Tips for Homeschooling during Quarantine from a Mom of 3

Around the world, parents and caregivers are finding themselves staring down the calendar at extended school closures - and even the possibility that schools won't resume at all this year. All of a sudden, parents and caregivers have to figure out how to get through their own daily responsibilities while also managing their children 100% of the time, often without any outside help.

Homeschooling with a chronic illness

As a mom of 3 small children - ages 7, 5, and 2 - who also works part-time from home, trying to figure out how I'll manage my work and homeschooling is very overwhelming. And, as a mom living with rheumatoid arthritis, the challenges I face in managing my own health and energy levels make the situation even more complicated.

Caregivers with chronic illness are in similar situations

But I know I'm not alone. I know there are parents and caregivers worldwide living with chronic illness who are in the same boat as I am. So, I wanted to share a few things I have been keeping in mind that have made this unusual situation a little bit easier for our family to handle.

4 tips for homeschooling with a chronic illness

1. Quarantine homeschool is not recreating a regular school schedule at home.

Whether your child's school is providing "distance learning" resources or you're facing the prospect of homeschooling on your own, it's important to remember that learning at home simply isn't going to look the same as learning in a classroom. While having a bit of routine can be useful (we'll get to that in a minute!), there's absolutely no reason your kids need to be "in school" from 8 am to 3 pm.

Being adaptable & flexible is important
This is a super unusual situation for everyone, so "school" is going to have to adapt. Remembering that it's ok to be flexible is especially important for parents and caregivers who are facing challenges in managing their own health and energy levels on top of everything else.

Cut yourself some slack - this is really hard, so just do the best you can for yourself and your family. And keep in mind that sometimes the best thing you can do for your family is whatever is necessary to make sure you can still take care of yourself.

2. Flexibility is needed, but some routine can be useful.

While it's important to be flexible, a basic routine and a bit of planning can make "school days" easier - both for the kids and the teacher! Try to pick a couple of things you can do to give your school days a bit of structure, preferably while building in mini-breaks for yourself.

For example, we are starting each school day with an educational 30-minute kids' podcast right after breakfast. The kids are allowed to color or play quietly while they listen while I get to finish my own breakfast, drink my tea while it's still hot, and collect myself to face the rest of the day.

Routines can provide moments to re-calibrate.
I'm also continuing to pack snacks and lunches the night before like I did for an ordinary school day. Though I'm definitely tired in the evenings, putting in the effort the night before has allowed me to get a mid-day break. Instead of running around the kitchen prepping lunches, catering to requests, and never sitting down myself, my kids get their prepared lunch put in front of them and I also get to sit down and have a moment of rest. This has been so useful in maintaining (or on some days re-setting) my patience to get through the rest of the day.

3. Remember that play is learning.

While there's much to be learned from books and worksheets, I like to remind myself that kids regularly learn through playing as well. Sometimes the most important thing I can do is let them play so that I can have a break.

For example, the other day we put our school supplies away and decided to have a "Lego Bath." They got in the tub, I filled it with warm water, and then I dumped a giant bin of Duplos in there (this is an example of "change it up," which I'll talk about below!) They played - and I sat within earshot and drank some cold brew coffee.

But it was more than just play. My boys wanted to build a really tall tower, but it kept falling over as it got taller. Through trial and error, they eventually figured out that they needed to build a wider base and add some stabilizers to the design in order to keep the tower from toppling as it got taller. So, they learned something - and mommy got a much-needed break!

4. Change it up.

If you're quarantined, you're necessarily living in a limited amount of space - and that can get old pretty fast! One thing we do to keep things interesting is to change up how we use our spaces. The "Lego bath" is a great example of this. No one had touched the Duplos for months, but because they are toys we don't ordinarily use in the bathtub, that made building exciting again.

So have a picnic dinner on the floor of a random room or in your backyard. Build a fort for reading out of couch cushions or with sheets on the porch. Have a weekend "sleepover" in the basement. Using your spaces differently than you ordinarily do can give everyone a break from the monotony and get your kids re-engaged in routine activities.

More homeschooling ideas and resources

If you could use some specific activity ideas or additional resources beyond these general tips, please check out the lists of educational resources and play ideas I've created on Mamas Facing Forward - the parenting and pregnancy resource I've built for moms living with chronic illness.

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