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The Hendersons Are Homeschooling… On Our Own (Here’s The “Plan” Or What We Really Hope Will Happen)

We truly didn’t know where we are going to live this school year since we are trying to move to Portland (clearly we are lucky/grateful that we have options). Charlie was still enrolled at the public school in our neighborhood in LA, but the Zoom learning did not go great last time (because of obvious reasons, the teachers did their best to adapt quickly but not ideal for anyone – especially teachers). So Brian basically took over and just taught both kids the basics. Then we thought well if we are going to be doing some screentime learning why not have my mom who is a teacher of 40 years homeschool while she’s homeschooling my sister’s kids that live with them in Portland, via the Portal. Just piggyback on that situation. Then once we decided to stay in the mountains for a while we decided a week late to enroll them in the local public elementary school HOMEschool program to have more flexibility, but it was full. How can a homeschool program be full? Well, because there is a teacher that does once a week check-ins and can only manage so many kids. Then all the charter home schools that we were eligible for were full, too. We felt like such idiots. So by late August, they were enrolled NOWHERE and we quickly enrolled them in the local elementary school’s distance learning (for those of you who don’t know the difference – “distance learning” is daily Zooms on iPads with the teacher you would have at school, “homeschool” is on your own time and with parent supervision/guidelines and likely some sort of online curriculum). Charlie started the distance learning program on day 4 or 5 which we felt pretty terrible about, but even worse Birdie isn’t updated on her vaccines which she needs to go to public T-K even though it’s all done remote this year! So she wasn’t even allowed to Zoom in on her classes which both the school and us knew was ridiculous this year but it’s the law (not ridiculous to have vaccines, ridiculous to require them in a pandemic when its remote learning). And get this – there are no pediatricians in our town and everyone drives down the mountain to get even basic vaccines. We felt like GREAT parents. No school and no doctor. We made an appointment but couldn’t get in for a month to our LA pediatrician. We made a lot of responsible excuses like “well, isn’t TK optional anyway?” and, “I mean, won’t everyone be behind next year?”.

Back to Charlie – he started his Zoom classes and despite the REALLY great job that the teacher was doing, 1st grade via an iPad is not ideal as every parent and teacher knows. We felt like we were just babysitting our kid while he looked at a screen and watched youtube videos.

I want to do a quick rant right now. Working parents and teachers are being put in an impossible position in the cities that are still doing remote learning. If you are in a family where both you and your partner work either inside or outside the home, I am here to say “I see you. I hear you. And just by trying you are doing an incredible job in an impossible situation”. I am not complaining for me due to my extreme privilege of having a flexible job working for myself and a husband who’s work has slowed down extremely due to the pandemic – we are grateful and going to manage fine. But I am still very outraged at this situation on behalf of all families right now – my friends and family, I see how they are just barely surviving this, emotionally. You are not alone. You are not set up for success. I want to give you a massive hug for even trying. YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT FOR EVEN ENROLLING YOUR KIDS IN SCHOOL! It’s more than we did…

Oh another rant – if you are in a leadership position at a company with working parents, think about showing some extra grace. I feel so badly for my friends who have 8 am Zoom corporate meetings that aren’t urgent. If you have any control over this kind of managing please step up and give working parents a bigger break than you ever have before. Ask them how they are doing and what your company can do to help. Give more time off and if your company is doing well, extra bonuses. Everyone is struggling to survive AND scared to lose jobs. So if you are in a leadership position go to bat for your colleagues who are trying to manage this impossible position and are likely crying a lot at home in between Zoom calls.

So what are we, the Hendersons, doing????

Homeschool. No, like, by ourselves. Not distance learning and not a pod. I realize how privileged this is, trust me, and I also know that many people might be in the same position of having one parent not working and able to stay home, so I’m hoping to have a conversation about it and share some ideas and resources AND ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS SO WE CAN HELP EACH OTHER.

But first, why are we homeschooling?

  1. This year we might be taking many road trips (16-hour drives) to Portland to look for our future home and plan our eventual move. So we’d be missing a lot of school (maybe we’ll start flying it if feels safer with the kids). Since our plan is to move when schools reopen (hopefully) it started to not make sense to Zoom school in Lake Arrowhead. If we knew what Portland school we would be in we might have joined that, but we can’t (and don’t have the property to enroll yet).
  2. Our kids are so young (4 and 6) so it’s the age where we might be able to teach them – knowing that as they get older we may not be competent or have the time available. I would not necessarily do this for older kids personally, but at TK and 1st grade I feel like we can’t totally mess them up, RIGHT???
  3. To state the obvious – learning through screens is just hard for any age of kid, but especially this young, before they are competent readers. Our kids truly couldn’t do it on their own anyway, so as we were sitting next to them the whole time helping them with their iPads, we realized that we could be spending the same amount of time actually interacting with them.
  4. Brian was able to do it. With his production work at a big low (a shoot a month at best), it gave him some purpose and almost a creative outlet. He saw this as an opportunity to spend more time with the kids. So instead of sitting near them while they are Zooming, he’ll be interacting with them. We are unbelievably grateful that we are in a position for him to no have work right now. Truly.
  5. Our general education philosophy is pretty, well, casual/progressive …. aka relaxed. We care more about social learning, community building, and self-esteem developing (at this age) than about them being academically advanced or ahead. We want them to enjoy learning (at least at this age) and be challenged by the process, not necessarily caring about the outcome. We don’t really care about test scores or them being the smartest or best in the class. In short – we don’t necessarily care about them getting “The Best Education”. I know that not everyone shares this philosophy and it might change, but Brian and I were both raised this same way and we simply can’t shake it. Your value system is just that – YOURS, and Brian nor I were the brainiacs of our class and appreciated the lack of academic pressure from our parents and focus on other things (being well rounded, kind, happy, a good citizen, creative, hard-working, etc). We are both creatives with untraditional jobs. What can you do?

So what are we doing exactly for this “homeschool”???

Well. We are currently setting it all up and haven’t fallen into a routine yet, but below is the plan starting next week (we started in August, but took a two-week break and are amping it back up next week). Now, we likely will fail at some of these ideas, but here are some ideas we are trying to stick to:

  1. Homeschool curriculum. Apparently the government wants you to, like, make sure your kids learn to read and write. You can do it on your own, but we knew we weren’t responsible enough so we sought out a program. We have downloaded a secular homeschool curriculum called Blossom and Root that is mostly nature and art-based (it was about $100). After doing a lot of research it seemed to be the program that fits best for our family and we really related to the philosophy. It’s pretty loose and more conceptual, less rigid, but with a lot of supplementary projects, book lists, and ways to document it all. Our kids are close enough in age so they are doing the same program, modifying a bit for reading/math. We downloaded it and printed it and had it bound at the local copy shop. We will start officially start this on Monday so I’ll report back! They say it’s anywhere from 1-3 hours a day.
  2. We have been doing a lot of worksheets – mostly math and writing. We print them out in the morning and spend about an hour on them. This is the most challenging part of the day, by the way. Brian is in charge of this hour… One of our kids doesn’t focus well on seated projects and we are trying to both teach the importance of that as well as not force it too much.
  3. We journal. We will write a daily “I’m grateful for…” journal with a picture and sentence and a weekly “what we did this weekend” journal. They did these at their pre-school so they are used to them. We forget frequently to do this but that’s the intent. We do a daily alphabet challenge where Elliot draws something that starts with the letter and Charlie builds the letter out of legos (and I take a photo of both). Somedays these are easy, other days they are a battle – I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.
  4. LIFE SCHOOL This is my personal favorite and guys, it’s the best parenting hack that no one told me – except every mom in the history of time. Now that the kids are 4 and 6 they are old enough to do everything that we do around the house, for themselves. All the stuff you think they can’t do? They can. I’m writing a whole post about it because I have so many tips and lessons learned already. Stay tuned (you can watch on Instastory, too).
  5. We let them choose crafts and science projects from books in “their library”. This is our favorite science book, this is our favorite craft book. Much to Brian’s horror we keep everything that can be turned into a craft or science – yogurt containers, toilet rolls, egg containers to have on hand (they are all in a big garbage bin in the garage, not organized but in one place).
  6. We are trying to dedicate some time to service and helping others. At least one afternoon they have to either write a thank you/miss you letter or make a craft/food for someone who they want to send love to or who they think needs it – this week we are going to make some cookies for the firefighters battling the fire up here. I’m currently trying to find a way to do a weekly 2-hour volunteer session and have reached out to everyone I know but have not come up with anything that feels safe due to COVID. We might just take a couple of hours a week to make and drop off a lunch at our local elementary school to support the teachers. One of my kids is pretty into this, for the other it’s more of a battle (thus making it all the more necessary).
  7. Scrapbooking. FINALLY. MY #2 HOBBY (behind souping) HAS COME IN HANDY AND IS REQUIRED BY THE GOVERNMENT!!! So in addition to filling out an affidavit saying that you are creating your own home school you have to keep track of everything you are doing in order to enter the next grade and show that the kids are at that level. So I get to document the hell out of this year, our time together, and obviously save every writing/math/science project we do. At first, Brian was like, “we can’t homeschool – You have to document the whole thing!!! Both of us are so irresponsible!!” I agreed and was nervous enough that we almost bought a really expensive “private” homeschool program that helps us do it. But then I reframed it and realized that it’s just going to be a daily EPIC scrapbook!! I have this awesome photo printer that the kids love and they each bought their own binder. Let me be clear – I’m a TERRIBLE scrapbooker. I’m just super enthusiastic about hoarding memories. Our scrapbooks are messy, unorganized and we don’t have those cute soccer ball stickers or anything. I stick to the “done is better than perfect” motto. I have a huge tub in a closet that I throw things in weekly. For this, I’ll just keep them in a binder daily (I think). I’m pretty sure to get into public 2nd grade next year we just need to prove that he can read/write and do basic math and I know we can do that.
  8. Kid Class. They are very excited about this but we’ll see how long it lasts. Basically each kid takes a turn at being “the teacher” and they choose the lesson and gather supplies. Charlie taught “robot school” where he showed us how to build a robot out of recyclable materials and Birdie taught us all how to draw a unicorn (which took 5 minutes). It’s also a great parenting hack because you literally don’t have to do anything. I think this idea came from the LDS tradition of “Family Home Evening” where each child on Monday nights takes a turn coming up with and teaching a lesson to the rest of the family (usually based on doctrine or morality). The kids so far like being in charge and pretending to be a teacher so we’ll see how it goes.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, those are just the ideas. I can’t imagine we will be able to stick to all of them or execute them daily. Yes, they watch too much TV. Yes, they go hours just playing outside. And no, they don’t put vegetables in their lunch (as they are responsible for making their own now – cooking school!). So our expectations are LOW this year for both us and them and I think that’s ok.

