good if you want to limit screen time.
  • Discovery K-12 This is another complete K-12 curriculum. Unlike Easy Peasy, most assignments are completed online. Student accounts are free, but if you want a parent account it’s $99/year.

The last two are more geared to people homeschooling long-term. They might be helpful, though, if you need a little more help in an area or for the elective-type classes.

Shop updates

On a different note, I finally have Lavender Tea Tree Charcoal Soap back in stock. This time, because of using red palm oil instead of refined palm oil, it is a deep olive green instead of charcoal grey. It’s the same soap otherwise, though, and will be ready to ship on Monday.

Currently all of my handmade soaps are 20% off.

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Want to be Featured?

Want to be featured

Want to be featured?

In the past, I often featured handmade or vintage shops on Fridays. Over the years, the world of crafting and blogging has changed dramatically. I would love to resume Feature Fridays, but with a broader scope.

Handmade shop and websites are still welcome. I also want to feature guest writers sharing tutorials, tips, advice, recipes, etc. Categories that I feel are a good fit for this blog are crafting, sewing, sustainability, refashioning, healthy living, parenting, hair and beauty tips for busy moms, homeschooling and homesteading. I am open to other topics as well, so if you are interested but don’t quite fit into one of the above categories, please contact me anyway with your idea.

Guest posts will be promoted across my social media sites frequently throughout the week they are published and then periodically after.

Handmade shop/website features

For handmade shop/website features, answer the questions in the following list and email them to csloan@subearthancottage.com. I will contact you before your shop is featured and if any clarification is needed. You can give as much or a little info for each section as you are comfortable with sharing. Be sure to include links to your shop, web page and blog, if you have them. If you sell your products in a brick and mortar store and would like to include that info, you may include that as well.

I also choose a favorite item from your shop on the week that you’re featured and briefly tell why I like it. The first image from your shop for both your favorite item and my favorite item will be included in the blog.

  • Name and Business Name
  • Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
  • What made you get started in your business?
  • Anything else you’d like to share?
  • Tell us about your favorite item listed in your shop.
  • Links to your shop, website, blog, etc.
  • Email address (This will NOT be published)

Guest posts, tutorials and everything else

Please contact me at csloan@subearthancottage.com with your idea. If you already blog, a link to your blog or site where your writings are published is also helpful. Newbies are welcome, too. I’m also not opposed to reposts if they are a good fit and your own work.

If I think your idea is a good fit for SubEarthan Cottage, I will let you know and we will work out the details from there.

Matisse Creativity Mug Mugs featured
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Homeschooling and Socialization

About two and a half years ago, we decided to homeschool our children. Oddly, one of the biggest concerns many people have about homeschooling is socialization. Odd because often more outgoing, talkative children are told that they aren’t at school to socialize, so it seems strange that school is deemed the best place for children to learn social skills.

Many families join co-ops or other homeschooling groups to give them time to be around their peers. We haven’t really found a homeschooling group that fits us well, so we have taken a different approach. If you’re in a similar spot, or just looking for fun, inexpensive after-school activities, these options may work for you, too.

Libraries

Most libraries offer storytime for younger children. This is fun and free for the little ones, and gives older children quiet time to find new books to read or to do research. Our libraries also offer activities for all ages in the afternoon and on weekends. For us, just between the two libraries we frequent, we have activities available at least four days a week.

Interest-based clubs

Chris enjoys playing chess, so each of our boys has taken interest in it from a young age. We’ve found two free local chess clubs: one meets at a library and is for children, the other meets at a bookstore and is for all ages. We primarily go to the one at the library, but occasionally go to the other one. One of our complaints about school socialization is that it really only allows children to interact with their own age group, whereas outside of school they need to be comfortable holding conversations will people of all ages. The bookstore chess club offers them the opportunity to meet people of all ages who share a common interest.

Almost ready for chess club…

Depending on their hobbies, you may be able to find clubs by asking around at libraries, bookstores, shops, or searching online. I’ve even known of people to start their own through Meetup and Facebook.

Museums, zoos, and other attractions

Many places have special homeschool days, sometimes with cheaper admissions or special tours. These offer the opportunity to meet other local homeschooling families. At the very least, it’s a fun field trip. Last year, we went to a Texas Rangers game on their homeschool day.

