HS #214 — Wendy Speake — Accidental Homeschoolers (COVID-19)
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Today’s unique episode is for the moms and dads who didn’t choose to homeschool, but don’t have a choice right now. Given current events, kids are home from school with various levels of support from their local school districts. Here is some advice!
Wendy Speake is host of the Homeschool Solutions Show. Having homeschooled her three sons part-time with the help of a local charter, she is sensitive to how overwhelming it can be for families. Wendy is the co-author of the parenting books, Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle, Biblical Responses and Parenting Scripts, and offers practical help for parents who struggle with anger and feelings of failure.
Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle, Biblical Responses
The Good Master by Kate Seredy
Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
Story of the World (test and answer key)
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Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions podcast, brought to you by Sonlight Curriculum, and homeschooling.mom. I'm your host, Wendy Speake. Here on the show every week, you'll get to listen in on some great conversations with wonderful guests, all designed to equip us as homeschooling moms. And then once a month, we'll be opening up the Bible together, applying God's Word to our long, blessed, but often challenging days. It is my hope that as we gather together in this space, we will encourage one another with some practical, Biblical solutions. I'm so glad you're here. Before we start the show, I'd like to thank our sponsor, Sonlight Curriculum. Complete homeschool curriculum you're guaranteed to love. And now, enjoy the show.
Hello, this is Wendy Speake and I hope that this is going to be a very helpful, very encouraging time together. Usually here on the Homeschool Solutions podcast, we spend time encouraging traditional homeschool families. But today is a little different.
Today we are wanting to welcome to our midst the women who do not want to homeschool their kids. And we're gonna talk about how we can do this homeschooling business during our confinement to home with our children during the coronavirus pandemic.
So, I want to first of all, just welcome you. And encourage you that this is not going to be an overwhelming time together. It won't be long. I won't be asking you to do hard things. I am going to hopefully encourage you to believe that you're the mom for the task, and the task doesn't have to be so big right now. It actually can be very simplified.
So, let me just open us in prayer. Don't always do that with our podcast episodes, but it's a time, I think, for praying. Not just in these 20 or 30 minutes together, but it's a time for praying as we go through things that we've never been through together. This morning, we were talking at the table and I said to the boys (I have three sons, they are 16, 14, and 12) I said these are unprecedented times. And then I asked the boys, do you know what that means? And they were throwing out guesses, and I said but do you know what the word, "unprecedented" means? And they said no, and so, we looked it up together. And the definition was, "never done". Never known before. There is no precedent. There is no example to follow. And when we're in those times where we don't know what to do, I think the very best first thing we can do is take it to the Lord and say, God, obviously you have a plan for me right now, but I have no idea what I'm doing. And so I'm just taking a moment, God, to acknowledge that You're still on your throne. And I'm not. And so, I'm turning to You for the wisdom that I need.
So, let's do that together. Heavenly Father, we thank You so much that You are firmly established on Your throne as God, as sovereign, as good, as loving, as the Giver of wisdom, and the provider of strength. We just start by confessing Who You are before we go to talking about how ill-equipped and inadequate we might feel right now. It is best, of course, always, to keep our eyes on You. Cause when we take em off, we know that we start to sink. So, right now, Lord, we're keeping our eyes on You, who You are as Lord, as God, as sovereign. In control. Even though it feels like the world is spinning a bit out of control. We start by just acknowledging that You're not. So, thank You for being Who You are yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We can find our security in that. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Alright, well, it is my hope that if you are a homeschool family, you'll share this podcast specifically on your Facebook page, or email it out to some friends who are not homeschooling their kids traditionally, but they find themselves in a season of schooling at home. I'd love to start by just welcoming you, if you are a new listener, and let you know that my intention here is to just kind of take it by the numbers, go through what maybe your school is expecting, what they're asking you to do, and if there's no sense of that right now, if you feel like you're just kind of clawing your way through this, trying to understand and figure it out on your own, then maybe we can come up with a plan together that's not too overwhelming for you, but it sure is a productive time.
