Recently on Facebook I saw this meme that had the words “Every parent right now” over three copies of comedian Kristen Wiig’s Aunt Linda character looking absolutely horrified. The bottom was labeled with the options, “starting school in person,” “starting school online,” and “homeschool.” Although for many it was not the plan until recently, the ranks of homeschooling families have swelled dramatically for the 2020-21 school year. And even for those of us who have been around the homeschooling block a few times, COVID-19 has thrown some wrenches into our well-oiled educational machines, and many of us are starting out with already frayed nerves and cabin fever more typical of April than September. I would hate for anyone’s face to freeze into a perpetual Aunt Linda grimace, so I wanted to offer a few words of encouragement and support, especially to those of you who are just joining the fun.
You aren’t in this alone.
As a teacher, you need other homeschoolers to bounce ideas off, ask questions, vent frustrations, and share success stories. There are plenty of Facebook groups and online forums dedicated to providing this kind of support, so don’t be shy about joining in. If you don’t know where to go, come introduce yourself at the BioLogos Education Forum. Your kids, especially if they are transitioning from the more intense social life of a brick-and-mortar school, also need peers and other adults to interact with regularly. Many of the ways homeschool families typically meet their kids’ social needs have been affected by social distancing and cancellations, so everyone is scrambling some to find outlets. But it isn’t impossible, and you may be surprised how willingly friends and family step up to help when you ask. Maybe Grandma can Skype or FaceTime a younger student every day and hear her spell her spelling words. Your kids could perform something they work hard on for the neighbors in the backyard. Have your child call their Sunday school teacher and recite a poem they memorized. Maybe older students will take constructive help with writing better from their aunt or will make more progress in math with occasional tutoring from their cousin. Don’t be shy about asking other people to be a part of your kids’ school day, even if it has to be virtual or from a safe distance for the time being.
Homeschooling is something that gets done one day at a time.
It can be an intimidating and overwhelming feeling to crack open a fat new teacher’s guide and see how many pages of work go into 36 weeks of instruction, or to line up the huge pile of books for the year on the shelf, or to read through your state’s reporting requirements. But like any big project, whether it is remodeling a house, growing a big garden, or training for a triathlon, the path from starting to finishing is just a lot of small steps. The key is faithfully showing up every day and putting in a very doable amount of work; no Herculean effort is required. Amazing things happen when you stick with the work for the day. Kids learn to read. Multiplication facts get mastered. The bookmark in the 900-page history textbook slowly but surely moves toward the index. At the end of the year you will be so proud of what you and your kids have accomplished.
This is a chance to bring your family closer together.
We started our tenth year homeschooling last week. For me, one of the most noticeable benefits of homeschooling is how all the shared experiences and time together have bonded my kids in real friendship and given my husband and me a chance to build relationships with our kids over things we love. It warmed my heart this past week to read Jane Eyre (one of my favorite novels) out loud with my daughter, to see my son working on a programming project with my husband, to watch my oldest two sprawled out on the bedroom floor patiently helping my youngest with pre-algebra. My dad always said that whatever doesn’t kill you makes a good story, and I love to hear my kids laugh and reminisce over experiences they have shared together, even though many of those memories involve things that went wrong and curriculum choices or teaching strategies that turned out to be less than ideal. As you think about the coming year, it may seem that large quantities of forced time together will surely bring out all the weak points in your family dynamics. To some extent that is true, and you can take heart knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for homeschooling and his power is made perfect in weakness. But also be encouraged that these next months together will reveal dimensions of your family that you didn’t appreciate before and give you shared stories for years to come. Maybe you’ll discover that your spouse is really talented at doing all the voices in a read-aloud with uncanny dramatic flair. Or that your son is really insightful and sensitive when it comes to understanding the motivations of characters in a story. Or that your daughter is super organized and detail-oriented and capable of managing the whole family’s schedules and calendar. It won’t be all conflict and pain. There will be good times and happy memories!
If you are still in the process of figuring out what curriculum to use or what resources are available, please check the following resources on how to homeschool high school biology and how to homeschool from an evolutionary creation perspective. Also, BioLogos’ K-12 resource center has lots of articles and product reviews to help parents and teachers navigate their options. If you have students in middle school or high school, check out BioLogos INTEGRATE, a science curriculum supplement that provides you with unit plans to help you address various topics at the intersection of faith and science from a Christian perspective. If you have questions or need a listening ear, don’t hesitate to come start a thread on the BioLogos education forum.
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At BioLogos, “gracious dialogue” means demonstrating the grace of Christ as we dialogue together about the tough issues of science and faith.