Homeschooling and Schooling at Home

I sit on my rocking chair, the same chair I nursed both my kids in, and in which I have spent hours singing to them, holding them, humming to them, telling them stories, and gently leading them to sleep. Today, that chair sits in our library and what is now considered a library/home-school room. 

I sit here typing as I simultaneously observe my son sitting at his desk doing this 30 minutes Waterford required reading, something he has to do everyday, and my daughter, back to me, busily working on tracing her numbers on a laminated numbers’ sheet, one I had prepared when we first started schooling at home in the Spring. 

This is a good day. Things have gone really well so far. Kids have listened, completed work as scheduled, J has done all the additional work I assigned him from some of the many workbooks I have bought him in the last few months, and E has voluntarily worked on a bunch of things which she often finds “gross” or “boring” – yep, we are talking about her at times finding doing her tracing “gross”. 

Learning at home

Alas! Not every day is today. There are tears, there is yelling, there are multiple whines throughout the “school” timings, there are arguments, negotiations, and downright rebellions. And yet, we march on. Day after day after day after day. 

In the many ups and downs these last few weeks of remote learning have seen, some things have worked and some others, haven’t. For posterity sake, I wanted to note them below.

What worked:

  1. Consistent schedule: We start school around the same time everyday. Right after breakfast, I make sure the kids are dressed. I get dressed – sometimes even put on some jewelry and makeup, and encourage both kiddos to get to our home-school room – this is usually between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. 

  2. Morning sessions: We do a common morning session together, with both kids. I go over days of the week, months of the year, the different punctuation marks, shapes, time topics like how many hours in a day and such, do picture stories – where I show them pictures of random things and together, one sentence at a time, they have to make up a story, and a few other things. We don’t do all of these everyday but we do most of them. Doing this gets the kiddos in the mood for learning, sets the tone of who is in charge and who needs to follow and do their part, and repetitive instruction has enabled retention of a lot of concepts including those that are advanced for a 4-year-old. 

  3. Rewards: After the successful completion of morning work, both kiddos get 1 M&M each. At the end of the school day, they get two! Who would have thought of M&Ms as incentives? These work great with my kiddos and they love knowing that, that is something they can look forward to. 

  4. Variety: This is particularly true in the case of my daughter. Just as “formal” education at her age should be, in addition to learning letters and numbers, a lot of real learning is expected to happen simply by doing/playing. I use this strategy a lot. While I definitely have E practicing tracing her letters and numbers, we do a bunch of fun activities to continue to hone her motor skills, logical thinking, and such.


What has not worked:

    1. Saving work for after-lunch: Kids are tired, feel the drain of the first part of the day, and are very disinclined to get the rest of their work done. This is especially true for J. He has very specific likes and dislikes of things we do – For examples, he likes to do additions but despises subtractions; he doesn’t mind doing small circling and such activities for language arts but dislikes anything even remotely having to do with writing – and of course, this isn’t something I can help. 

      Given the range of coursework he does, it is hard to not have some work leftover post-lunch but this is the time he is least interested in doing anything educational or anything really that doesn’t have to do with playing. 

    2. Yelling: This was a no-brainer. I have realized that I hold my kids to extremely high standards and my expectations of them are unimaginably high. Everyday, I have J do multiple worksheets to hone his language and math skills that are not teacher provided or suggested. This is just additional work I have him do because I know he can and because I want him to do and be better. Better than whom or what is not important. I have him do these things so he can better his own self. 

      Because language can often be used intuitively, native speakers don’t always stop to think of the whys of a language, they just use it.

      Problem is, I am not always sure of what a first grader should already know and not know. For example, the other day I had him do a range of Wh-questions that needed to be used in the right context. One would think he would know this because (a) English is his native language and he uses these questions everyday; and (b) isn’t this common sense that everybody who knows English should know?” 

      Did I just forget my child is only 6 years old and that even though he may have spoken English all his life, it doesn’t mean he knows it in a theoretical/grammatical academic sense? Because language can often be used intuitively (as I discovered while speaking Japanese in Japan), native speakers don’t always stop to think of the whys of a language, they just use it. This is also one of the reasons, I believe, my English is better grammatically than my husband’s, who is a native speaker….because I actually learned grammar in school while he, being a native speaker, was more prone to give in to colloquial make-ups of localspeak.

      Therefore, it is no surprise that even a child as young as 6 goes with the flow of language picked up from listening and speaking rather than actually, literally, having learned it. 

      Anyway, so we trudge along one day at a time. Things are a mixed bag right now but I, for the most part, enjoy it. I may transition over entirely to homeschooling next month because it seems quite likely that the school district will make the decision to meet in-person soon. While I am really grateful for how amazing our school district has been during these times, it may just be the right thing to do to keep the kids at home for a little longer.


A former Communication Studies professor turned a somewhat reluctant stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I blog about my adventures raising two multiracial kids. I write about parenting and living a multicultural Indian-Canadian-American HinJew life with honesty, a few tears, lots of laughter, and gallons of coffee.
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Follow me: @thephdmama

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