My Mom Homeschooled Me and My Siblings for 7 Years—Here's How She Stayed Sane

My mom, Mary Lane, was a 2nd grade teacher before taking her talents to our house

Child being homeschooled by mom
Photo: Catherine Delahaye/Getty Images

Oh, the pandemic. What changes it brought to our lives, working from home, weight gain, and stress. And, as another surprise, many of you found out you are going to be the homeschooling parent for several months. Perhaps you were a little concerned about what all that would entail. Being in charge of your child's education on top of your regular workload may seem impossible, but we're all in this together. I decided to ask my mom, Mary Lane—a former elementary school teacher and homeschool parent—how she stayed sane while being cooped up in the house with us kids all day.

My Mom Made Learning Fun

My mom was an incredible teacher and always made learning fun—but she says you don't need an elementary education degree to be a good homeschool parent.

"Even though I was a certified teacher, I actually had to unlearn a lot of that to homeschool," Lane says. "It doesn't really apply when your 'school' is more like an old one-room schoolhouse than a modern classroom. Don't be overwhelmed by what you don't know."

My mom says she didn't have a great education growing up and hadn't learned a lot of the material she was teaching us in elementary school. She knew she couldn't let this intimidate her, so she gave herself grace and did her best to help us learn a lot together every day. The crazy part? She did such a good job that I found myself bored in class when I went to "real school" in seventh grade.

"I learned so much while I was homeschooling and because there was an excitement about it, there was the potential for it to be contagious to the kids," Lane says. It was really cool to learn about the Peloponnesian Wars for instance—I never knew they existed before!"

Taking What Each Day Gives You

She says this attitude and excitement to take each day as a new learning opportunity was essential as a homeschool parent.

"It kept me sane thinking about how to make all of this come alive—how we can make this fun together," Lane says. "It needed to be fun not just for the kids, but for me, too."

Since she knew exactly what we were going to be learning each day, she could tailor our activities and playtime to help us better understand the day's lessons. She says anything you can turn into an art project is always a good idea. Maybe that's having the kids create a giant historical timeline they can (temporarily) tape to the walls to help them keep things straight without asking you questions all day long. Each time they learn about a different event, they can write down the date and draw a picture to represent it. (This also keeps them busy for an hour or so!)

Cooking as Homeschool Learning

I remember loving when we would cook recipes from different historical periods and cultures while learning geography or social studies. Even if lunch was just cheese, crackers, and fruit, we could lounge like ancient Romans while my mom was teaching us about them, or do some math problems with our grapes.

My mom also says putting anything to music is helpful for making things stick. (I still remember the song about the countries in Africa my mom taught me more than 15 years ago!)

You may remember that viral video of a classroom singing away their test-taking anxiety to the tune of "Old Town Road," and my mom says working together with your kids to memorize math rules, different elements of the periodic table, or a historical time period is a fun way to get creative and learn something along the way.

The Bottom Line

Your child's teacher is working hard to make sure the rest of the lessons for the year are as clear as possible. They are also aware of the fact that you did not pursue a degree in teaching (or homeschooling) for a reason. Not every day is going to be perfect, and there's a learning curve for everyone involved right now. Be patient with yourself—and your kids—as you adjust to this new normal.

It could be worth asking your child's teacher what their classroom rules were and implementing them in some way at home—like sticking to a schedule and raising their hand if they need something (if you are all working and learning in the same space). They also probably have some great tips for helping kids understand the material being taught over the next few months. This is totally new for both of you, and having good communication with your child's teacher is essential to getting through the rest of the school year.

Splitting up your kids' daily school routine with your partner is a good idea to share the burden and help everyone stay up to date with what the kids are learning. You can take turns having "office hours" where you can help kids work through difficult math problems or explain their history lesson to you. This could spark some inspiration for hosting a fun cultural dinner, making an art project, or letting the kids put on a play for you based on what they've learned that week. You never know, you might just learn a whole bunch in these next two months too!

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