Parenting, Not Perfection: A Quick Guide to Reasonably Homeschooling Preschoolers for Those That Don’t Have a Clue
A little over six weeks have passed into our foray as parents, employees, supervisors, teachers, spouses, chiefs, cooks and bottle washers. Life in the time of Corona has called-on our multitasking skills like nothing I can think of during my lifetime. And we are exhausted. Without the ability to drop the kid off at school for a while, spend some time away from dear spouse (dear leader?), and hang out with our friends (no, I’m not talking about getting Zoom tipsy–but hey, some invitations would be nice!), things can sometimes get overwhelming. Even the best organizers only have so much time in the day; and with so many things to do, they start to carry things over on the ToDo list from one day to the next. I know you. I am you.
So what happens? We find ourselves being less than stellar with our children, with our spouses, with our imaginary boyfriends, with our pets, with ourselves. So, what are we to do? Drop every ball, pick one up and concentrate on one thing at a time? No. We don’t have the luxury of doing that. Bills have to be paid; and, the world, even in the time of Corona does not stop spinning. To help myself, I’ve borrowed and adapted a mantra used by many self-help groups throughout the years. That mantra, Progress, not Perfection emphasizes not letting perfection get in the way of the healthy changes you are trying to make. I’m calling my adaptation, Parenting, not Perfection. I am certain that phrase has been used before; so, I’m not taking credit for inventing the term. I am, however, using it as a shortcut to give you a quick pat on the back for at least trying to be a good parent and a good teacher. So many parents don’t even try.
While you’re trying to juggle all of the balls in the air, here are some things to keep in mind when also trying to homeschool. They have worked for me; your mileage may vary:
Set a Reasonable Expectation – You cannot possibly get as much done as a teacher in a classroom would get done, while you are working a full-time job (whether it be your full-time job as stay-at-home parent, or your job “outside” the house) and homeschooling at the same time. You cannot do it. Again. You cannot do it. Unless you are a teacher, you do not have the training to teach a preschooler, you probably don’t have the patience of a good preschool teacher, and this is your child–the dynamic is different. Concentrate on one or two activities and call it a day. If you expect your child to be doing “table work” for three hours, somebody needs analysis. And, it’s not the kid.
Set Your Own Schedule – You are at home. There is no school “day.” There is no requirement that “lessons” be accomplished during school hours. Let your child sleep in, let them stay up later than normal. Let your family find its own rhythm. If your school has a “morning meeting,” do your best to attend. If they are set at a horrific hour, it’s probably for the good of the many, not the few. Ask whether or not they are recorded. They probably are. There is absolutely no need to get everything done at once. Take breaks.
You Do Not Need to Buy Out the Craft Store – All you need is some safety scissors, some paper, and some Vodka. The Vodka is in case you can’t find rubbing alcohol. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Please get your minds out of the gutter. Seriously, there is no need to raid the craft store. Is your child learning to form letters? Take every-day objects from around the house and use them to form letters. Go around the neighborhood and pick-up sticks and sundry items to make different shapes and count the number of sides. You don’t need to be fancy. You just need to inspire.
Get your child involved in cooking, in cleaning, in gardening, in laundry. All of these activities are learning activities. They teach counting, sorting, measuring, organizing. All of those skills are essential to their development. Are the activities going to take you more time to do than if you did them by yourself? That’s a resounding YES. But, you are spending time with your child. Time that you would not otherwise be spending.
Focus on Learning Through Play – Martha, they didn’t have this when I was a kid. No, they didn’t. I’m older than dirt. Go read the About Me section. You can learn and play? Yes. It’s fun for both you and the child. WHAT? What kind of witchcraft is this? Learning that can be fun? YES. Take for instance a simple lesson on the solar system and sorting colors.
The Kid was incredibly busy playing with his toy shield. He was running around like a little crazy man jumping on the furniture defending our house from every conceivable imaginary monster. The last thing he wanted to do was sort–anything. I knew that on that particular day I wanted to do a small lesson on the solar system; so, while he was running around, I got the play doh out and started making little balls in 7 different colors. I sat quietly saying nothing. In a matter of seconds, I heard: “What are you doing?” “Those are asteroids,” I replied. “Asteroids go around our galaxies and sometimes they smash against planets.” “Smash? Planets? What are planets? He asked. I had him right where I wanted him. Pretty soon, we were making planets, moons, a sun and yes, he was using his shield to defend against asteroids. Asteroids, I told him, usually came grouped in colors, so he had to sort them so they could attack. (Yeah, I took creative license–his science teacher will fix it at some point.) The whole thing took about 35 minutes. And, it was fun.
It is OK to Stop and Start Again Tomorrow – If you get tired, if your child gets tired, if tempers get short, breathe. Sanity and relationships are more important than the square root of pie. Pie is more important than the square root of pie. Stop. Start again fresh. You have not failed. You just need a break.
Use Online Resources – You are not alone. Most schools have provided parents with at least some resources to get them through homeschooling. If you haven’t received any, ask why. If you have and you need some backup help, ask your child’s teacher. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, I suggest the site Teachers Pay Teachers. At the site you will find loads, I mean loads, of ready-to-go things that you can do with your child right now. And a great deal of them are FREE!
Take Virtual Field Trips. YouTube has dozens of videos where you can visit a Zoo, a fire station, a police station, learn how things are made, learn your letters, your numbers, the list goes on and on. All of these resources are just a click away. But yes, WATCH these videos with your child. Learning comes through discussion and interaction. Parking your child, especially a preschooler, in front of the screen and expecting them to absorb knowledge is definitely a no-no.
Let the Kid be a Kid – Your child will want to play. Your child will want to nap. Your child will want to cuddle. And, that’s OK too. Remember, a time will come when that child will not want to spend time with you. (Yes, I’m pulling out the guilt.) If your child wants to do nothing but play all day one day, become a pirate for a 1/2 hour. Become the loudest, silliest pirate you can possibly be. Chase her throughout the entire house. Make a memory. Forget about teaching a lesson.
Yes, we have been called upon to be parents, employees, supervisors, teachers, spouses, chiefs, cooks and bottle washers. And, this is relatively new to all of us. Or is it? Is it really? As parents we multi-task all the time. We are always parents, we are always somebody’s employee or spouse or boss or mentor, etc. The difference now is the incredible amount of stress that is imposed by a situation that is outside of our control. The difference now is that we control very little of what’s going on. The difference now is that we don’t really see an end. I offer you this:
Parenting is not a sport. It is not a competition. Stop beating yourself up if you’re not perfect. We don’t get awards; we barely get our own individuality. After all, we are often introduced as “so and so’s Mom/Dad.” And, that’s good. It reminds us of who we are, and why we are doing what we’re doing. Because parenting is not about us.
We so often get wound up around the word “Parent,”–I am the PARENT–that we forget it’s not just a noun, it’s also a verb. And, if you happen to forget, just substitute the word “caregiver.” It will steer you in the right direction. [End.]