The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

The New Normal: Waco and COVID-19

Homeschooling Advice from Two Veteran Moms

4 years ago

By Caroline Yablon & Jen Naylor Gesick

Parenting can be hard enough without adding homeschooling into your daily routine. So we spoke with two Waco moms who have experience homeschooling their kids to find out what advice they have for parents who are new to homeschooling. Hopefully, their experiences and advice will take some pressure off of this new normal that everyone is experiencing.

Some quick Tips & Tricks from the Experts:
• Have patience with your children and yourself
• Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourselves
• You are all learning through this
• Create a daily/weekly routine
• Take breaks often
• Practice good self-care
• Plan something fun as a treat
• Have goals, but don’t get too discouraged if they aren’t accomplished right away
• Enjoy this time with your children
• They are learning even if it doesn’t come from an assignment or look like traditional school

Mom of two Sharleen Graybill was featured in our April issue and has been homeschooling her kids for almost two years. Her son Wesley is in the first grade and daughter Pepper is in pre-school. When she isn’t managing her blog, or sewing up cool creations, she is teaching her kids. Although she has gotten the hang of it now, she experienced a few hiccups during her first year of homeschooling but learned a few things along the way. So, first time homeschooling parents, it’s normal if you are experiencing challenges.

“One thing is that everything is new to them, and their pace is way different from my own,” Sharleen said. “I would say that not only is your child learning, but you are learning so much as well! You are learning how your child learns and learning how to teach them.”

With that, she advises parents to, “approach the teaching process with this mindset, then you might be able to take some unnecessary pressure off of yourself.”

She also learned in her first year to take breaks when needed.

“If something was particularly tricky, I would ask my child if after completing this last problem (or maybe then) if they needed a break,” she said.

Sharleen said she takes 5-15 minute breaks and has her kids color or do something interactive. But it all depends on your child’s interests and what helps them focus.

“I find that by giving them the option that they are more willing, and happier, to participate,” Sharleen said.

When it comes to deciding whether it’s best to separate your role as a parent and teacher, Sharleen thinks they are not separate roles and says she wears her “teacher hat” the whole day; when she goes through her morning routine with her kids, when her kids ask questions about life throughout the day

“We teach them so much daily, like how to tie their shoes, what is appropriate behavior in public, and how to become more and more independent as they grow and mature,” she said.

With so many schools around Waco, the curriculum for each student can look very different. But when it comes to additional resources to help your kids learn their assigned material, Sharleen said that she uses the Charlotte Mason Method and various other resources such as this Youtube video for reading and learning sounds. Blue Planet, The Magic School Bus and The Reading Rainbow.

School revolves around a schedule to stay organized so when Sharleen is planning her kid’s weekly schedule, she said she tries to learn things that her kids ask her about and then incorporates it into their lessons.

“I believe this will help them to foster and grow the love of learning,” she said.

After homeschooling all day, she likes to treat her kids to recreational activities such as playing outside in their backyard or going to the park.

Bianca Zaloumis, co-owner of THRST Coffee is another Waco mom of two who homeschooled her daughter Kora for part of kindergarten. Her advice to new homeschooling parents is learning patience with your kids but also with yourself.

“A plan and goals for the day [and] week are important but it’s ok if the school day doesn’t go as planned or if everything doesn’t get accomplished,” she said.

Staying focused is a challenge for everyone, but especially for kids. So, it’s no shock that keeping a child focused while learning can be a huge obstacle. With that being said, Bianca said it’s important that your child is well-rested, nourished and getting enough recreational activity.

“I’ve noticed that can make a huge difference in their ability to focus and overall attitude,” she said.

She also advises parents to, “get in the habit of taking breaks throughout the school day to give their mind/eyes a rest. They’ll come back to their work fresh and recharged.”

Technology is a great resource for learning, but can also be very distracting. So, the question you might be asking yourself is ‘should I incorporate technology in my lessons?’ For Bianca, she said it all depends on the grade level.

“The older they get, the more computer use will probably be required,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to incorporate technology for younger grades into lessons every day, but navigating technology is an important skill they should learn and there are a lot of good learning resources for those that aren’t able to purchase a whole curriculum of physical lesson books.”

We hope you found this advice and homeschool stories helpful and encouraging. Leave a comment below about what you have learned while trying this homeschooling thing.