Who knows, maybe you'll love this time so much, you'll say, school's back in session but I wanna do it at home, that was such a great experience. But I'm not putting that on you right now, I'm just saying, I don't know what's gonna happen, but I think that you have the potential of enjoying this. So, maybe even right up front, that'll help take a load off.
So, my first question is, what has your child's school communicated that they want to see you doing? What they want to see the child doing during these three weeks off, or four weeks off, or undefined period of time off of school. I know that some schools sent home packets of, like hard packets, of information. Here are "X" number of math assignments, here are reading comprehension quizzes the kids can do. Here are a couple of fun chapters from science. Here is a book and some comprehension questions for reading. And I'd like you to keep a journal. So maybe they gave you, kind of an outline or some curriculum to work through. Or maybe your school is busy this week setting up an online learning situation. Maybe they've just said hey, you're gonna be getting it next week, but in the meantime, make sure they're reading for 45 minutes a day and go through your math facts, if they're within these grades. And if they're above those grades, they were told to have their books at home and so work through these couple of chapters. And that's all we'll tell you right now, but more is coming. Or maybe, your school has said, for right now, until we know how far-reaching this is going to be, how long this is gonna last, we're not telling you anything. But we do think you should help them keep their mind's sharp and keep some schedule to your days. And maybe read aloud, read together at the table.
So, I'm not sure what your situation is right now, but I know that parents are fearful. Not only do we have an unprecedented situation with a disease, with a virus, but now what am I supposed to do with my children here at the beginning of spring, the tail end of winter weather, all by ourselves? And I don't want to just have them on springs all day. So, regardless of what the school has communicated, I just want to give some ideas. So, if the school has given you some ideas of what to do, here are a couple of pieces of advice I want to give to you.
Depending on if you have one child at home or five children at home, you can decide if this is something that we're gonna all do at the dining room and kitchen tables, or is this, do I want to put together a work space in each child's room. A lot of that has to do with mom's personality and the personality of the children. I have kids that, they're very, very easily distracted. And they push back against me and they get into, just, they get distracted with each other and argue with each other. And so, when they have time separated, it actually helps them. It helps them to focus, it helps them to experience some calm, and so I find that workspaces within their rooms can be very helpful.
But if you're going through curriculum pieces as a family, then it's best to do it at the kitchen table if you have multiple children that are all going through the same, maybe, science or history.
So, that's number one. I like to have it in their own rooms. Then it's choosing a schedule. I find that if there's not a specific schedule, that you might have more push back. Well, my teacher didn't say I had to. But so and so, I don't think, you know I was texting him and they're not doing this. So, if you say, listen, this is the choice that I'm making for you guys, regardless of what your school has communicated to me. We are going to stay on a schedule. Our schedule's going to look like we might sleep in a little bit, we got long days at home. We might watch an evening movie together. And sleep in a little bit in the morning. And if we do that, then when you wake up, here are the three things that I require. You are gonna get up, you are gonna take a shower, make your bed, and put on fresh clothes, just like it's a real day. Because it's a real day.
And then, from there, we're going to be settling on a time around when we're going to be doing a breakfast together, as a family. During that time, we're going to either read aloud from a book together. Maybe it's a book of the Bible. Maybe you're one of those people that says I really love to be a mom that reads aloud from a good book, or the Good Book. But, there's just no time because we have so many sports, and we're always rushing out the door. How wonderful. Let's spend this, this is a wonderful thing. You get to do some of the things that your families been too busy to do.
So, find that time in your schedule. Maybe be it's nine o'clock in the morning and everyone slept in a little bit. And you're going to choose a book that you're gonna read together. Or maybe you're gonna do a Proverb from the book of Proverbs, whatever day of the month it is. If today is the 26th, then you're going to read Proverbs 26. And you're gonna choose a family book and just do every morning at the kitchen table, a chapter of that too.
