Today on the podcast we are hearing from my dear friend, Brandy Barrett, who is an experienced homeschooling mom of four, as she shares her top quarantine homeschool survival tips that have helped her to be able to thrive for the past eight years. She will help you navigate this tough and stressful time during quarantine to both keep your sanity and your relationship in tact with your children.
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How Brandy and I Met
Brandy and I met at church 5-6 years ago. She was homeschooling and I began asking her a lot of questions about it. She invited me over to her house and showed me her homeschooling planner and books and helped me get started at a Classical Conversations co-op. She has been homeschooling for eight years and I have always admired her for it and see her as a very wise and experienced homeschooling mom.
She has a child in 8th grade, 6th grader, a 3rd grader and one in 2nd grade.
On a typical day, she says she does the “round robin” – starts with one kid, then goes to the next, then the next and the next, and then starts back over again!
Tip 1 – Parents Need to be the Lead Learners (Not the experts)
Brandy suggests to lead with the excitement of learning – to model the joy of the process of learning with your children. It’s so important to realize you don’t have to be the expert and know everything. Take them on the journey of learning together and figure out the answers together – your children will learn so much more that way. You do not have to be the expert! Learn together. It’s okay to say you don’t know the answer.
Tip 2 – Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings and Your Child’s Feelings
This is a tough time for all of us.
Even homeschoolers are having to find new ways to educate their children right now, too, and are also finding this time to be hard. They normally get to go to the library, to classes, to activities, to playgrounds, to homeschool groups.
So it’s very important that we do not ignore our feelings. That we acknowledge and validate our feelings and those of our children. All of our worlds have been turned upside down. This is going to cause tension, stress and anxiety. So many changes happened at one time with little warning or time to adjust.
Our kids aren’t able to see their friends and play together with them anymore. They don’t get to see their teachers and have that predicable schedule.
Notice your child’s behavior – are they throwing more tantrums? Behaving in a way that isn’t true to who they are? It might be that they have some feelings that are overwhelming them and they need to talk through them with you. Or that they need a break.
It’s okay to stop the school work and talk through the feelings, and let your child know that their feelings are normal and okay, and even mom and dad are having those same thoughts and feelings.
Always remember that you’re in this together with your kids – you’re on the same team. “We’re here to build a longer table, not a higher fence.” It’s so important that we lock arms and not push each other out.
Tip 3 – Avoid Thinking Our Children are a Burden
There’s a lot of stress right now and and we’re hearing a lot of the negativity of homeschooling and how hard it’s been. One thing to always keep in mind is that our children aren’t a burden to us – don’t let them be the brunt of our problems, the brunt of our stress. They are not the problem – the outside world is chaotic right now but the are not the source of that chaos.
Remember that you are the perfect parent for your child. How someone else is teaching their kids is not better or worse than how you’re doing it. Follow your own instincts and the lead of your children to know how to best approach learning in your own home.
Your children don’t see your shortcomings – you’re much harder on yourself than they are. In fact, they truly just love you and look up to you.
Tip 4 – Be Flexible and Attune to Everyone’s Emotional Needs
You’re going to have better days than others. Some days, your kids are going to be really frustrated and crying and schoolwork is going to be hard.
Some days you as a mom you are going to be feeling off. We really encourage you to be flexible during these times for both yourself and your kids.
We now have the whole day to do school! You can delay schoolwork until after lunch and watch Netflix or play video games. You can go out for a walk when they need a break.
Take a Time Out Whenever Needed
In Brandy’s home, when strife and tensions are high, they take 5, which she says usually turns into 30! But they take a break to reset the energy in the household. Go do a different activity and come back. There is no need to push through difficult moments because that often ends up escalating them into bad moments where you might say or do things you later regret.
Brandy says there are some days where even at 10 in the morning, she calls the day off because there is so much strife and dissection in the house that it’s just not worth it. You can come back at a later time.
When Times are Tough, Communicate with Your Child’s Teacher
Also, remember that teachers are really wanting to see us all succeed with this. Instead of pushing through, why not email or your child’s teacher and ask them for advice? They are there to help us – use the wonderful resource that you have in your child’s teacher. Don’t push through tough moments and cause a rift between you and your child.
Brandy firmly believes that at the end of the day, what’s most important, what’s eternal, is that the heart of her child has been touched and moved. A grade, a number on a piece of paper, only tells a tiny part of the picture. Your child’s emotional and mental health tells a much more accurate story.
Plus, your relationship with your child is a huge priority. No school assignment is worth a fight. Yes, stay firm, stay consistent and be the parent to teach them to follow through, but just understand that they can still finish their work and be flexible at the same time.