Am I nervous about doing this on our own? YES. Here’s why…

  1. Brian battled a lot with the kids last year and that morning fight was a challenge and stressful – AS EVERY PARENT KNOWS RIGHT NOW. I want to be able to share the responsibility 50/50 but simply can’t due to work. Every parent also knows that their kid listens to a teacher/any adult far more than their own parents so we are looking for a part-time teacher or nanny with some experience to help with this a couple of hours a day (or even 3 days a week – literally any time). This would probably help our marriage, too. Despite us trying to make it “fun” they still don’t want to go to “school” and one of my children does not like to focus on anything besides what they feel they are good at, so even getting them to do a “what we did last weekend” journal is a struggle and a big source of daily frustration. There are often tears and voices being raised – by kids and grownups. So yeah, we are navigating that situation.
  2. I’m nervous that our kids won’t be able to sit down and focus next year in a more rigid classroom structure. We aren’t big disciplinarians and don’t parent very punitively. I’m worried that they will HATE school when they go back, be unable to sit and focus on traditional worksheets, and just feel out of place. What I remind myself all day is that everyone will be at different places emotionally and academically next year (or whenever we return) so we’ll all go through whatever challenges as a world community. RIGHT? OUR KIDS WON’T BE THAT WEIRD, RIGHT???
  3. I’m nervous that they’ll be behind on what they are “supposed” to learn and that might affect them emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far less concerned about what this does for them academically then what it does to their self-esteem. Feeling “behind” can be hard at this young age, so I just really want them to integrate back in with them feeling like they are “dumb” because mommy didn’t teach them what a compound sentence is (because she doesn’t know and clearly doesn’t care about grammar as much as the rest of the world). This is Brian’s biggest concern and why he prints out the worksheets every day. Should two laid back creatives really pretend to be “teachers”??

Finally, I’m nervous that we won’t be disciplined enough to stick to it. I’m a 7 enneagram. I like to have fun and do what I can to create it. I best thrive with a routine, sure, but I also LOVE playing hooky and I don’t like traditional rules AT ALL nor do I like someone telling me what to do. There is a reason I never could have an office job (or maybe why I need one?) The only reason I’m successful is because I found exactly what my brain wants to do and made it a career (and yes, have a very good/hard work ethic thanks to my parents). I’m worried that left up to me we’d just do projects or play all day because they are at this age that is seriously SO FUN to hang out with. When Birdie says, “mama do you want to play spa with me?” when we should be starting our alphabet challenge it will be hard to not say “uh, yea!” (I mean, how can you not? She wants to braid my hair and give me a manicure???)

I don’t know how it’s going to go. Here’s what I do know – that most of us dealing with schools shut down, we all have to give ourselves a break and know that our kids will be fine, filled with love from us, and an extra dose of grit and flexibility. I’ll get to hug them more this year, and make a lot of soup together. And if this homeschool doesn’t work then we’ll go back to distance learning or join a pod. WHO KNOWS.

So that’s us. When we were doing distance learning I gathered some tips from you guys – some of them really surprising. Lauren Gibbs is a teacher that sent through a lot of them (thank you!) and we added a few more to the list from others.

Helpful Ideas for Distance Learning and using Zoom from Teachers:

  1. Routine – After 14 years of teaching in the classroom, in the homeschool setting, and as a virtual reading intervention teacher routine is beyond helpful! Create a routine that students can count on. Discuss the routine as a family, write it somewhere everyone can see, and set timers! Something like wake up, breakfast, get dressed, play outside, start Zoom, and so on. As a teacher, it took about a month to teach the routine but then after a month, the classroom worked in a beautiful flow. Try this out at home. 
  2. Set up a personal space for your child to work and go to each day. Have them help you set it up. Think through the following – Is this space quiet and distraction-free as possible? Are there supplies ready – paper, pencils, markers, notebooks, textbooks? Setting it up with your student can create excitement and ownership. Add personal touches to help the student feel at home and comfortable, a picture or a stuffed animal can really help. It doesn’t have to be a big space, but a space that helps them feel like when they are there it is time to learn and focus.
  3. Headphones with a microphone are so helpful and relatively cheap. They make a big difference. 
  4. Practice Zoom as a family. Discover together where the tools are and talk through troubleshooting problems. Making a list of what to do if… the internet goes out, the Zoom turns off, etc…
  5. Students are going to get fidgety and often not engaged after staring at a computer screen. Set a timer for students to simply orient to the room they are in: look around the room and name 5 things you see, hear, feel, etc.. Provide optional seating: standing, yoga ball, flexible seating. Also, fidget toys like a stress ball or silly putty can be helpful for their fidgety hands. Some students do well with a weighted blanket or something with weight around their necks. Even a reminder to simply wiggle their toes is helpful. A small trampoline next to their workspace can work wonders for a quick 1-minute jumping break. 
  6. For the younger grades sit next to your student for the first couple weeks (or more if possible). This way you can help them troubleshoot and get used to what to do. This is a big commitment but after that you can be sure they will be more independent. For the upper grades be nearby to help when issues come up. Remember students do great with gentle reminders, a hand on the back can help redirect them, and ask intentional questions about their lessons. They will not be getting a lot of that in the virtual setting. 
  7. Don’t have kids in a bedroom on a bed or in a bathroom and they need to have a shirt on. A few male teachers gave this suggestion specifically which was surprising but totally made sense!
  8. Take a breath! You do not need to do this perfectly. If you or your student need a break, take it! An organized regulated nervous system in the middle of a potentially traumatizing time trumps school.

Lastly, I know this is a long post … A couple of weeks ago Sara’s mom, a kindergarten teacher in a low-income neighborhood outside of LA, gave us a wish list of supplies that she was buying for her underserved families and you guys stepped up and helped SO MUCH. The idea that teachers who are already underpaid IMHO in this country have to use their own money to buy school supplies is just shocking and upsetting. Thank you to all who supported Sara’s mom. Here are more teachers who are struggling to cover school supplies in their districts – if you can support please do.

  • Ally Lam: “Hi I’m a 6th grade math teacher in a public school for newcomers and I and my school could really use some help 🙂“. Here is Ally’s wishlist
  • Adriani Leon: “Hi! We are a small public charter school in Altadena with just over 100 students. We are a tight-knit community with a focus on entrepreneurship! Creating a socially distant environment has many challenges. While we are incredibly lucky to have enough space to host our students, we don’t have enough furniture to provide for them! Social distancing means group tables and alternative seating are out of the question, so we need your help to get more tables and chairs for our young entrepreneurs. Our students are mainly Latino and Black. We are about 70% Low Income, and just over 20% Special Needs! Your help means that we can use school funds for direct services like tutoring and counseling! Thank you so much!” Here is Adriani’s wishlist
  • Lauren Colley: “Hi EHD team! I saw your post about teachers needing help and I wanted to pass on information about an amazing organization right here in LA that is busting their butts providing FREE tutoring to underserved kids from all over LA county. Dynasty’s United Youth Association – normally operates out of our public libraries and schools but given COVID, all of their programming is online. They are doing a fundraising campaign to currently to continue funding their free services for this school year. They have raised 35% of their goal of $115k for the year and need help. The founder Dynasty Taylor is an amazing woman in her community, a counselor in 3 schools and also runs two non-profits. She is incredible. Would love the help! Can provide any info you need! Thank you!
  • Ali Mente: “I am a third-grade teacher in a very poor area in Baltimore City. We are finishing up our first week of 100% virtual learning and it has been quite an eye-opening experience. Our families are doing as best as they can but it is very difficult for many of our students to focus because they do not have headphones. We were lucky enough to get laptops out to every family but most of our families have children in multiple grades and everyone is learning in the same room in their homes- which has proven to be very loud and easily distracting. I teach 60 students and would be extremely grateful if I could receive some help fulfilling this wish!Here is Ali’s wishlist
  • Sam Eason: “I wanted to send you my friends gofundme for her students. She’s a first grade teacher and recently set up a gofundme for her birthday, saying that all she wanted for her birthday was to help buy supplies for her students. Her name is Desirae, a native Hawaiian working here in WA. She’s so passionate about her students and I’d just love to surprise her with some additional help. Thank you for your support and considering her!” Here is Desirae’s GoFundme page
  • Reba Cunningham: Please help teachers get the supplies they need most. Support an Elysian Heights Elementary School classroom and make a difference for their students today. Here is the link
  • Lauren Merceron: “I work in an underserved public school in Atlanta. I am an art teacher. I have been sending packets for the students who don’t have supplies. Many of the students don’t even have crayons or paper. So crayons, paper, watercolor sets would be a GodsendHere is Lauren’s wishlist
  • Samantha Deitch: “My friend Ashleigh is a teacher in Houston for underserved and majority Latinx/black high school students – she says half of them can’t connect to her classes because of tech/lack thereof, and half don’t attend in any meaningful way because they are working to support their families or supporting younger siblings in THEIR online schooling. She’s been working round the clock for the past month to try to help her students. They would benefit SO MUCH from donations!!Here is Ashleigh’s wishlist
  • From Rachel Pepin: “I’m responding on behalf of a teacher (and an entire school really). The school is a low-income school (title one- which I always confuse with title 9 -but this means nearly all students qualify for free meals). It’s a very small school and they share facilities and resources with a school for the visually impaired. Most of the kids are Latin or Asian (my kid is the only white kid in his class). Most kids have devices from school which are extremely old and not all of them can run all of the platforms for distance learning. This probably is too big of an ask for a gofundme. So on a smaller scale, our first grade teacher let us know last week that her wish list includes ziplock bags, ink toner cartridges, reams of copy paper, and glue. Thanks so much!Here is Ms. Lee’s wishlist
  • Cheryl: “I’m a kindergarten teacher in Long Beach at a title I school! I currently have a gofundme for an iPad to use for this whole ordeal while teaching from home…using my iPhone as a doc camera but know I can use an iPad plus use it to write and simulate what they’d see at school. If I can share more, please ask. There is so much we can benefit from but these two items would change everything! We are online until January 28Here is Cheryl’s DonorsChoose page and student wishlist
  • Katelyn Knowles: “I teach in a small rural school in southern Illinois. Our school serves students in 3 counties with some over 30 minutes away from the school. Most of our students live in small towns or in the country. Sadly, most of them do not have access to libraries. Our school works to provide them with books but funding is always an issue. I would like to grow my classroom library to incorporate more books for my students to enjoy. Plus I would be able to share them with my students during our online meetings. Most of the books I have paid for myself or they were leftover from the last teacher. Now more than ever, access to books is so important.” Here is Katelyn’s wishlist
  • Rachel Coldewey: “We return to in-person learning on 9/14! This presents fun challenges like teaching a new reading intervention, and weird ones like making PPE fun. If you have the means to help, I would appreciate it!” Here is Rachel’s wishlist

