Confessions from a teacher who was never meant to homeschool her children…
When schools across America shut down, non-educators were able to get a front row seat to the challenges involved with teaching kids. As a special educator who has taught kindergarten through 8th grade, I thought I would easily slip into my role as a homeschool teacher for my two young children who are in first and third grade.
Newsflash- Being a homeschool teacher is NOT the same as being a classroom teacher.
I set up my “classroom” in our kitchen and made designated workspaces: one for independent work and one for guided learning with me. I made a visual reinforcement chart and selected a space to display my behavioral expectations. Two kids – how tough could this be?
Day 1: I found myself doing attention signals (counting down 3, 2, 1) and reinforcing every little thing with our marble jar. Ended the day exhausted, but overall my kids were happy.
Day 2: Screw the attention signal. Just listen to me NOW. I will give your ass a marble when you do what I ask you to do. Ended the day exhausted, but the kids finished all of their assignments, so I’m chalking it up as a victory.
Day 3: Do it the first time I ask or you are getting a lunch detention, which means instead of playing Roblox for “recess,” you will be sitting with me completing a useless worksheet. You will get a marble if we get all of your work done for the day. Oh, and stop complaining! Completing math games on an iPad is hardly torture. Ended the day exhausted, but the kids finished all of their assignments and are still alive. Glass of wine to the rescue. I should be fine.
Day 4: One more fart sound and you will be completing this work out in the garage. You will get a marble if I damn well feel like it. How far do I have to separate you two? Here is an idea: instead of blaming your sister for making silly faces how about you just STOP LOOKING AT HER. Oh, and guess what? Pop quiz today for both of you on everything! Also, I don’t do standards based grading so think about if you really want to get an F in red on your paper! Ended the day exhausted. Kids finished most of the work with minimal crying. They are alive and I am alive, but I’m missing chunks of my hair. There is not enough wine in the world to bring this chia pet back to life.
As an educator, I am always quick to say we need real life learning and application. We need engagement! However, in my kitchen I fell into the trap of skill and drill. I also fell into the trap that we see throughout the school year as I started only noticing the behavior that drove me nuts. I did not adapt and expected my kids to fall in line. I also could not separate the lens of mom and teacher. I let worry and anxiety over their skill development blur my interactions. At school with my students I am reassured that there is always a way to learn. I just have to be patient enough to find it. Here at home, I threw patience out the window because I wanted my kid to just get it.
What will I do differently…
I do need structure and routine so I will keep my schedule in place. However, this is a time to explore learning in ways schools do not have the freedom to do. I can use themes to develop interdisciplinary units that have multiple ways for my kids to interact with content and information. I can also give them multiple ways to show their understanding while capitalizing on their individual strengths. I can let them have FUN with ideas and not worry about how I will measure this growth on a standardized test. I can let them explore questions and experiences while giving them a level of academic attention that is not possible in a classroom of 30 children. Also, I can have fun along with them! I do not have to be the authoritative teacher. I can be the mom who just happens to love learning and wants to share that love with them.
What is to come…
I partnered with a colleague to start some units that will be differentiated by intermediate levels (3-5) and primary levels (K-2). As I explore these with my kiddos I will post links if you want to access and use them. Attached is also a link to the schedule I use. Feel free to use it, burn it, or simply disregard. We are all finding that something different works for everyone. However, if I can help one parent drink one less drink because of my work then I have done my job:)
Hang in there. We are all in this together.
Be well, friends!