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Back-to-School with the Founder’s Family

Posted by Kelsey McCormick on
With the potential inconsistency in school days, hours, and learning platforms, our family made a choice to take the home school route. We have a 4th grader, 2nd grader, and 1st grader, plus both parents have fairly demanding work schedules. I’m grateful for the last few months home together and it has taught me that time management is important, but also TOUGH. As we thought through virtual school, I knew there was no way my husband and I could be on calls, while having to provide academic help to a kid or two between class sessions, or have to get a kiddo back into his or her virtual classroom. The schedule would set us up for failure. With that, we decided to try traditional homeschooling.

The transition from being home with constant free play to a school day was going to require a transition process. We scheduled a family meeting over the weekend and came up with a few lists. This helped set us up, get every members’ buy-in, and set expectations. Here’s what we thought through:

What topics or subject areas would be fun to explore?

What are some activities we could do at home that do not involve screen time

How are we supposed to use the computer during school time?

What are the things we should be doing every day? (Includes chores and learning.)

What is our ideal school schedule?

My personal favorite: What is reasonable to expect with having free technology time? (Spoiler alert: My kids and I had differing opinions. 🙃)

This was a good way for us to reflect on traditional school, including the pros, cons, challenges, and opportunities. Here are some highlights from our family collaboration:

Shorter school days. We are trying a 9AM-12PM(ish) approach with some mental breaks in between. Our 4th grader will likely require additional time, while our 1st grader may need a lot less. It’s going to be a balancing act to keep them going.

We decided it would be good to start each morning with a fun activity. This week we are trying “how to draw” videos on YouTube. All the kids are ready to go at 8:30AM and sit at their desk area and draw. This allows me to get some work done while they are distracted.

We hatched praying mantis eggs in the Spring and it was awesome (check out the video below and get a load of my goofy girl)! We want to try something like an ant farm, or hatching a butterfly from a chrysalis. We will do a variety of learning activities based on one of these projects. Details TBD.

We made a list of craft items we want to have on hand for afternoon projects.

I found a few science experiment subscription kits and have bookmarked them to revisit later this semester. There are also some pretty great books that have simple ideas that I checked out from our local library. I’d like to fit in one “experiment” a week, which we can do in the afternoons.

We finished our first week! I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase of homeschooling, but here are some learnings after week one:

It takes a village. We cannot be good parents, teachers, and employers all at once. We have been able to bring in some help with tutoring, as well as babysitting some afternoons. We are fortunate to have this as a solution and it’s working. Bringing in a new person forced the kids to take school seriously, because the expectations are being set by someone other than Mom or Dad. This has been a game changer.

Everyone in our house packs meals for the day. We did this in the Spring and I think it helps in a few ways. Our pre-COVID life routine included packing lunches/snacks for the next day, so bringing this back has helped create a sense of normalcy and routine. It also reduces frequent requests for snacks throughout the school/work day, while helping make sure we’re choosing healthy options. Every weekday, we eat breakfast together around the table, and then switch to packed meals. The kids can access their morning snack from their lunchbox and will later have lunch outside whenever the weather is nice. Afternoon snacks can be carried on the go if we take a walk or even head out for a “field trip.”

While everyone agreed no free electronic use until after 4PM, my little guy can’t stop asking hourly. It’s going to be a long year 😅. I’ll take any advice on how to reward him to change this behavior.

It’s also been a lot easier to transition with us already being home. I was surprised at the limited disruption to our routine.

We picked up some school supplies ($.25 notebooks, fresh markers, crayons, mechanical pencils, etc.) and each kiddo keeps their materials in their own backpack when not in use. This is similar to what they did in school and seems to be helping with keeping a distinction between home and school.

While it’s definitely not our ideal plan for educating our kiddos, this is the new normal for the foreseeable future. I think being reasonable with ourselves as parents, finding a routine and system that works, and being mindful of our own needs as people will be important to having a good outcome. I would LOVE to hear what’s working (or not!) for you and your family and any tips for others.

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram for opportunities to weigh in on what you’re doing for school this year. We’ll be gathering tips, tricks, and other insights from other families and educators, and then adding them to the blog as we collectively figure this out together

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