These teachers and friends of teachers are amazing and we hope that along with us, you can help to support them in some small (or big) way. Brian and I are very aware of how lucky and privileged we are to even have the option to have options when it comes to our kid’s education. But with privilege comes responsibility to help and we are committed to doing just that. We have to support teachers and their students so that everyone can get the education they deserve!

So let’s talk about ways to help, books and programs your kids are using and loving and if you are a teacher with a wishlist please put it in the comments. xx


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165 thoughts on “The Hendersons Are Homeschooling… On Our Own (Here’s The “Plan” Or What We Really Hope Will Happen)

  1. To say the least – it will be an interesting year for all the teachers, parents and children.

    Could someone let Ali Mente know there is not an shipping address attached to her Amazon wish list – would love to help out and purchase some headphones for her students.

    1. Yes, this. I tried to order headphones from Ali Mente‘s list as well but there was no shipping address. Please add!

          1. My headphones all shipped to her, and I just got an email telling me that they have extended the warranty until 1/31/2022–which would be super helpful for Ali to know–what with kids and all! I’d love to get her that message by forwarding her one of these emails with the details. Thank you! Katherine

  2. Does anyone have tips for 14 yo boys with ADHD? My nephew is the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet but distance learning is proving VERY challenging. (His school is doing 3 days remote/in-person)

    1. Fidget toys are awesome. I know they’re usually marketed towards younger kids, but I’m a high school teacher and my kids love them. Flexible seating options. Yoga balls, rolling chairs, rocking chairs. Maybe a desk on wheels that can be raised and lowered so it can move with him and adjust to different seating preferences. Hopefully his teachers/school are incorporating lots of screen breaks!

      I’d also recommend looking into emotional regulation tips and exercises. Once again, sometimes this stuff is marketed towards younger kids or people dealing with trauma, but it’s really wonderful stuff for anyone to use who needs help refocusing or de stressing. Even parents who are trying to deal with distance learning! Here’s one link to get you started. Choose a few exercises and encourage him to use them when he’s feeling anxious. Many can be done inside or outside of the classroom without drawing attention. It does take practice so encourage him to stick with it for a few weeks before deciding if it helps or not.

      Good luck to your nephew this year!

      1. All great suggestions – and if you don’t have room for a yoga ball to sit on, there are “wiggle cushions” – which are basically 2″ tall rubber cushions that you partially inflate and put on your chair.

        Also having elastic exercise bands looped around the legs of their chair or table – so they can push and pull their feet against them.

        Most of all: lots of time OUTDOORS, especially in nature, moving their body. Evidence based for increased focus.

    2. Oh my gosh, I feel for your nephew. My husband has ADHD, and we started dating when I was 15 and he was 16, so I’ve been along for a lot of that challenge with him. Despite being a year younger, I was an AP/Honors student so I was way ahead of him in nearly all of our school work and therefore fell into the role of de facto tutor and helper all the way through college. I remember the struggle of math classes, writing papers, knowing what he even needed to be doing, so vividly. I can share what we learned, though with the caveat that what works for one ADHD kid may not work for another 🙂

      Take. Breaks. Seriously, whether its setting a focus timer or breaking the work up into chunks, he needs the goal of focusing for a short time, then getting rewarded, and there needs to be a way of knowing when he’s “earned” that break. But then set a timer for the break too, otherwise he may not get back to work afterwards.

      Stay busy. My husband’s best semester of school was his very last, when he was going to class in the evenings while working full time (plus frequent overtime) for his family’s construction business. He’d get to the office at 5am to do homework, open the shop at 7am when their guys arrived, work a full day out in the field, run to class often still covered in dirt and sweat (it was a construction management program, so luckily he wasn’t the only one showing up like that) then get home afterwards and crash. It was grueling and I don’t wish for those days back, but man he got stuff done! Focus often comes from necessity. He also did better in high school during golf season, when he was busy after-school with practices and missing classes for tournaments – its counterintuitive that having less time for school made him better at it, but the sense of urgency made a difference!

      Lastly, and I know this is controversial – if he’s not taking a prescription to manage his condition, I highly encourage his parents to at least go to the appropriate medical professionals for counsel. Adderall made a life-altering difference for my husband, but he didn’t get diagnosed and prescribed until after he was done with school (and it was accidental – a specialist he was seeing for another health issue got frustrated trying to get through an appointment with him and asked if was on something for his ADHD, to which he replied “I don’t have ADHD” and he left the office that day with a referral and a trial low-dose prescription). It’s not cheating, in my opinion – it’s giving him a chance at a level playing field. My mother-in-law has literally cried talking about how she wishes she had gotten him diagnosed in high school – especially since she works with him everyday now, she sees first hand what a difference it makes not just to his productivity, but also to his self-esteem. The teen boy who battled with the idea that he was stupid and bad at school is now an adult who is learning that he is neither – he just learns and thinks differently than the rest of us. With or without a medication, therapy is also a great idea – an unbiased perspective can help so much!

      Sending love to all the kids with learning challenges right now!

      1. Jessie,
        As a special education teacher with a husband and son with ADHD, may I just say that “you are a rock star”. You certainly used the evidence proven techniques for teaching someone with executive functioning challenges, but more importantly, it is evident from you post that you interacted with love and respect for the learner and his strengths. Many teachers find that challenging, as frustration often gets the best of them — it’s even more challenging as a life partner and family member. So a big Bravo to you! And thank you for sharing.

    3. I taught yoga to 14 year olds (all ages actually ) with ADHD. There are breathing techniques that are incredibly helpful. A lot of times these kiddos just need a better supply of oxygen in their bodies to focus. Ocean sounding breath is one that would be very helpful for him.

    4. I have a kid with ADHD and I work in special education. It really is a challenge to support focus and deal with frustration right now! Kids with adhd benefit from lots of executive functioning support. This can look like timers, visual schedules, and breaking down work into smaller chunks. My kid needs lots of positive reinforcement/rewards and does well listening to music when working on tedious tasks. So much of schoolwork is tedious! Hang in there. There are a lot of super powers that go with ADHD. So much energy, curiosity, and hyper focus with preferred tasks. My husband has adhd too and it comes in handy sometimes 🙂

    5. As someone with ADD/ADHD, currently in med school, and previously taught at the high school level, here is what has worked for me:

      -Figure out times of the day that work better for your nephew’s circadian rhythm and attention span. For me, I am better at studying quietly in the early morning and evening. I am a total spazz in the afternoon, so I use that time for non-focus related tasks like exercise, errands, etc.

      -Figure out what makes your nephew’s ADHD worse and then use mitigation strategies to manage those things. For some it’s hunger, so stick to a snack and meal schedule such that your nephew eats before he is super hungry. For others, it can be types of food (so replace high glycemic foods like cookies and sweets with lower glycemic foods like high fiber fresh fruits, nuts, etc.). Other triggers can be lack of sleep or an altered sleep cycle, lack of exercise, or feeling stress/overwhelmed. Keeping a regular sleep schedule (even on weekends), exercising regularly, and figuring out how to minimize stress helps manage ADD/ADHD.

      -Structure lessons around “kinesthetic learning” techniques. Kinesthetic learners learn best by DOING things. For example, if your nephew is in biology and learning cell anatomy, have him build a model of a cell with clay or play-dough, forming each part of the cell and labeling it, while learning what each part of the cell does as he’s modeling it.

      -If your nephew struggles with sitting or studying quietly, get audio books and recorded
      lectures and have him walk, jump, or run around (preferably outside but inside can work too) while listening to them. When he’s done with a chapter or a lesson, have him recap or teach you what he just listened to. Allow him to act out scenes if it’s a book or move around in space while he’s explaining a lesson to you.

