Structure, Play and Learning at Home: Tips from a homeschool mom - MetroFamily Magazine
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Structure, Play and Learning at Home: Tips from a homeschool mom

by Amanda Watson

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

COVID-19 has us reconsidering where germs come from and schools are not off the hook! There are many reasons to homeschool, and these uncertain times are not an exception to the list. Being an exclusive homeschool mom for the last five years doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but I’ve found a few strategies that have helped ease the journey of the day-to-day routine. Many first-time homeschool parents believe you have to do ‘public school’ at home, especially if you were raised attending public school. However, you don’t have to fill your days with circle time, science experiments, math exercises, smart boards or No. 2 pencils in order to have a successful day at homeschool (although a pencil of some kind is generally required!)

Here are some tips and resources to hopefully help make this time fun and manageable:

1. Set routines – our homeschool days generally don’t ever look exactly the same so setting hard timelines is not in your best interest. Instead, focus on a general routine layout of your day. For example, instead of saying ‘math is from 9-10 a.m.’ release yourself from that time limit and simply say ‘math is after breakfast’ and let math take as long as your child needs (or until they get frustrated and need to move on). It’s a great idea to write this routine down somewhere where everyone can see it so you all know what’s next in the routine and it can be a reference.

2. Start the day with the foundations of learning – the 3 R’s – reading, writing and ‘rithmatic (why they call it that is beyond me but it will help you remember). You’ll find it’s much easier to tackle (and have patience for) a more rigorous subject such as math at 9 a.m. versus 3 p.m. in the afternoon. The mind is fresher in the morning so take that time to get the ‘harder’ lessons out of the way.

3. Cut down distractions – part of our routine is no cartoons/TV/screen time before lunch. If I let my kids watch TV at breakfast, they are much less likely to be fully attuned to their morning work. Set the day up for success right from the beginning and you’ll find they may work harder in the morning to be rewarded with screen time or outdoor time in the afternoon.

4. Mix your media – screen time is not the enemy and a lot of learning can come in the form of iPad apps and websites; however, I believe worksheets and reading are also necessary tools, so mix it up! Some great apps and online resources we’ve found are,,, and, among many others. A lot of them are also offering free or highly discounted services during the COVID-19 lockdown.
5. Take breaks and go easy on yourselves – another important thing to remember is that you are all charting new territory so make sure you build in breaks to your routine. Go outside, color or draw, journal, ‘free play’, LEGO sets, build a fort, watch a movie, bake some cookies. Recess at school is a built-in break time so don’t feel as if you need to fill in all ‘school time’ with rigorous schoolwork. There are many great lessons to be learned just from life and spending time together as a family, so use that to your advantage. Talk through recipes, go on a nature walk, do some bird watching and follow up research – there are endless possibilities!
Hang in there, it doesn’t have to be complicated to be successful and also fun!
Amanda Watson is a stay-at-home homeschool mother of three as well as a professional wedding photographer. When she isn’t schooling or working, she enjoys baking, binge watching The Office and reading a good murder mystery. You can follow more of her homeschooling tips at @oilyhomeschooling

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