But you're putting together a sort of, not just a schedule, but a plan in place. So, it doesn't feel so loosey goosey that anytime you ask your kids to do something, it's, but I don't have to. I'm on corona break. Right?
Here's another thing. Are there specific chores that you want them to keep up with? Fit that into your schedule. And then find, depending on your child's age and depending on how much schoolwork the school has required, choose a block of learning time. Or, two blocks of learning time. And maybe it's an hour here and an hour there and later in the day it'll be an hour of free reading on their own.
Khan Academy. If you've been given nothing from your school... going to Khan Academy, signing up your student there. Or maybe there are other online resources that you've used over the years, where you can plug in their grade and away they go. Typing.com. If you've been saying, gee, I really wanna help my kid with learning to be a more proficient typer, except, back to the old complaint, right, we're too busy. We got too many schools. We're always leaving at, you know, 6:20 every morning to get to school. We don't have time for this. Now's a great time. There are, nitro type, I think, is another one. There are lots of typing games. There are lots of reading comprehension online services as well.
Or maybe you have a high schooler and they've taken the PSAT and you got their results back. They got their results back. Did you know that you can link your PSAT from the school board, their results, to Khan Academy? And your student can be practicing, 30, 40, 60 minutes a day. My child went up 200 points... no not, 200. A hundred and fifty points after doing the PSAT program on Khan Academy for about a month or two.
So, there are lots of things right online that you can do. So, make your schedule. Okay, we're gonna sleep in a little bit, we're gonna get up, you're gonna make your bed, you're gonna make sure your room's put together, you're gonna get dressed after your shower. We'll have a family breakfast together. We're gonna read a chapter from the Good Book, and then we're gonna read a chapter from a good book. I'm just being fun here; you don't have to do what I do. But I want you to see that you can be learning together the same way that we were having a conversation at the table and I said, oh, these are unprecedented times. Does anyone know what that means? Well, let's look up the definition. That's homeschooling. You're schooling, you're learning together, at home.
And I think if there's one thing I want you to hear, you're already doing it. Every mom already is a homeschool mom. As you learn together, as you teach them to be responsible and make a plan of who's taking out the trash, and who's helping at the sink after a meal. You're teaching them. You're teaching them to switch out the loads of laundry, you're talking about, what's a good time to go to the grocery store because you know, maybe you thought the best time was first thing in the morning, but the shelves were empty. Well, let's give a call over to Walmart and see, are they stocking the shelves during the days. And then talk about why it might be best for the kids to stay home and only one parent goes. Because of this virus and read a couple of articles, if it doesn’t frighten the kids, if you have older children, about what the word is on how careful we need to be.
I know that you can't buy hand sanitizer. It's been sold out since before anyone's school was cancelled. So, I did a quick search online and did... looked up recipes for making homemade hand sanitizer. Now, it happens to be that the ingredients for homemade hand sanitizer are as hard to find as hand sanitizer just about. I did find aloe, and I could not find rubbing alcohol. However, I read an article that said that you can use Everclear. I've never bought Everclear. I've personally never been to a liquor store. Not that that's a comment, we're not talking about who should drink alcohol or not. But I went to the liquor store and there were cases of Everclear by the checkout counter. And that's because I wasn't the first one to read these articles online. So, I made hand sanitizer out of... let's see, it's two parts Everclear for one-part aloe vera. If you can get some vitamin E at a Sprout's, a whole-foods market, that'll help the... it'll help the alcohol not lose its power. And it will also keep your hands sanitized. And... I'm sorry, not sanitized... I'm sorry, soft, instead of dry.
So, I got these things, and I made it at home with the help of the kids. So, I bring this up to say, there’s learning we can be doing, and perhaps it's not traditional schooling, but a lot of people choose to homeschool because it's not. You have the freedom to do things and learn things with your kids right now. As you start reading a chapter of a book together, maybe you find that one of your kids is really into something that you hadn't known. That they didn't know. Do a search, a simple search for a YouTube documentary or on Amazon or on Netflix, a documentary about that.