Take a class or join a team

Our city rec center offers a variety of classes from dance to martial arts for less than we’ve found elsewhere. Beckett is currently taking a Wing Jitsu class that Finn took alongside Chris back when B was a baby. They also offer soccer, baseball, and basketball teams for all ages. Some of our libraries have a Maker’s Spot where they offer classes for older children and adults on how to use the equipment. Ours has 3D printers, sewing, embroidery and long arm machines. Art, music, crafting and language classes are also options. My oldest took a kids’ art class at a local art center.

Beckett getting one-on-one instruction on his first day.

Parks and playgrounds

Never underestimate just getting out and playing. Parks are free and depending on the time of day, there can be tons of kids. Go afterschool or go during school hours to meet families with younger children and homeschoolers.

No one else today, but still tons of fun.

Daily life

Something that seems to get overlooked is the little social interactions that happen without thinking. Young children learn a lot just by playing with parents, grandparents and siblings. If you take your children with you to the grocery or the bank, they are likely to get little lessons on how to greet people, approach people with questions, politeness and all the other interactions we take for granted. My kids go everywhere with me. Sure sometimes makes simple errands take F-O-R-E-V-E-R, but those little lessons they get are worth it. Mostly. 😉

You have no idea how long it can take just to get to this point.

On a final note, as important as socialization is, children also need to learn how to be at peace with themselves. Sometimes I think we underestimate the need for quiet alone time. Make sure to allow plenty of unstructured downtime when planning activities for your children, regardless of whether they are homeschooled.


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Rain and Essential Oils

We have had so much rain lately that even my rain-loving self is starting to get waterlogged. Luckily the weather has also warmed up so it’s no longer a stinging cold rain.

I have the little two enjoying some sensory play that’s a less messy than their usual mud. I only have so many towels, and laundry still has to happen.

In between rounds of cleaning up mud, I finally launched my essential oil roll-ons. I’ve been studying essential oils for a while to make sure I was completely comfortable with their usage before sharing them with you.

https://subearthancottage.com/product/single-essential-oil-fragrance-roll-on

That is for a single essential oil of your choosing. I blend them with your choice of coconut, olive or sweet almond oil. I also offer custom blends and my own blends. You can find the complete line at SubEarthan Cottage here: https://subearthancottage.com/product-category/soap-bath-beauty/essential-oil-roll-ons

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A Day at the Park

Before the cold really set in, we decided to take a walk to the park.

One of the awesome things about homeschooling is having free run of the park.

That gives Finn the freedom to play without feeling like he’s either too old or making younger children feel awkward.

Apparently Thadd takes swinging very seriously. Riding in the stroller, on the other hand…

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A Tale of Two Days

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about it here yet, but we’ve been homeschooling for almost a year and a half. At this time, I plan basic independent study based lessons and I check in as needed to help and make sure tasks are being completed. This works pretty well with Thaddeus requiring lots of attention still and allows the older boys to have more control over their education.

Most days this works really well. Others, though, like yesterday make me question my sanity. Thaddeus constantly took his diaper off all morning in spite of my attempts to keep it on him. I tried to turn it into potty training, but he preferred the floor to the toilet. Thank goodness he took an early nap and forgot about streaking afterwards.
Since it was obviously going to be a thorough cleaning day, I washed the couch cover. This left the worn cushions exposed for a while, which led to Beckett picking at them constantly. He accompanied his furniture destruction with complaints about how much schoolwork he had and how hard it was and he didn’t want to do it. To put things in perspective, on the days he does his work without complaining, it takes about 30-45 minutes for him to finish. 

Finn’s contribution to the chaos was complaining about his math work and everything Beckett did or looked like he might do. By the time Chris got home, I was DONE. 

Today, though, is different. Today I wake up at seven thirty, feeling guilty I wasn’t up to see Chris off to work. Thadd woke up at the same time, so there’s no quiet moment before having to keep the T-Rex from becoming T-Wrecks. 

I get out of bed to find both older boys up and working on school work together. Finn lists off what he’s done, what he has left to do and his plan for completing it. Then he offers to make breakfast and lunch for himself and his brothers. That way I’m don’t have to cook food I still can’t comfortably chew.

Beckett has completed everything he can do on his own and is ready to read with me. He reads the first book to Thadd and I on his own, then helps me read the book he usually refuses to help with because it’s too hard. 

Today I can think about nature walks and impromptu lessons about why we designate today as the first day of fall instead of worrying that I’m killing my kids’ love of learning or not doing enough or that I will have to keep them on separate sides of the house just to maintain my sanity. 

I’m not sure why today is different. I hope it isn’t just a reaction to yesterday. Either way, I’ll take it.