      -Teach your nephew to talk out his feelings when he gets stressed, upset, or overwhelmed. It can be as simple as having him say “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now.” The act of naming and identifying an emotion is an important part of managing that emotion. It will also help you learn how to better structure his lessons and schedule so that he doesn’t get stressed, upset, or overwhelmed.

      -Find an instrument your nephew wants to learn and online music lessons to follow. A drum pad and drum sticks are cheap, don’t make a lot of noise, and are great for fidgety types. Music is both a creative and physical outlet, and has ancillary benefits of teaching applied mathematical principals, history, cross-cultural competency, and focus/perseverance.

      Overall, the most important thing you can do for your nephew is to instill a love of learning and confidence in him to do so. For me, figuring out that my ADD/ADHD can be a strength (I am unflappable in highly stressful situations and I often see/think of things others don’t in solving problems) has helped me throughout my education and career. Let him know that there are ADD/ADHD adults out there rooting for him. We can’t wait to see what great things he does with his talents.

  3. I say go with your strengths Maybe “unschooling” is for you. GO ahead and have fun and follow their lead for learning and creativity!

    1. I was going to mention unschooling also! You mentioned one of your kids only likes to learn or focus on what they like. You can create every subject about their interests. Journal about that, work a little math into it, etc. Your kids are so young they’ll be fine! I’m a grandma who homeschooled for awhile years ago. There was a popular book called Better Late Than Early that talked about not rushing younger kids that had some good ideas in it to keep kids from hating learning. Your kiddos will be fine!

      1. great ideas! and i made a pretty strong case for unschooling and Brian isn’t quite as receptive as I was. But to be totally honest, i think its kinda what we are doing. we’ll see how the curriculum goes next week …

        1. I homeschooled my 2 boys for 10 years – in an “unschooling” kind of way and I have to say they were some of our best years together. Honestly – we just made sure they learned how to read/write and do basic math and even that wasn’t on a traditional timeline (they were both late readers). Everything else was interest led and we did a lot of traveling. They ended up going to regular school eventually and the transition was totally fine. Don’t sweat it too much!

        2. Whether or not you choose to go the unschooling route or choose your current slightly more structured homeschooling curriculum, I understand being nervous about doing something different that feels like it might make your kids hate school, or make them feel weird/different, academically behind, etc. So I want to jump in as someone who unschooled until age 14 (at which point I made the choice to go to high school). I’m in my mid-30s now and am a well-adjusted person, with a spouse, friends, and a master’s degree! I think that one year of homeschooling (or even unschooling) at such a young age, especially when a whole generation of kids is going to have a very atypical school year regardless of the specifics, is really unlikely to have a long term negative impact on your kids. (It might even have positive effects! My siblings and I are all extremely creative, caring, empathetic people and I think our early childhood has a lot to do with it.)

          1. I think Unschooling can be incredible, but I’ve also seen it be…sad – especially when it is completely without any guardrails. Mostly because of the belief that kids will 100% self regulate, and the reason they don’t is because they’re “controlled.”

            We had an Unschooling family whose kids did nothing but stay up all night watching (any and all) youtube videos and playing video games, and lived on skittles and red vines. They didn’t “self regulate” – and who could blame them? The addictive stuff was always there.

            On the flip side I’ve also met Unschooling kids who are passionate, life-long learners, whose parents supported them in doing deep dives into complex topics. They were exactly as you’ve described your family 🙂

          2. Kate, I can see how this would happen! It’s pretty clear to me that whether or not it works depends on parents, and how they approach unschooling. (Is it child-guided learning? Or is it just… letting your kids do whatever the eff they want?) Limiting the addictive temptations you mention is totally part of it! In my family, we didn’t have a TV or a video game system. For today’s parents, it might look more like limiting smartphone/internet usage.

  4. I loved the book Brave Learner (great podcasts too) basically I’m trying to stick to the idea that homeschooling should not be school at home. So allllll the comforts and perks of home still apply! Chocolate chips for math practice, blankets and snuggles for reading time, give up early and feed the goats etc etc!

    1. Thank you for the recommendation! I’m ordering it right now. We were “unschooling” before I really understood it was a thing, and feel so validated knowing this works for other kids. Ours are 7, 4 and another 4 (twin sons) and their biggest learning experiences happen in the garden, in the kitchen and with their chickens and ducks. So fun for all of us!

      1. ok i love all of this. and totally agree. my “life school” is so much cooking, cleaning, projects, building forts (we are doing fun survivalists stuff after watching Alone). thanks for the validation 🙂

        1. Seriously, it can work. A couple now in my church homeschooled 4 of their 6 kids. 3 of the 4 who are old enough went on to college, and the other still might. A pilot, a nurse, an organic gardener, a social worker…
          Obviously they got the academics also, but a lot of it was working on their small farm. And lots of time to pursue individual interests–the pilot learned to fly and qualified as an EMT while she was still in high school.

    2. Emily, I love that you are blending some unschooling/life schooling concepts with more traditional, structured curriculum. As a formerly homeschooled kid, that was actually easiest for me as it provided some structure/routine while also allowing a lot of freedom. I 10000% advocate allowing your kids’ interests to drive the bus in terms of what they learn, and especially since they are very young, switch gears quickly if/when they lose interest in something. There are lots of free homeschooling resources and worksheets that are arranged around fun themes like medieval times, robots, dinosaurs, etc. — those can make school feel less like work and more like playtime. Similarly, on writing assignments — I think it can be helpful to use a prompt, but if gratitude acknowledgments aren’t working, there is no shame in assigning an essay on The Most Beautiful Princess Dress or What Robots Can Do. Same goes for the books they read. The important thing is to get the kids writing and reading, not what they are writing about or reading about — and it’s super empowering for a kid to be able to self-direct their study as well.

  5. We decided to homeschool our 4 year old twins this year (preK). My husband and I have never worked more than during this pandemic so we lean heavily on my mom, a retired first grade teacher, to make this happen. One thing that has helped us is we formed a little “pod” with my neighbor’s family. She takes all the kids for an hour each morning to start the day — they walk the neighborhood, do calendar time, songs, etc. Then I take them all at 4 pm after work for daily art time. In between, my mom loosely follows a curriculum (Abeka) with my kids while supplementing with her own worksheets and stuff. She’s a big fan of Teachers Paying Teachers. We are 5 weeks in and she’s continuing to figure out what sequence works best. Just remember it’s all a work in progress and even in school, the kids would still have up and down days. We are all trying our best! It’s a hard year – an anomaly – and I remind myself that we don’t have to feel like we are thriving every day. Sometimes it’s just surviving!

      1. Abeka is not secular, if that is important to you. I also have a lot of concerns with diversity and history they present.

      2. I teach Kindergarten and have taught TK- 4th grade. If you are looking for something specific on Tpt (Teachers Pay Teachers) for either Birdie or Charlie, let me know! I have bought hundreds of great things for specific curriculum needs (especially art, reading, science and dramatic play) to supplement my class. There are some amazingly creative teachers out there making our teaching lives easier, more creative and better than the “approved” curriculum might provide! “Dramatic play” units are great thematic units that turn a part of your house/class into learning fun! They spark great ideas. I made a “3 Pig’s Construction Company” area last year in my class and they wrote “blueprints”, listed materials they needed, designed walls and buildings, used tools and wrote about their grand building plans. Perfect for kids of a home designer ;).

    1. This is sooo helpful and we might go downtown the same road. Was it a long process to tell LAUSD you’re homeschooling and get approval from… where? The state? Thanks for the empathy! It’s so impossible right now and the more people see it’s not business as usual for others, the better

  6. Are you familiar with Play At Home Mom?
    I followed their blog when my child was younger. They stress learning through play instead of worksheets/sit down learning we all associate with school. I found it was a great resource full of ideas that I used a lot.

    I also love the preschool classroom set up which is quite a change from what we usually think of in a preschool setting.

  7. I wish that people would get mad at the political decision makers instead of teachers and administrators. It is not our fault we were thrust into this position, and other countries are not in the same position we are 6 months into this!

    1. Yes! I’m so angry that elected officials are pushing this all off in educators. The amount of times I’ve read that educators are being lazy for doing virtual school makes my blood boil. I have a friend who is a 1st grade teacher who has put in 12 hour days since mid August.

    2. Yes, if our leaders had done a better job of controlling the pandemic and preparing for adequate PPE and testing capacity, we could be in a position where the covid prevalence is low enough to open schools safely! And we definitely need to rethink our priorities if we’re allowing indoor dining and gyms to open before schools…

    3. I’m incredibly frustrated that we are one of the few countries who not only did not have a plan, still does not have a plan. I have relatives in Norway/Sweden and friends in the UK/Germany and while life isn’t 100% normal, they’ve made such massive progress through testing, listening to science, etc. that they can resume a reasonably normal life. All I can say is… vote. Vote like your life depends on it.

      1. I don’t actually think we’re more/less behind than other countries. Everyone is figuring it out as we go.

        Because we’re so large and culturally distinct, I think it makes sense that each state is able to make plans for themselves. Ohio has opened some schools and is doing pretty well.

        The UK has a much higher death rate than us and has had an extremely disorganized response. Their first goal was herd immunity and then that didn’t work due to high mortality, they switched.

        Sweden is doing absolutely nothing but suggesting people wear masks. They’ve decided to let the virus take its natural course.

        Norway/Germany have much healthier populations so haven’t been hit quite as hard.

        I’m not sure what is best but I don’t think this virus is going away, so we’ll probably need to learn to live with it – like Emily is doing here.

