Help! I’m Suddenly Homeschooling.

This week, many parents found themselves thrust into the world of schooling their children at home. Adjustments like these can feel overwhelming and impossible, but we’re here to help. Susan Wise Bauer offers some simple, practical tips for smoothing this transition:

Week 1:

  • Don’t rush into a new rigorous schedule. This is a big change, and although kids may be pleased to not be rising early and rushing off to school, change is always disorienting. Give them most (or all) of this first week to sleep late, slouch around, and overindulge in screen-time. As long as they’re finishing and turning in any work that their teachers have given them, grit your teeth, feed them junk food, and let them watch screens and lounge around like slugs.

Week 2:

Time to go back to a regular weekday schedule. This coming Sunday, sit down and establish the following benchmarks for every day:

  • Time to get up. Same time every day.
  • Morning chores and routines. (Showering and putting on actual clothes is important.)
  • The time they need to start on their schoolwork.
  • A 1-2 hour afternoon break (between 1 and 4 tends to be best) when everyone goes to their room and entertains themselves without speaking to/interacting with any other member of  the family. EVERYONE NEEDS ALONE TIME, even the extroverts.
  • Daily exercise time (and strategy. Walk, bike, online yoga?).
  • “End of the day” time. When you’re all at home, you don’t have the natural “And now we are done and back” transition that we’re all accustomed to. Plan it in. 7 PM? Everyone’s done. We’re off duty now and “resting” for the next day.

Your children may use more screens than usual. Relax. They’ll be fine. Sanity is more important than some abstract commitment to the written word over graphics. You are *not* on entertainment duty; let the screens take care of that. (They’re really good at it, after all.)

Weeks 3 and 4:

Take Sunday to look back over last week. What worked? What didn’t get done? What do we need to adjust, add, subtract?

In addition, if you’re not getting detailed lesson plans from teachers:

  • Start focusing in on basic skills. Prioritize math and language arts (spelling, grammar, writing, reading). If it looks like we’re in this for the long haul, STOP thinking about everything else. Just get a good routine of math and language arts moving forward and figure out whether the books you’re using are working or not.

Week 5 and beyond:

  • Think about what you want to add to math and language arts, and in what order. Adding one subject per week is PLENTY. This is a big adjustment. Don’t add everything in at once. It’s like a running program: you’re not going to start with 10 miles per day, you’re going to start with 2 miles and VERY slowly work up.

Well-Trained Mind Press offers MP3s of all of Susan’s lectures on homeschooling, as well as a lecture by Jessie Wise, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind.

We also host online forums for homeschooling parents. They’re free to participate in and are packed with parents who have navigated this before. This community is full of support, advice, tips and tricks, and even the occasional distraction.



3 thoughts on “Help! I’m Suddenly Homeschooling.

  1. Hi Mrs. Wise Bauer,

    I had recently been introduced to your book, “Well-Trained Mind,” and your teaching on homeschooling, as COVID-19 has drastically affected the educational portion of all of our lives. I wanted to thank you for providing such a well-structured guideline for parents who choose to, or are compelled to, homeschool their children. You are nothing short of amazing!

    I am wondering if I could gain insight from your wisdom and experience?

    A bit about ourselves, my husband and I are both physicians in Canada and have very active and busy lives! We are also practicing Catholics and do our best at providing a solid foundation of faith and academic excellence in our home.

    We currently have a 3 year old, 1 year old, and newborn on route – and will likely continue to have children should we be so blessed! It really is a busy phase of life with many conflicting interests. I have had to put my career on hold significantly for the sake of enduring my pregnancies (hyperemesis gravidarum for all 3 so far, usually right until the moment I deliver), and raising our children. I would do this again in a heartbeat, these are the priorities we believe are right for our family!

    My husband works roughly 80-100 hours per week at our shared practice, the OR, palliative care wards, and academic setting. While I am soon to have a speciality designation in Dermatology as a Family Physician, we are looking at how we can practically home-school our children, at least until our eldest reaches Grade 1 (expected to enter in Sept 2023).

    Mrs. Wise Bauer, in your experience, how do professional parents make it work? I realize it would require significant flexibility — I can provide this from my schedule, but my husband not so much. For the days that I am working, we have no ability to have help from grandparents (as wonderful as they are) due to circumstances. This would mean we need to hire a part-time nanny, which I have reservations about but understand it may be necessary.

    Also, we have mentioned our “homeschooling” desire to almost all fo our immediate family members, which has been received with the kindest, yet judgement attitudes, like “you are crazy, you will ruin your children.” My family are mostly doctors and lawyers, and my husband’s family are mostly teachers. It’s quite funny when I write this out as these attitudes are probably to be expected with the job selection that our family members have chosen! I think Daniel and I like to think outside the box a bit more.

    Thank you in advance for whole-heartedly reading my email and providing any feedback you have. I am excited but also terrified of the thought of home-schooling our children – although, when I think about it, I already provide a lot of reading to our kids (~10 books per day since I was pregnant), song-singing, phonics, and educational activities at every opportune moment. So I guess it should not be as daunting as I am making it out to be?

    Sincerest thanks,

    Family Physician, wife to a wonderful man, and mother of 2 (+1 soon-to-be newborn) beautiful children

    1. I hope you hear back from the author…..I read your post and want the authors thoughts as well on your circumstance!

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