My youngest, who's 12, has always loved the idea of being either a rancher or a farmer. Now, we live in Southern California, and there's not a lot of ranching or farming going on where we live. But I had a book that I was planning on reading aloud, so we started it. It's called The Good Master. It's by Kate Seredy, I believe that's how you pronounce her last name. There's a follow up book called The Singing Tree, and these are both Newbury Honor books from, let's see, I think the sixties. No... goodness, from the thirties originally. And it is about a boy on the Hungarian plains who is being raised by his father who is a rancher. And it's such a thrilling story for a young boy. But my older boys love it when they get looped in to one of these books that I've started reading the 12-year-old.
Now, I'm anticipating that we're gonna be doing this for a few weeks, this whole coronavirus business, and they're gonna get it under control. The government, the medical professors, the professionals, and we are gonna be back and we're not gonna be scared about there being a food shortage. But, in the meantime, I suggested to Asher, we always plant things like a hobby. What do you say I run over to the nursery and I'll just get some vegetables and we'll clean out our soil and fertilize it and we'll plant a vegetable garden? One, because we enjoy doing it. Two, because we're reading this book about a boy who's so hands-on, learning how to run the farm. And, would you like doing that, Asher? And he said, of course, I love it! Every year, I love it! So, we just did a little bit more than usual.
I wouldn't call us a self-sustaining family. But I'm sharing all these stories of what we're doing to hopefully take the load off that homeschooling right now might not be only math and reading and writing and history and science. Perhaps it's life. Learning is life, life is learning. And learning for all of us happens as we live, but it happens even... oh, most, for children, as they read, as they have conversations with us. Not only do they learn words like unprecedented, but as they go through unprecedented times, they are learning. One thing after another. So, let's read books together. Let's have conversations together. Let's get out in the garden together.
I'd like to take just a moment to thank another one of today's sponsors, Medi-Share. And affordable and Biblical healthcare alternative. Find out more at mychristiancare.org for their ongoing support of homeschooling families just like ours. And now, back to the show.
And then, I wanted to suggest this. Now, when I'm talking about history or math or English, I talk about curriculum. I'll be like, you know, I'll say to my kids, okay, get out your math curriculum. And they have they have their math books, and we go through that. But there's another curriculum piece that I wanna suggest you use this time for. And that's character. I'm gonna say it again. I've already said it a couple times, we're just too busy. We're too busy to read out loud, we're too busy to do a Bible study together. We're too busy, we're too busy, we're too busy.
So, guess what? We're not too busy right now. We wish we were a little busier. So, since we're not too busy right now, let's zero in. Let's hone in on some of those character traits we want to see our kids grow in right now. Many of you are familiar with the Scripture that says train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it. And often, we use that Scripture to talk about their faith life. You know, let's make sure they're, during their growing up years, that their faith is firmly established. Like the roots of a tree, so that as the tree grows bigger, they will be established, those root systems, in their core belief system that they learned with us at home.
But what else do we want to make sure that they are established? We want them to be men and women who know how to keep a house. Men and women who know how to get some very simple life skills done. Does your child only eat when they're served something? And if they're hungry beyond a mealtime, they grab a pop tart? Do they know how to make a meal? Well, maybe that's something you wanna do. Let's make meals together during this time.
Now, of course, we're trying to be careful, maybe, with our surplus right now. I'm not saying that we're going to be careless. I'm saying, let's be careful, let's be intentional, by inviting our kids into the kitchen with us. So, if you have younger children, or older children, perhaps it's, okay, who wants to take breakfast this week? Who wants to take lunch this week? Who wants to take dinner this week? And, you're in the kitchen with me and you can help, but we must take a look at what we have. And let's figure out a plan, and then you'll learn how to make that meal. And it could as simple as quesadillas or grilled cheese, or it could be a great big batch of chili, because you got a bunch of ground beef and you have spices. So, let's make half of it for now and we'll freeze the other half. And all of that is learning.