        1. I’m from Germany and I’m laughing about your “Norway/Germany have much healthier populations so haven’t been hit quite as hard.”
          Why should our population be more healthier?

  8. As a reading/writing teacher, I’d like to offer this tip to reduce some of the writing frustration. Don’t make writing all about well, writing.

    The cognitive demands and motor skills required for writing are very complex and can be very taxing for children. Work on those skills in small chunks but aim to make writing fun and/or meaningful. Writing is about way more than handwriting/keyboarding.

    Here are some ideas:
    Let your child tell you a story or idea while you write the sentences down. If it sounds disorganized, cut up the sentences into different strips and let your child reorganize them. Teach him/her to use speech to text on the computer. Let them illustrate that writing with drawings or computer images. Read a book on a topic that interests your child and ask your child to jot down “notes” to teach his or her cousins later– or you write the notes and your child turns it into a mini-book or fills in a webpage that’s pre-formatted. Watch a cooking video together, write the steps involved and a shopping list. Read the shopping list together at the store. Follow the steps you wrote down as you cook the recipe for dinner.

    Remember, not every idea or story needs to be developed into a completed text. Sometimes, it was just an idea. Keep a list of writing ideas on the wall or in a special notebook. Whenever possible, let your child decide which idea they want to write out/type/or dictate and turn into a “published” piece that is shared with others.

    We would never consider making reading all about phonics practice. We LOVE sharing reading with our children as they learn the skills to read on their own. We need to think about writing like this too.

    Lastly, teachers across the country use the site to request funding for projects. Please consider visiting this site to be inspired and help.


    1. Yes, penmanship and composition are entirely different and making “composition” depend on “penmanship” has scared off a lot of kids.

      Work on the fine motor skill of penmanship consistently but a tiny bit (a few words) at a time. The habits will come. I mean, when I look back at samples of my own writing at age 9 or 10 it’s not even close to my adult writing style. It continues to evolve and improve for so many years.

  9. Emily, check out Wild + Free at as well as You Clever Monkey and The Moffatt Girls on Teachers Pay Teachers. I think they will all really help you 🙂

    1. The wild+free podcast interviews were so helpful to me. Mothers who homeschooled all of their children through high school often give the simplest advice such as try to stick to your schedule every day because there will be days where you can’t (travel, drs appts, someone’s sick, etc). So helpful to hear from someone who has succeeded that some days won’t go as planned and that’s okay!

    2. We are part of wild and free and love it! We also unschool. The most important thing is your relationship with your kids. The rest comes after. If she wants to play play. She will come to the rest when she’s ready. Take the pressure off and just be a family. Maybe you do a box curriculum maybe not, but you won’t know if you don’t know each other. Don’t make home school, make home the type of environment you want for your kids and their academic interest will follow.

  10. I think this is amazing and a great idea given the circumstances. We are home learning also and it’s exactly like you say everyday is different and unexpected. I’ve found a sensory cushion on the chair (it’s like a rubber cushion with bumps) helps kids sit for longer and storyline online gives me a 30min break when needed. Good luck

  11. I totally get what you are going through. My son is the same age as Charlie (going to be 7 in December!) and is in first grade. When our schools went remote last March it was stressful for the whole family. I wanted to share some resources that I found helpful.

    The book “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Lessons” is an excellent method for teaching reading. Each lesson takes ~20 minutes. Your children will truly know how to read by the end (you could even do this with Birdie). We also bought BOB books. They are super simple books with silly stories, but they are perfect for beginner readers. They will help reinforce reading and give them confidence. The BOB books come in sets (~12 books each) and each set is a little more challenging.

    My son is about 100% more engaged when something is funny, so I try to find resources that will make him laugh. In kindergarten, my son had to memorize a new poem every week. We continued this tradition during remote learning. I found which has a whole section of funny poems. These make him laugh every time.

    To help with sight words, we play games. My son’s favorite is tic tac toe. You have sight word flashcards arranged in a 3 x 3 grid, and for the person to claim a spot for the X or O, they will read the word. We also use sight words during “battles.” This could be a pillow fight or something else physical (a race, a wrestling match…whatever your kid is into). How it works is before we have a round of battling, he must read a few sight words. He is instantly motivated because he enjoys battling and just having him moving around helps with focus.

    I also downloaded some worksheets from the website “Teachers Pay Teachers.” It is such an awesome concept– teachers share their curriculum/worksheets for a super reasonable price. I downloaded worksheets related to NWEA MAP. Put simply, MAP testing is used in our school district to determine progress and make sure the kids are “on track.” I could go on a rant about testing like this – especially for elementary kids. It just seems so unnecessary. BUT after I found out about the MAP testing (during my son’s parent-teacher conference), I found that the worksheets helped ME know what the kids were learning and the expectations. Again, I’m not suggesting that you use these for test prep–use them to help guide you on what exactly your child should know. I don’t want to bore everyone with the details, but each MAP worksheet has a RIT number in the corner. I guess you could think of that as a level. Our district shared data on the expected RIT scores. By knowing the expected scores, I can look at the worksheets and know what concepts he should be learning and it helps me make sure he is not behind. There are three types of MAP testing – Math, Reading, and Language (language starts in second grade). You can easily google MAP scores by grade and get a pretty good idea of what your child should be able to do by the end of the school year. I hope I didn’t make it sound complicated or hard….for me it gave me very clear goals on what my child should be learning (and worksheets to reinforce it!).

    I purchased “What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.” At bedtime, we’ll read the book together. The book is geared toward giving parents a basic curriculum and provides suggestions for activities. For me, it’s super casual–I read a page or two to my son. In the best cases, my son will have lots of questions and we have a nice conversation, but I put zero pressure on making it a thing. I’m going to purchase the next book (first-grade version). Some of the stories are weird…but my son likes them.

    For math, we use the MAP worksheets (discussed above) and play games. Sum Swamp is a great game to reinforce subtraction and addition. Card games are also a great way to reinforce counting (especially counting by 5’s and 10’s). You can also have your child keep score to help with adding larger numbers (we are not there yet….). We try to incorporate math talk into everyday life (fractions when we cut food or cook, money at the store, etc).

    This is getting too long…but I want to give some support. This is really hard and I don’t know anyone thriving at doing it all. I have low expectations in this season of life but trust that it will be fine in the end. Good luck with everything.

  12. Oh my gosh! You are describing my life to a T, including the ages and genders of our kids, and the challenges for both my kids and parents. Thank you for writing this post and making me feel less alone in my struggles and crazy for choosing to homeschool my kids this school year. Thanks!

  13. Ahhh I am so excited that you are doing this. Our family is as well for almost identical reasons. I’ve been such a fan for years and can not wait to hear more of your tips as the year goes on. And yes to epic scrapbooking — I’m loving taking photos and video of all of our projects. And bonus — documentation makes it way easier to remember which ones you all loved and want to do again!

    Wishing you the very best of luck and also wishing you a ton of fun, because it is serious fun at times. I would choose it over distance learning a hundred times over.

  14. I feel heard by this post. I just pulled my 1st grader because the zoom thing didn’t work for our family. And now I will be homeschooling my 1st grader and preschooler. I am incredibly privileged to do so. I hear you on all your optimism and fears. I am excited to follow along on your journey (and hopefully pick up some tips along the way-love kid school!) good luck we are all navigating these crazy times the best we can.

  15. However innocent your reasons for not having Elliot up to date on her vaccines, I really think you should not promote that information on this forum because we are seeing huge amounts of kids not getting vaccines right now at a time when it’s absolutely critical. Your local health department should be able to guide you to a dr/facility who can quickly vaccinate her.

  16. Hi! And thank you for the insightful post! Best of luck on your new journey. I am a nature-school facilitator, and we recently moved to south central Missouri. I have begun a new outdoor learning co-operative called, Ozarks Wildschool. You can find us on Fa(ebook, under that name. Our children are mostly lower income, trying to maneuver through this new education landscape. We need several outdoor items: canopy, ropes, microscope, climbing structure, canvas tarp, bagged sand, a water table. Any help is appreciated. Donations can be made through the group page. Thanks!

  17. My almost 6 year old has started using the grownup sewing machine, and it’s a great tool for teaching geometry.

  18. I have a distance learning kindergartener with two full time working parents (my husband is a teacher so he’s on zoom all days teaching his high schoolers) so I definitely understand this issue. We decided not to pull our kindergartener from school because that would take away funding from our local school that we desperately need to support. I’m just deciding to follow the curriculum if it works for us and otherwise try to create our own lessons with one other family we are podding with. Who cares what grades they get in elementary? One thing- regarding these vaccines- please understand it’s in the public interest to prevent an outbreak of a preventable disease , even and especially during a pandemic. Even if your daughter isn’t interacting with kids in school she is part of the community. I know it may seem silly but you wouldn’t want to live in a community of unvaccinated kids because the public schools decided to start letting that rule slide.

    Good luck on your journey. We all need it right now.

    1. We are doing virtual school through our local public school as well for our 3rd graded. I guess we are um, unschooling our TK age kid.

      But I thought that the public school only loses funding if the child goes to a charter school? Homeschoolers’ and private schoolers’ tax money still goes to the districted public school, right? I guess at some point if so many kids pulled out they would not employ as many teachers? We have had the opposite problem here, the dedicated science special teacher had to take a regular class bc there were too many kids.

      Maybe you have a more sophisticated understanding of how this funding works that you could share.

      1. You seem to be referencing the school district funding that is sourced from property taxes through regular funding and bond measures. Everyone must pay that regardless of whether they have children enrolled in school. What is being mentioned in the original comment is that, at least in California, most public school funding at the individual school level is based on student attendance. By homeschooling your children outside of the school environment or sending them to an alternate school, charter or private, the attendance-based funding will not be received by the local school. At least that is my understanding of it!

