emergency homeschooling

Short Term Homeschooling

Two weeks ago, I got my first emergency homeschooling enquiry because of Corona Virus. At the time I didn’t pay much attention – it seemed like it wasn’t something we needed to worry about in Australia. But then I got another Corona Virus homeschool email and then another. They were asking about setting up short-term homeschooling options.

Since then I’ve been thinking on the topic and I realised emergency homeschooling has been a necessity for many parents and it isn’t just the Corona Virus (or Covid 19 if you want to get technical) that forces parents into short term homeschooling. Natural disasters like the bush fires we have recently seen in Australia, sudden family trauma, sickness, and moving, can all be triggers for parents to consider emergency homeschooling.

So for parents who find themselves suddenly homeschooling, I thought I’d share some thoughts on emergency homeschooling to help you set up quickly for two to three months. If you are looking at something more long term we have a full curriculum at My Homeschool.

So What If You’re not a Teacher

Now I get it, we’re not all teachers and homeschooling was never on your radar but it’s actually quite easy to pull together a few resources to get emergency homeschooling up and running.

Today there are so many resources around that you can download and use.  However, what to download is the question. There are too many options.

One of the core values of Inspire My Homeschool is to make homeschooling easier. And this definitely applies to emergency homeschooling. I know you don’t want to spend hours on the internet looking for age appropriate resources and you probably don’t want to go out and buy a whole lot of textbooks either.

So the best thing to do is to get the basic set up and add some enriching activities.

Main Lessons For Emergency Homeschooling

In primary school, math and English are the two subjects that take up most of the curriculum (about 50% of the allocated time). So these are the two areas that you need to focus on when short term homeschooling. Thankfully these subjects are quite easy to teach, and you don’t need a lot of resources to do it.

In high school the principles are the same. Math and English and then the other subjects.

Simple Math Resource For Short Term Homeschooling

If your child has come home from school and has a math workbook that they are already using, and they want to keep using that, then that is probably the best option. It will make it easier for back to school transition. However sometimes that is not an option because you may lack confidence teaching the topic or you don’t have access to that resource.

Here are some options.

  • Math Online is very homeschool friendly.  It follows the Australian Curriculum, has a built in tutor and you submit the answers to record and mark you progress. We’ve used this in our homeschool for many years. There are other online options but many of their incentives to study actually become a big distraction for your child. These distractions can extend the lesson and make them unproductive.
  • Looking for a free option. MEP Math is a British free math program that homeschoolers use and like.
  • You can also include some drill in timetables and skip counting (counting by 2s, or 5s or 7). These are great for mental math. You don’t need a textbook for this.

In primary you only need to keep the math lessons short and sweet. A half hour per day is usually enough if it’s productive.

Easy English Lessons For Short Term Homeschooling

For language arts, combine spelling, grammar, handwriting, reading and writing. But when you are emergency homeschooling you don’t want five separate textbooks. So here are some simple options:

  1. Read a book – I know right! How easy. Read aloud a book to your child (if you can). And get them to read on their own.

Now I’d encourage you to choose good books that are a little challenging.  Classic books are excellent for this. If you are isolated for a period and don’t have access to a library, think about online readers. Archive.org has a comprehensive selection and they have a very readable format for their online books. Here is a list of Classic Books To Read. If they need extra incentives, set some reading requirements like a chapter a day or a few pages (this will depend on their current reading ability).

Get a booklist going and add all the books your child is reading. This will be a concrete record of learning and you can show the teacher when they finish emergency homeschooling.

  1. Do some copywork and/or dictation – these are effective and easy ways to make daily writing happen. Copywork & dictation have many advantages including modelling correct punctuation, grammar, spelling and handwriting practise.

You can just pull a book out of the bookshelf and ask them to copy it. Poetry, Scripture, prose are all good options. For children over 10 years old, you can also do dictation. To begin, you let your child study the passage to be dictated (it should only be a few lines if they are new to this) and then you read the passage out to them and they write it out. Correct the work straight after they finish, paying attention to misspelt words.

There is no need to do spelling lists. When you’re homeschooling, it is much more one-on-one and copywork and dictation should be sufficient.

  1. Get Them Writing Everyday

For all the other English lessons you can just focus on getting your children writing. They don’t need to have comprehension assignments where they answer a bunch of questions from a boring textbook. Get them writing about things that matter, things that they are reading about and things that interest them. Now some kids will need no prompting, but others will need a little encouragement to do this.