So, train up a child in the way he should go and when he's old, he's not gonna depart from it. What other things do you want them to be able to do? Our property, we live on a couple of acres, has just become overgrown with weeds as it always is, as we transition into springtime. But usually, we wait until those weeds are as tall as we are, and it's late into spring. So, my husband and I said, okay, after planting our vegetable garden, let's get out there. Everybody let's cut back the weeds. Let's pull back the weeds. We've had a lot of rain. The soil is soft. All of this is learning together.
So, my hope for this was, yes, give some shape. Yes, what has the school required. Yes, what are you requiring? Do you wanna get online and order some school curriculum pieces because your school hasn't sent anything out? Okay, here's one that I love. The Story of the World is, I believe, a four-part series. Maybe it's a five-part series. And it begins with Volume One, The Ancient Times. Ancient civilizations. Volume Two is The Middle Ages. And so on and so forth.
So, where are your kids in their curriculum at school? Oh, are they in modern times, are they in American History? Find the Volume that's gonna go with that and it is the most enjoyable book. It's broken into chapters, and if you wanted to, there's also, if you got The Story of the World, Volume Two, The Middle Ages. If your kids right now are learning about the Middle Ages, then you can also look up on Amazon, Story of the World Volume Two, test... I think it's called... oh I don't have it in front of me. But there's a companion piece that are all tests. So, you can either have them study the chapter you just read aloud and take it like a test. Or if you read aloud as a family at the table, just do it like, almost like a reading comprehension afterwards. Okay, who remembers the answer to this question? What brought down the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Middle Ages? And someone's gonna say, the Vikings. And okay, and then you have a conversation about what you remember.
So, that's a great piece of curriculum. If you just wanna do a simple search for fourth grade spelling curriculum. It's gonna be nine dollars and it'll, you know, as long as Amazon is still shipping, nonessentials, they'll get it to you in a couple days and you can wipe it down with your wet wipes. Maybe you soaked some paper towels in your homemade hand sanitizer. I didn't tell you that I've been calling it moonshine-izer, since I used everclear.
You see, we're just learning as we go. But you can grab some pieces of curriculum if you need to give some shape to it. Or just grab a good book and grab the Good Book. Get out in your garden, if you have one.
Another thing that you can put into your schedule is a time for outside play. You don't have to be putting your hands on a ball that you're passing between a whole team full of kids. You don't have to be on the playground at the park. You can get out on your street, ride the bike around a few times as a family, and if you want, put that into your schedule. This isn't to make you feel like you have to be controlling. But like I said, I have kids that give push back. And because this is an unprecedented experience, we're all gonna be pushing back in some ways. Why do I have to do this? I told you, I was on Instagram, none of my friends are doing this. Everybody's staying up til 2 in the morning and sleeping in til noon. And you can say, listen, this is what we're gonna do as a family. Don't be upset at me, be upset at the schedule if you have to, but this is gonna give some shape. And when we get back to real life, we'll be ready.
So, make a choice, what do you wanna use this time for. What have you been too busy to make sure your kids are grounded and established in? Do they know how to make meals? Do they know how to wake up, make their beds, take a shower, get dressed, and not leave a trail of stuff on the floor? Are they reading good books? Maybe they've been so busy with their schoolwork, they haven't been reading a great series. Do you have the Chronicles of Narnia? Do you have The Hobbit? Lord of the Rings? This morning, my middle child loves that whole series and my oldest child went to him and he said, okay Brody, tell me what I need to read. I've read the Hobbit, but I haven't read anything else. And Brody said, okay, start with ??? And then do Lord of the Rings, you're gonna love it even more. It's like me, I say after you've read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, then you gotta go and read the Magician's Nephew because it adds context to everything.