      2. Great question! Depending on where you live, unenrolling your child from the public school district can definitely take money away from the schools. I thought this advice made sense: “In fact, if students leave public schools to join pods, funding for already starved public schools could drop further. “If dollars follow students, and in many states they do, that can mean that school budgets are directly reduced for each child that is no longer attending,” said Jessica Calarco, Ph.D., a sociologist who studies educational inequality at Indiana University. Parents starting pods should ask their school administrators how their departure will affect both short-term and long-term school funding, Dr. Calarco said, and ideally donate any lost funds to the school through the P.T.A. or a school foundation.” (from

    2. I agree. Why not just go to the health department if you can’t get in to your pediatrician? Why wasn’t the booster, etc. not given at the last well visit? It’s not like you didn’t know she would need it for school. This just smacks of privilege and like vaccines are optional.

  19. Thank you for sharing authencity and bringing energy to the space of educating our kids. So excited for your year ahead

  20. I love everyone’s kindness in fulfilling teachers’ wish lists, but I also just want to encourage folks to focus on policy solutions that would fully fund child care and K-12 education so ALL educators and kids can get what they need. This is a collective problem, and requires a collective solution. It’s been so great to see Emily & the EHD team posting about voting, and there are also lots of organizations advocating for federal and state investments that are needed NOW. I work for just one of them – the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – and whether you’re a parent, or educator, or just someone who cares about young kids and families, I encourage you to learn more & join the movement ( or @naeyc on Twitter – also check out the action using the hashtag #SaveChildCare!)

    1. Heck yes! Go out and VOTE for free education. No teacher should have to buy supplies for their pupils.

  21. As a third grade teacher I actually love your ideas/suggestions on here. But can I express one thought? Please know that MOST elementary teachers no longer teach via worksheets alone unless forced to do so by their district. Many higher-ups, including law makers, insist on certain curriculum and testing. We teachers do our very best to make that fun & exciting.
    So just know that most classrooms are not like the “traditional” ones we grew up with. Education has changed.

    And distance learning is HARD for teachers when districts don’t give them the tools and training they need. Please know that teachers want to be in the classroom with their little charges!

    That said I fully agree that you can and should do what’s right for your family. Sounds like you’re on the right path! I also echo Teachers Pay Teachers- great resources that follow the general pacing/guidelines that districts follow. Amazing and fun resources!

    1. Agree and wanted to add that even elementary school teachers who do use some worksheets don’t spend an hour a day on them! Especially not in PreK and 1st grade. I’d max out the worksheet time at 15 minutes, if you’re going to use them at all.

      And if you’re looking for more tools, our school’s literacy instructor really likes Kids A to Z for teaching and tracking literacy skills progress (for K through elementary).

      And for validation, at my son’s (very highly-rated) Kindergarten, his non-pandemic day is from 8:30 – 2:30 (not including before and after-care because that’s officially childcare, not school). Within that time, there are *four* 10-15 minute teacher-led lessons. One hour max. The entire rest of the day is child-directed learning. So filling your children’s days with cooking, art creation, music, nature walks, etc. plus lots of free play, with a smattering of actual instruction is 100% in line with current best practices based on how children learn. Play-based, self-directed curricula are immensely successful at instilling both a lifelong love of learning and actual skills. You’re not doing it wrong!

    2. Kim, you beat me to it but that was my initial reaction, too. I’m a former classroom teacher and worksheets were definitely not a part of my curriculum nor was it all that common to come into my classroom and find everyone seated at their desks, including me.

      EH, I love that you are using what will work for your family to make decisions. You’ve got some great ideas here from classroom teachers and parents. Lisa’s comments about reading and writing are spot on. (I’m not in the classroom but still in education and my boss is a big fan of the teach your child to read in 100 days BTW) Just a couple of thoughts from my own experience. Routines are an essential part of any classroom. It’s how I was able to manage 20-25 active, learning bodies moving around a classroom everyday. But kids get bored. They need variety and new challenges to grow and stay engaged. That was really overwhelming to me my first year teaching. I just wanted to have set activities I could rely on so I could focus on small groups, managing the classroom, and figuring out what we were going to do next/tomorrow. It took time and frankly a paradigm shift to learn how to develop projects for my students and put learning into their own hands. And once we got there the answer about what to do tomorrow was so much easier to answer- where did we leave off yesterday?

      Project-based learning is a lot for parents new to homeschooling to dive into. I’m not suggesting that- I just want to encourage you to feel free to give yourselves, and your kids… a little freedom. Yes- we are going to do a letter of the day. But can the activity be different. LEGO’s are fun but even they can feel like a chore if “I have to” everyday. Think about the outcome you are shooting for. Is it just fun ways to play with, explore, and reinforce letters and sounds? Then it could be anything! Ask Charlie what he would like to make the letter with today. What do we have in the house that would make a good M? Does dry spaghetti have everything we need for an O? Why not? Birdie is probably all in for drawing a picture, but could she or Charlie tell a story about a something that starts with the letter? Go on a letter hunt in the house.

      Please note that my comments are not to judge or suggest “you are doing it wrong.” Giving some options and variety – while maintaining routines and expectations- can lessen the feeling for you and the kids on days it feels like a struggle.

  22. What a great attitude you have Emily! As the mom of 5 older kids-ages 11 to 23- I hope I can add some perspective. No matter what you do or do not do for school this year they will be fine. They have loving engaged parents & you have no idea how far that alone will take them. I was a Le Leche League leader for over a decade & some important things I took away from the organization that I think apply for all parenting
    1) you are the expert in your child- no doctor or teacher or outsider knows them like you do. The others maybe able to enlighten you on aspects but you know your child like nobody else does.
    2) take what works & leave the rest behind- you can take in & consider all kinds of ideas & opinions but in the end life is a smorgasbord take what interest you
    3) if it’s not working don’t be afraid to try something else- kids & family needs change & grow over time. Do not be afraid to say “this worked when she was 3 but it doesn’t work now”
    4) you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your parenting choices(Or really any life choices). A great phrase I learned to deflect is “Thanks for your concern about XYZ. This is what works for our family” Can’t count the times I said that to my mother-in-law. Pretty much shuts the conversation down since it’s kind of hard to argue with-lol.
    Good luck to everyone no matter what school looks like for your family this year. Extend grace & patience to all.

  23. I’m the mom of a 4 year old and 6 year old and also chose to homeschool! It’s not something I ever saw our family doing, but zoom school was a disaster for my now 1st grade son. I’m right there with you, and all my friends doing virtual school say I made the right call. Our family is also planning adventures and I hope we look back at this time as one of fun and connection (vs screens and yelling).

  24. Em, you totally got this! I loaded my family into a tiny pickup truck camper in Seattle and arrived 8 months later at the bottom of south america – it was the best ‘worldschooling’ adventure for my kids (then ages 6 and 3). You’re doing all the right things by focusing on writing, reading, and math. Beyond that, pick stuff they like and run with it. My first grader was into animals so we saw ALL the animals between here and Buenos Aires. 🙂 Academically he was fine when he returned to our sweet public school for 2nd grade. Honestly, getting him to spend 6 hours sitting in a chair at school was the hardest bit. He’s in 4th grade now and I’m tempted to do the same thing again. Best of luck!!

  25. We’re on our fourth year of homeschooling with Blossom and Root; it’s fantastic! We added on All About Reading for phonics and Mathseeds for math.

    The main thing to remember when homeschooling is that you are comparing your kids’ progress against their former selves, NOT against their peers. Kids develop at their own pace, and pushing them to speed up or slow down to keep “on track” will mess with your flow.

  26. Hey there! I have been homeschooling for 10 years and have 8 kids. So cool that you made the decision to jump in and know that it’s so rewarding and your kids will be so grateful! If you guys are creative, I say teach creative!! Everything is learning and they will learn things from you this year they would not have in public school. There are gaps in everyone’s education. When I teach I don’t worry about the gaps, they can be filled in later if they are important. Keep on rockin it! Your kids will do just fine😉

  27. I love sending books to kids who really want to read. I was raised in a rural community with no library and as a result read my Little House on the Prairie books over, and over, and over….. So thanks for giving us this opportunity.

    As for homeschooling, your kids are so young that as long as they spend time writing with a pencil, reading, and learning basic arithmetic they will be fine according to any state standards. I homeschooled my kids for a six months in between a move and I have the best memories. We were in Seattle so we chose to learn about local geology and studied ocean habitats. We learned math by baking, read books that they then made plays out of (my kids are super creative too : ), and used nature as the best teaching tool. And when they wen’t back to school in January, those six months put them way ahead of what was expected. And we really didn’t work too hard! So you will be great. With Brian, maybe they will want to make their own play or movie? Maybe they can be in charge of a creative post for kids on your site? So excited to see what you do!

  28. I am using Blossom and Root early years and Book Seeds for preschool and love it! I have also already purchased their US History curriculum for future use – it is not whitewashed, truly diverse, interesting, and so good. I am going through it myself now so I will be ready when my kiddo starts asking questions and can also be more alert to problematic content in other books etc. The other thing I do is schooling through picture books. I have lots on science, inventions, history, diverse biographies, and an currently working on getting at least one book set in every country of the world. Torchlight and Build Your Library (secular) and Beautiful Feet Books (nonsecular) are programs that take this approach and I buy off their booklists constantly. For secular homeschoolers SEA homeschoolers had great online resources and a wonderful Facebook community. The Good and the Beautiful curriculum is also much loved by nonsecular folks and I may use their handwriting and typing programs because they are gorgeous. Good luck!

  29. It feels like another lifetime, but I was once a secondary English teacher. My best friend remained teaching and is also Literacy Coordinator for her school which won School of ghe Year in our state and she just won an award for her work.