Tip 5 – No Need to Recreate the School Classroom at Home
Homeschooling is very different from a classroom. As a mom, you’ve got the dog, laundry, dinner cooking, some are working from home, all while you’re trying to help them do their schoolwork. Teachers don’t have all of those distractions in the classroom. They’ve also got 20 other children (God bless them!) so everything takes MUCH longer at school than it does at home.
They have to have very structured and scheduled days because of the number of students they have. At home, those things can be much more relaxed! A strict schedule like that isn’t needed. They enjoy a lot more playtime and free time AND still be learning.
Tip 6 – Go Easy on Yourself and Your Children
These are unprecedented times we are living in. We are all doing our best to get by. Many have lost their jobs – we are feeling the stress and the uncertainty. So it’s okay if all of the school work doesn’t get done, or they aren’t well dressed, or the house is extra messy.
Have grace for both your self, your children and your spouse. Creating a safe space for your children at home begins with grace and love. When children feel safe, both emotionally and physically, they thrive, and so do we. Let’s support in each other in these emotional times.
Tip 7 – Make Your Mental Health a Priority
It’s okay to have a lazy morning, stay in your pajamas, take days off, watch more TV, play more video games, etc. during these stressful times. Some days can be lighter days, and other days can be days where you need to buckle down. That’s even done at school!
As a mom, it’s so important for you to know and understand yourself. What are the must-haves in your day to help you keep your peace and sanity? Is it a clean living room? A clean kitchen? Folded laundry? Drinking your coffee in peace? Exercising? Find ways to intentionally make sure you get those things in your day. That might mean you wake up earlier so you can drink your coffee by yourself and exercise in peace. Or go for walks by yourself to get some fresh air and clear your mind.
We’ve Been Given the Gift of Time
The kids are going to look back on this time as a time that special – when they got to spend a lot more time with mom and dad, more playtime, more fun! We are often so so busy, even on the weekends, and we’ve got this gift of time right now to enjoy and cherish with our loved ones.
Tip 8 – Set Boundaries with Your Kids
We all thrive off of boundaries. For instance, right now many families are probably seeing that their kids want to eat ALL DAY. If that bothers you, then set clear rules for the kitchen – have times when it’s open and when it’s closed. Teach them to clean up after themselves.
Know Your Triggers and Set Boundaries with Them in Mind
It’s so important to know what your triggers are. Does it make you go crazy to have toys all over the living room? Then set clear boundaries for those toys to stay cleaned up – no screen time until the toys are picked up. Do you absolutely need alone time during your day? Then be intentional to work that in, even if it means you’re children are on a screen while you do it. It’s okay to step away when you need a break.
Do you thrive on a schedule? Then set one and clearly communicate it with your kids, but also know that depending on their personality, a schedule may be hard for them so work together with them to create a family routine that helps everyone thrive.
Our Job Isn’t to Keep Our Kids Happy
Remember that we are not responsible for our kids’ happiness – that is their responsibility. They need to learn that mom is not the source of their entertainment and happiness – they can play by themselves.
If the kids really want to play with you, Brandy finds that it’s easier for her if she picks out the game, or book or movie so she can genuinely enjoy playing with her kids. And the kids will love that mom initiated the play time and got to spend a fun time with you.
Tip 9 – Young Children Need to Move – Let Them!
Let the children get comfy on the couch while they do their schoolwork, or sit in a tent, or read outside. They can learn anywhere – a desk is not necessary at home. Make learning with them fun. Play games, use their toys to teach them concepts.
Get Dressed Each Day
Getting dressed each day helps Brandy and her family to feel more confident and ready to face the day. They will occasionally have pajama days, but in general, they get dressed each day.
Screen Time Will Be Up During this Time
Understandably, screen time is going to be up for most of our kids all over the world right now. We don’t even have the parks and playgrounds, libraries, and playdates to enjoy! Plus, many families have two parents trying to work from home. Brandy encourages you to not feel guilty about that or worry that it’s going to turn your kid into zombie or ruin their brains. We’re all just doing the best we can right now.
Find the Easy Buttons In Your Life
If that’s Instacart, Amazon Foods order, takeout, pizza – it’s all okay! There is no badge that rewards you for stressing yourself out while trying to do things the hard or less expensive way. Do whatever you need to do to make the load lighter for you – it does not mean you’re less of an awesome mom because you’re taking the easier route. In fact, we think it makes you smart!
Enjoy this Time with Your Kids
We have a great deal more time to pour into our kids and enjoy time together as a family. See it as a gift! Find a beauty in the little, everyday things and you’ll find they’re everywhere.