So, get some good books. Decide what things you wanna do. What areas you wanna grow. And maybe you wanna actually grow a garden while you're at it. Let's see our kids grow during this unprecedented season. And remember, this isn't to make you feel scared. There's enough to be concerned about. We don't need to be concerned about their education and honestly, if they fall behind for a few months, in what they need to be learning for math, then this summer, they can catch up. They can catch up with you, they can catch up with Khan Academy, they can catch up with a tutor. They can get caught up. However, when they look back on this time, we don't want them just to remember, Oh I lived through the corona virus. We want them to look back and say, Oh, remember the books we read? Remember those conversations we had? Remember the movies we watched? So that's the last one, and then I'll wrap this up. Cause you've got kids that wanna talk to you probably. You don't need to listen to a podcast all day.
I have introduced my children to Jane Austen films during this corona break. And my 16-year-old son is loving them so I... we watched the ??? version of Pride and Prejudice on the first night. Then, Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility, but he is saying how much he liked Pride and Prejudice. So, I said, well, do you wanna read it? I've got the whole collection. I love Jane Austen. He said, well I'd like to watch more movies, and he's already reading Silmarillion by Tolkien. So, I said, well how about watching the BBC series from the 80s with ??? So, that's what we're gonna start doing this afternoon when school time is over and activities outside are done.
So, I hope that this took a load off. I hope that this was an inspiring time. I'm not patting myself on the back. I just have found that if other people talk to me sometimes, about what they're doing, then it makes me feel like, oh, oh, I could do that. Oh, I could do something like that. Oh, my family's into this, not that, but we could do something with what we're involved in. So maybe you're not doing your sports. Hey, we've given up waterpool. That's two of my boys... live in the pool. Well, they're not going to waterpool practices, but the two of them are gonna be working on dry land exercises together. So, whatever you're into, build. Build your curriculum about that. Build shape into your days with a schedule. And hold them accountable. Let's not just survive. I'm not gonna do a play on words with we wanna thrive. I think that's a little overplayed, but we do wanna do more than survive. We want this to be a time where the kids look back and we look back and say, that was a defining moment for our family. We grew our relationships. We grew our faith. We grew to be physically stronger, emotionally stronger, relationally stronger, spiritually stronger. Let's be stronger people than we were before this time at home. All those things that you've been too busy to do with them, let's do some of that.
I'm really excited for you. I wish this wasn't happening, but I know that great wonderful things can happen in seasons of rest. And we've been too busy. So, it's time to slow down. We're being forced to slow down. So, don't scramble. Don't scramble and hustle, like their education's all up to you right now. Is it up to you? Yeah, I guess so. Right now. But maybe education isn't just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Maybe it has to do with respect? Maybe it has to do with chores. I don't know, but you do. I'm trusting that you're inspired, even right now. So, go put together a list of when you wanna do some active learning. When you wanna do some active playing. And what are some other goals you have for this time? What book would you like to read as a family? What book of the Bible would you like to go through together? What movie series would you like to watch in the evenings? What food do you wanna teach your kids to make? Are there projects around the house, or in the garden you can do together? Put together a schedule and then invite your kids to make some really wonderful memories with you.
Alright, that's it. This is Wendy Speake. This is the Homeschool Solutions podcast, and while this is for homeschool families, you are welcome here. Cause we are in a season where we are all schooling at home. I'm glad you were here.
What a privilege it is to have these conversations with you each week. You are so busy; I don't take it lightly that you tune in with me here for a weekly shot of encouragement. As a reminder, you can subscribe to the Homeschool Solutions podcast through Apple or Google Play. And your positive reviews always help other homeschooling families find us online. As we say goodbye, I'd like to say thank you to Great Homeschool Conventions. Every year they host multiple conventions in various regions throughout the US. You can find a location near you at greathomeschoolconventions.com. With dozens of incredible speakers, hundreds of curriculum exhibits, you will be blessed, refreshed, helped, and encouraged. I'll be in Texas, South Carolina, Ohio, and of course, my home state, California, this year. I hope to see some of you there. Until next week, visit homeschooling.mom for blog posts to encourage and support you along the way. And remember, Galatians six verse nine, let's not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. It's a promise that I'm taking to the bank every day. Again, this is Wendy Speake, and I'll see you next week.
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