    The key to teaching littlies how to read has gone the full round and has steadfastly returned to PHONICS (phonetics), because IT WORKS!
    That’s why kids who are read to and look at the words as well as the pictures, learn to read faster. Those same kids say the words properly and then spell better than the other kids, because they sound the words out in their heads and break them into rhythmic chunks.


    Use clapping to add rhythm to the words and yo break them down.

    BUY A COUPLE OF BOOKS ON MODERN MONTESSORI TEACHING…not the original. Modern! It’s moved on and come a long way.
    Everything can be based on the individual child’s interest, math, science, reading, dance, everything. Then, when their i terest changes, the focus of learning can too.
    Emily, it sounds like your and Brian’s style and the way Charlie and Birdie want to learn, is this way inclined. I really, really encourage you to thoroughly read up on Modern Montessori.

    When they eventually get into ‘real’ school, whether anyone likes it or not, they are goingto gave to sit still and focus. It’s IMPORTANT that you nail this one.
    Look at what they’re eating for breakfast to make sure there’s little or zero sugar in it and it contains slow release energy so they don’t bounce off the walls or hit a no energy dud spot when they need to concentrate.

    Finally…..the key to all teaching is this:
    This is critical. Kids need to learn HOW to learn by gathering information, building onut, synthesizing it and producing an outcome…
    1. DO WHAT?
    2. WITH WHAT?
    3. HOW WELL?
    Then it’s measurable and you can “assess” it to record and scrapbook the results.

    Biiiiiiiiiggggģg task to take on, yet loads of resources online and in book form (tactile books are still a fantastic learning tool and hold concentration longer than screens).

    I’m keen to watch and hear about how you all go alongthe way and you’ve validated the fears and hurdles so many others are feeling and experiencing not just in the USA, but world wide!

    I’d also NOT use the kitchen table, but move “school” to a different place/room in the mountain house. It should be a designated place, because you can gave one. Put that privilege into action. This will likely help with the sitting still and staying in one spot for learning, so they fit in better for real school down the track.

    (Apologies for typos. Ex-English teacher, yes, numb fingers…can’t be helped. Done is betterthan perfect. 😉)

  30. I love all of this, thank you for sharing. Just wanted to say the best thing about homeschooling is that it doesn’t have to look like school. If they’re struggling to sit at a table, do school outside on a blanket. Or have them use playdough or Legos while you’re reading to them. Classrooms can’t have 20 kids wandering around distracting everyone else, but in your house- go for it.

  31. I appreciate your intentions but think you’d be happier as a family of learners if you just lived your free and wild life, played spa and all the imaginative games the kids create, continued your rich family conversations, and yes, expect that the children help to keep up the household. You might find a kinship with this woman:

  32. We started last week (5&3) and the most helpful thing for me so far has been to have a rhythm for the day but also know what things I absolutely want to have finished every day no matter what. So maybe I have five things in the rhythm but two that are required, just in case we get off track or whatever else happens. Also reading aloud is one of the most important things for kids this age so make sure they are getting plenty of time read to every day, some books they choose and some which are longer or more challenging to them.

  33. I have been homeschooling for years. And am also part of a hybrid homeschool where they also go to classes. I think you are on the right track with picking a curriculum but one that gives you freedom and lots of nature.
    I think we are all striving to instill a love of learning! At their age they do not need a lot of academic time especially because there are 2 instead of a whole class.

    Thinking of all the alternative ways they can learn to break up your time is so helpful and doing so by using your own strengths. (You can look up lots of resources for the following:)
    I can imagine Brian doing story time with them by using animal and people figurines as characters.
    Also, at the beginning of the day all of you or Brian can lead circle time. It’s a great way to transition into school time.
    For math their are so many math games you can buy on amazon or even doing bean bag toss to learn numbers, etc….
    Kids find handwork fascinating and fun, think finger knitting, wet felting, play dough, etc. You can use the seasons and holidays as a starting point. (Wet felt a ball, glue inside of an acorn top)

    For art I recommend looking into (waldorf inspired, also on IG), they are so talented, and their lessons are so so great! such a great program, such an amazing lady, homeschooled her kids, also on IG.
    There is even an herb fairies series for gardening!!
    I can send more resources if you’d like.
    It’s not always easy, and, when it’s really hard, go outside!!!

    1. Also, you can have a bin for each of them with logic games, puzzles, beeswax for modeling or other quiet time activities they can do on their own while you are getting other things ready. It helps right from the beginning to give them that sense of responsibility for their learning. Also, I forgot to emphasize there are so many good games on amazon (logic games, games to learn time, math games, money games, etc.)

  34. Emily, You are my covid19 hero. Who knew you could be an amazing designer and such an amazing writer/editor too! Your vulnerability and candor is so refreshing and you are deliberating leaning into the messy chaos that is our new reality and using your platform to Document it as you address it yourself and simultaneously making it a little less messy for all of us! I applaud the humanity/curiosity and empathy to not just survive but do something “better” as we all tackle the myriad of serious issues we are facing in this world right now. Keep up the AMAZING work. Documenting your journey is hitting my heart and inspiring hope, community and compassion! (+giving me a ton of awesome tips and important perspectives) ❤️❤️❤️

  35. I am a homeschool mom whose kids have done both public school, pure homeschool, and currently hybrid school (day and a half a week in person). I have four kids, the oldest of whom is fifteen and the youngest is four. I fretted so much over my firstborn and wish I could go back and tell myself what experienced homeschool moms tried to tell me. At this age, they need very, very little formal school. We think it can’t possibly be true because we send kids for eight hours a day so it must take eight intense hours, right? It doesn’t. Read a million books together, draw, play war and make Charlie add the cards together or subtract them, teach Birdie to count to a hundred on a road trip, learn letter sounds with foam letters in the bathtub (captive audience), interest Charlie in something by telling him you need him to learn it so he can teach Birdie, etc. Keep it casual and fun and not like real school at all. My kids all know how to sit still in a real classroom but the beauty of homeschooling is you can read aloud while they are coloring or jumping on the trampoline. Embrace it.

  36. Emily, have you heard of Waldorf based schools? That might be the type of educational philosophy you’re looking for.

  37. I feel SO cool right now as a homeschool (pre-covid) mom now that the Hendersons are doing it! 😂 I think you will love it. The philosophy I use (Charlotte Mason) doesn’t recommend formal lessons until age 6, and I know many homeschool moms who wait to start much until their kids are whatever the legal requirement age is in their state. You will be just fine. Heritage Mom is a great blog who also has some curriculum/unit study packs with great diverse history or cultural stuff, although some of the ages might be older, she uses a lot of picture books.

  38. Emily, FWIW, me, my three siblings, and then both my kids, went to a progressive school here in the Bay Area. Here’s how they taught reading. Kindergarten, kids tell their “news” to teachers every morning. Teachers write it down, read it aloud at circle time. Kids learn alphabet. First grade, kids start narrating stories to teachers, and then draw pictures to illustrate. Kids start work on phonics. The teaching of reading and writing doesn’t begin in earnest until second grade. Kids have little books to write in. Again, the focus is on their story-telling. Now they write the stories with adult help. They still get to draw pictures with the stories too. Reading is all done 1:1, at the kids’ level. FWIW, seriously, we all went to Ivy League colleges, and I’m the only one among my siblings who doesn’t have a Ph. D. And I see from my kids that they were going to be who they were going to be, and education needed to get out of their way and make sure the tools to create and find out were at hand as they grew. I wish you all the best, and I have no doubt it will be great. Extremely hard work, but great for the kids. Just make sure you and Brian get to go out a lot;).

  39. I just want to say you are going to be fine . I actually think you are doing the best thing for your kids. I have taught public school, sent my kids to public school, then homeschooled my kids and until recently worked for a California charter school for homeschoolers. It all works! The worst thing is stressing and fighting with your kids. My kids are 21 and 24 now and my only regrets are the moments I stressed and fought over schooling with them.

    I tried the rigid curriculum at first with homeschooling and that took every bit of joy out of learning. Eventually my focus was reading everything we could find and doing some math. They took some classes as they got older (lots of Shakespeare and online math). We did a lot of field trips and playing at parks. With this relaxed education my kids got into all the University of California and Cal Steve schools they were interested in including Berkeley. The oldest just finished his Masters in Philosophy and the youngest is in the middle of his BA but is taking a break (distance learning sucks for college students also).

    This message is for all the parents out there. Give yourself and your kids some grace. It will all work out. Just love each other!

  40. Sending love! I have older kids now but am fascinated by The Little Oak… maybe more suited to Birdie’s age but perhaps worth a look? Good luck to all the Hendersons!

  41. Hi! I would love to buy some watercolors for Lauren’s Amazon wishlist linked above, but the product she selected is no longer available. I’m not sure if your team is in touch with her, but if there’s a way to get an alternate product shipped to her, or if I could send her a monetary donation instead, that’d be great! Thank you.

  42. You are doing great! And your kids will be more than fine. Everyone is in the same boat, so they won’t be “behind”. And, you have lots of good advice in these responses! A couple more things, from a classroom teacher/librarian… Kids this age cannot sit and do an hour of work (you probably figured this out). They need brain breaks every 10 minutes or so, usually something to get them moving. A kid’s song, dance or yoga video for 3-5 minutes at the very least. Most teachers know to avoid worksheets as much as possible, because – boring! I’d get a couple small white boards and put up one math problem or a few sight words, and change it once they get it. (Get colored markers too – more fun!) Let them draw letters in the air or make their body into the shape of a letter.. Get a calendar with big squares and use it to help learn days of the month, counting and skip counting, and to keep track of the weather every day- science! Helping with measuring for cooking is math time. Grocery shopping is math time. Get at least one clock with minute and hour hands. Math! And, get a ton of picture books from the library. There are so many great ones these days. A librarian can help you find ones that match interests and important learning themes( like social-emotional, character traits, science, history.) Read them a loud, talk about the pictures and the characters and plot, favorite part, etc. Listening to an adult read a story and think about it is an important part of learning to read. Mostly, have fun, don’t stress, and enjoy your kids. You are doing great!

