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  • Writer's pictureNikki Loscalzo Ed. M.

A Parent's Guide to Surviving COVID-19 School Closings - You Don't Have to "Homeschool" Your Kids

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

For a longer conversation about these ideas listen to me on The Abundant Practice Podcast.

In a short week and a half our lives have been dramatically altered in almost every conceivable way. Financial worries, health fears, profound uncertainty, and social isolation are real sources of stress and anxiety. But one issue that I see coming up again and again which is causing an unnecessary and undue burden on parents is the sudden responsibility of parents to “homeschool” their kids.

Homeschool, kids, art, learning
Photo by Zoe Loscalzo Somogyi - when she was 11 and a homeschooled kid

As a parent who homeschooled for many years let me first clarify that what parents are currently being expected to do is not anything like homeschooling. I homeschooled my two for most of the years before high school and when people asked me what the best thing about it was I always told them it was not having to supervise homework. Needing to explain, enforce, and oversee assignments that you didn't select, may not see the value in, and may not understand the pedagogy behind, is incredibly frustrating and difficult. In actual homeschooling, you never have to do this. There is a freedom, peace, and joy to homeschooling that parents overseeing school assigned work do not get to experience.

My advice to parents facing this is to please try not worry about what your kids aren’t learning. Let go. If your kids don't get their assigned work done they will not fall behind. I understand that this takes a dramatic shift in perspective, but the truth is that they won't miss out on learning anything if the worksheets aren’t completed and assignments are unfinished.

This time can be a wonderful gift to allow your kids to discover their true interests and passions and to rediscover their innate capacity to learn and explore. I realize that it takes a leap of faith and perhaps a profound shift in perspective, but the truth is that with a few months of freedom to explore their interests, passions, and their own ideas they will learn so much more than they could completing whatever lessons the schools have been forced to hastily develop during this unprecedented shift in the way we live our lives.

One strategy that works amazingly well for nudging your kids towards exploration when they aren’t used to doing it is a technique known as “strewing.” Instead of announcing to your kids that it's “art time” and directing them what to create or what medium to use, just set up the kitchen table with a variety of supplies and don’t say a word about it. If you have the time you can sit and start drawing, painting, making cutouts, or pounding some modeling clay. Chances are your kids will sit down and join you. You can also do this with geography by leaving out a globe or a great kid’s atlas, or for science some nature, anatomy, or astronomy kids books, or pull out and set up that chemistry set your kid was gifted but hasn't ever used. If your library is closed because of social distancing and you can invest some money in a home library, Usborne offers books on a huge variety of topics of science, math, art, and social studies at levels from your little ones to your big kids. For kids age eight up the DK Brainwaves books are engaging, fun, and full of information, covering all sorts of science and social studies topics. Many of these titles are available used on for just a few dollars. If you just leave these books out on the table or counter your kids are sure to pick them up and start exploring.

Many of my favorite homeschool ideas are ones I learned from my homeschool guru, Julie Bogart. It was through her writing that I learned to relax, let go and design a lifestyle of learning with my kids. Through Julie I learned the power of art appreciation, nature study, read alouds for all ages, (although I must admit I more often employed audio books for this and used the time to get some of my own work done), and freewriting.

One of Julie’s “lifestyle” ideas that I thought would never work with my kids, but that became a cornerstone of our homeschool lives, was Poetry Teatime. The keys to a successful poetry teatime are delicious snacks, drinks (it doesn’t have to be tea), and low expectations. Start with everyone sitting together around the table (or on the floor, or a blanket in the backyard) with plenty of poetry books or just poems printed out to dig through and explore. Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, and Kwame Alexander all have tons of poems for kids that are relatable and, most importantly, funny. For kids who are old enough to read have them peruse the poetry collections while you eat and drink, and then everyone can take turns reading the favorites that they find.

For a writing and literature lesson hit your family bookshelf and pull out all the kids books you have and for anyone old enough to read take turns reading just the opening line of each book. (If your home library is limited or you just can't face the idea of adding any more mess to clean up there are some great online lists that you can check out). As you read each line everyone can talk about if this “opening hook” pulls them in and makes them want to read more. Then have your kids try writing just first lines of a story. Knowing that they only have to write one sentence allows even reluctant writers to get excited about the challenge of hooking the reader in. If your child is too young to write, or struggles with the physical act of writing, act as their scribe and let them say what they want to write while you put their ideas on paper for them. By removing the barrier of the physical act of trying to capture their thoughts many kids who are resistant to writing become excited to express their thoughts and ideas.

For any of these ideas, or for any school created lessons that your children need to complete, keep in mind that the most important thing is the relationship you have with your kids. Be gentle with yourself and gentle with your kiddos. As my homeschool guru always said ”When the tears start (you or your kid) the work stops. Bake some brownies together and try again tomorrow.”

For a longer conversation about these ideas listen to me on The Abundant Practice Podcast.

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The relationship that you wish for with your kids is possible, but sometimes skills and tools aren’t enough to get you there. Most of us have times in our lives when we need help to rebuild the trust, understanding, and connection in our family relationships.

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Nikki Loscalzo, Ed. M. is an RLT Certified Therapeutic Coach who helps couples and individuals learn to get past surface issues and heal the damage that gets in the way of intimate connection. Nikki first discovered the tremendous power of Relational Life Therapy when the RLT creator, Terry Real, transformed her own marriage.

Inspired by her personal experience with RLT, Nikki trained directly with Terry Real through his Relational Life Institute to learn how to empower couples to transform their relationships. Through his intensive certification program, she learned the skills that she employs every day in private practice at Savvy Strategies Relational Life Therapy, where she works with couples to quickly diagnose the problems in their relationships, uncover why these issues exist, and repair damage to shift unhelpful relationship dynamics and rebuild a truly intimate relationship.

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