One of the hurdles all new homeschooling parents have, whether it’s short or long term homeschooling, is knowing what is appropriate for your child. And it has been my experience that most new homeschooling parents have unrealistic expectations of what is right for their child’s level. 

So What About All The Other Subjects?

In homeschooling you quickly learn that subjects can easily be merged together to make lessons more efficient and less time consuming. An English lesson can also be a science, history or geography lessons. It can even be an art lesson. And so that is why we encourage the reading of books on a wide range of subjects. Inspire your child to read fiction and non-fiction. We have tonnes of booklists on different topics that may interest your child.

You don’t actually need any other textbooks. You can teach most the other key learning areas using books and documentaries. And for science and geography add in some nature study and nature journaling field trips. Because when you can’t go out in crowds and you need to be isolated, you can usually still find a place for an interesting nature walk.

Unstructured Lessons

Natural learning is commonly practiced in homeschooling. (It is quite different to the unschooling homeschooling ideology). When encouraging natural learning at home you let your children discover and learn according to their own natural interests. Of course, this is within reason (they might decide they want to go to the moon next week) but you give flexibility and trust the process of self-directed learning.

If you are emergency homeschooling, then this might be a time for your child to set up some sort of a project that will occupy their time. For my children natural learning included: cooking up a storm/yummy mess, making their own website and blogs, hair styling techniques, nail art painting projects, making a Lego movie, sewing, learning the guitar, and photography. You’ll find they can get quite passionate about these projects.

Conversation learning is BIG in homeschooling. And it is often the way we help our children understand many things. Getting in the habit of explaining ideas, encouraging them to ask questions are all on the spot lessons that don’t take preparation. And you’ll be surprised how much your child retains if they actually want to know the answer.

Evidence of Work Completed

Now I know if you’ve just come out of school you are probably addicted to worksheets and guided lessons (I know that’s an assumption and excuse the generalisation if that isn’t you) but the exciting news is – you don’t actually need worksheets to prove your child learnt something! Some of you don’t believe me – I know!

There are many other proofs you can have when you homeschool and because you are not mass teaching you can do a few other things that are much more enjoyable for the child and you get to assess on the spot if what you hoped they are learning is actually sinking in.

Ask Them

Ask them to tell you what they know. If they are reading a book get them to retell what it was about. Ask them about the documentary. If they are older than 10, you could ask them to write about what they have learnt. This is actually harder to do than you think but with practise your children get much better at it. In home schooling we call this narration.

Make A Notebook

Have your child make a notebook of what they are learning. It doesn’t need to be a diary. (I’ve found diaries are a little intimidating. Blank days or insignificant entries can lead to discouragement). However, a notebook of learning (they can date it if they want) will help them record what they have learnt in a creative way.

The Emergency Homeschooling Routine

Suddenly having the kids not at school certainly throws a spanner into our regular routine. Consequently, you probably don’t have the time to allocate a big chunk of your day to the task of emergency homeschooling. It doesn’t seem feasible that you can provide supervised teaching for the whole time that a school does. You might be working from home, or you might be sending your kids off to Grandmas, or you may just be caught up in the reason you find yourself emergency homeschooling. But the issue is, your kids still need to be educated! And if they will be home for an extended period of time, it is wise to set up some strategies.

The good news is, the academic part of homeschooling can be done in a short period of time (it makes a lot of parents wonder what actually happens at school). You’ll be pleased to know you probably only need to allocate 2 hours a day to homeschooling, maybe even less for your Kindy and First grader. Your children can have some concentrated academics and then they can have some time for natural learning, reading books, exploring nature, practising new bike tricks or teaching the dog a new skill.

And a quick tip on screen time that we found worked in our home. We had a ban on non-educational screen time in school hours. That meant no playing computer games or vegging out in front of TV. This sets a boundary that will help your children look for other options—let’s face it for many kids screen time is an option that is hard to resist.

If they are off to Grandmas (or someone’s place to homeschool) you can just arm them with a book, some math and some English. It’s just for a short period so you don’t need to make it too complex.

Emergency homeschooling does bring its dilemmas. But homeschooling is a rich and wonderful experience. I wish you all well through this journey and I hope when your children are safely back in school, you’ll be able to look back and enjoy the positive aspects of homeschooling, even short term homeschooling was a necessity.