  43. You have a heart of gold! I couldn’t agree more with your rants. We have 4 kids, 3 of whom are school-aged (1 with special education, which is a WHOLE OTHER rant). Remote learning is feeling nearly impossible, even with one parent not working. I wish you and all parents the best this year. Thank you for the reminder to give ourselves grace. We’re all doing our best, and that is enough!

  44. SpEd teacher of K-2 here ( kids are coming back to my class on MONDAY!). Burn the worksheets LOL. They don;t put anything into long term memory storage. Kids your children’s ages need to DO things with their hands in order to explore and investigate the world around them.

    When they are ready to read you’ll need a phonics program. We use iRead ( app and/or web based) but hey, I learned to read from Dick and Jane readers so there is a wide variety to choose from out there.

    Teachers pay Teachers also has some “units” that are great-Kristen Smith is my fave; she has great hands on investigations! ( all about bugs/space/etc)
    To be good readers and good writers you need to read and write. Simple as that, but it has to be authentic, student driven interests.

    Check out

  45. We are a homeschooling family with three kids (13,7,3). My husband and I had jobs that required travel (and when we aren’t traveling we can work from anywhere), so when my oldest reached school age we didn’t want to give up that lifestyle and started homeschooling…and have been doing it ever since. We aren’t technically unschoolers…but we’re close….we don’t do formal school when we are traveling (because I don’t believe in sitting in a hotel room studying when there is a world to explore) and even at home I don’t believe in interrupting learning to “do school” so many days learning emerges naturally.

    Honestly- relaxed schooling works. Kids learn when they’re interested and you can connect anything to anything….it’s totally ok to let them learn mostly (or even completely) through their play at their ages. If you’re actively engaging them and reading lots of books, and counting and playing with numbers and using math…they will be fine!

    I want to second the Brave Learner book someone mentioned. Look up Julie Bogart and Brave Writer- her stuff is sooo good. For your journal troubles, Julie would say that at that age you should separate mechanics and original thought- little kids speak with more creativity than they can get down on paper so scribe for them, let them tell you what they want to say and you write it. They can practice the mechanics of writing somewhere else, or you can write in highlighter in their journal and they can trace over your letters.

    For math, try Smartick. I know it’s an app- and I totally get the whole little kids and learning on tablets debate- but this is seriously brilliant! There are a million apps claiming to be educational, but this is literally the best thing ever. I tell every homeschooler I know to try it, and so far it has a 100% success rate with people I have recommended it to… every single one has said that it took math from their most fought-over subject to one their kid did for fun. One of my 3 hates math with a passion…and literally does smartick on the weekend for fun. And they have progressed soooo much (I am not affiliated with them! I sound like an ad, but I swear it’s that good)! Plus it’s short- 15 minutes a day and math is covered.

    Otherwise- as someone who has 3 kids who love to learn, and are working well ahead of “grade level” while not actually formally doing school most of the time- I can guarantee yours will be fine this year! They’re little and you have a LOT going on- prioritize life and enjoying them over school, prioritize learning over worksheets and read alouds over grades and they’ll be well setup for success in their learning!
    Good luck! And have fun!

  46. This all sounds lovely and manageable. Just what you/we all need right now. What you describe above is a very loose interpretation of the Waldorf school. If there’s a Waldorf school in your Portland neighborhood you may like it! We did their ECE program and loved it.

  47. I would recommend looking into what your public library offers. My library system offers graded “book bundles”, online storytimes, online lego activities, and lots more.

  48. I’ve been homeschooling my kids for 9 years now. When my personal dream school opened up in our area and we decided to send our 9th grader, I BAWLED all the way home because homeschooling had been such a special bond between us. I’m still teaching my younger three, and this year I’ve implemented a fun weekly morning routine (we call it Symposium and it includes our faith catechism) that we are loving:

    Monday Music & Munchies using SQUILT music curriculum and homemade treats.

    Tuesday Tea & Poetry with fancy tea ware and beautiful poetry books. It was important to me to take this opportunity to diversify and highlight POC through poetry.

    Wednesdays in the Wild I use the book Nature Anatomy and some Koi watercolor kits and take the kids on a nature walk and some nature painting

    Thoughtful Thursdays where we try to do one good thing in our community

    Fable & Fine Arts Fridays is our time for lots of ancient myths, fables, fairy tales and I teach art using Drawing With Children

  49. Given your children’s ages, a play based curriculum makes complete sense. Providing some structure, books, and resources, along with a lot of freedom seems ideal. One of my best friends homeschooled her two children, with a similar spacing as Charlie and Birdie, all through elementary school, and when they transitioned to the public middle school, they did great. They were not brainiacs, but they were involved in community sports and activities, so they did meet other kids prior to entering the schools. With everything online right now, Charlie and Birdie aren’t missing those social opportunities. All kids are, so we, as parents need to take on a bit more as we find a way to provide those in a safe way, such as expanding our circle to another family with similar aged kids. But you are right to recognize this additional burden placed on working parents already managing so much, and with the loss of their in person support networks, as well. Thank you for sharing your experience and plan. And thank you for highlighting all the teachers in need. Our sense of community and giving is helpful in managing the collective loss we feel in this unusual time.

  50. We started homeschooling when we lived in LA because the local schools weren’t very good. At the time the only thing CA required was that you register your homeschool with them and there was no documentation needed (6 years ago). We moved outside of Portland where the schools are better, but my boys wanted to keep homeschooling, so we have. I think their motivation is that they get to sleep in and then are done with school around lunch (unless they procrastinate) and they know that their friends have to get up early and come home around 3-4(upper elementary & middle school). There are some bad days and then there are some great days. The homeschool community up in PDX is pretty big and there’s plenty to do in non-COVID times if you, Brian, and your kids find that you love this style of learning.

  51. Unfortunately, if children are not fully vaccinated, they are more likely to get sick and require a hospital visit, exposing themselves and their families to coronavirus and taxing the health system unnecessarily. Even though it’s a hassle, please know that getting kids vaccinated is very important for health workers and the health system right now! (Says the person who lives 1.5 hours from the nearest doctor and recently ignored an eye infection for two weeks until I could barely open one eye, and then had to go to urgent care because no eye doctors could see me on short notice. Lesson learned! No one is perfect, just wanted to explain the reasoning behind some of the other pro-science comments here.)

    Good luck with homeschooling! I don’t have kids, but your approach sounds very sensible to me!

  52. This post spoke to me!! My son is in first grade and he has been in the local public school and I am pulling him to homeschool after two weeks of hell on Microsoft Teams. Any chance you can share links to favorite books, printer etc etc. I am one who feels accomplished when I buy something 🙂 so just buying yet another school supply makes me feel like I taught him something. On that note, headed up to visit one of those wish lists. Thank you!

    1. woah. its 2020. you’re not allowed to use that word in a derogatory way. i encourage you to find a new way to insult ppl on the internet!

  53. 1). Celebrate every victory when working with your children. Think of each school session as a basketball game. We don’t wait to the end of a game to cheer. We cheer at every basket and every rebound. So become the best cheer leader you can for your children. Cheer and compliment every right answer along the way. Help them feel successful.
    2). Praise them on their effort, their careful work, their persistence, their focus. When kids learn they can work hard, stick to it and give 100% effort to a small task, their capacity to do increases. Helping them to develop these qualities is more important than mastering a work sheet.

  54. When I first saw the post I was going to suggest Blossom and Root! Haha. Great choice! Teachers pay teachers is also a great site where you can download free and paid resources for so many topics. I used to design all the activities for my kids but this site saves you time and supports teachers. Win win. On insta we love: theworkspaceforchildren. This was also so inspirational for us: and Enjoy homeschooling. Your kids will treasure this time with you 🙂.

  55. Emily,
    What happened with the home you offered on outside Portland. You were so excited, and now you said you’re going to stay in Arrowhead for a while. Did it not work out? Is there just a really long escrow? What about your LA home? Is it sold? Keep us updated please.

  56. I homeschooled my three kids after saying just a year before, “Why would ANYONE homeschool when there is a perfectly great school down the street??” You never know where life is leading you. It was the best decision I/we ever made. They are in college or graduated now and doing great. It is a lot of work but very rewarding. Enjoy!

  57. I am helping my 6-year old grandson with virtual schooling–first grade (at least until late January). My daughter drops him at my home four mornings a week (no on-screen classes on Wed) where I have set up his own desk in a corner of my home office where he has all his supplies and workbooks. He brings his laptop (bought by parents) each day in my old business backpack–I’m retired–that has a specially padded compartment for it, and takes it home each night for his parents to review things. The on-screen classes with teacher(s) are all in the a.m. right now. Mostly only half an hour long (except first hour—which seems interminable) but with 15-minute breaks between the rest of the classes. I sit off to the side of him during all the on-screen classes to ensure he is on task and responding appropriately, but without interfering in his work.

    As anyone with children this age group knows, wiggle-twisting is inevitable. I set a timer (5 minutes before we have to join any class so we are in place and showing respect to others–we talk about this). We have a ‘race’ to see who can get back to the desk first when the timer goes off. To deal with his excess energy, during the breaks, we have our own hall kickball game. Not enough time to go outside, so we spend at least 10 minutes kicking a very large, slightly soft, ball up and down my main hallway (to bedrooms), keeping score as to who can get the ball past each other. Won’t go into how many pictures have been knocked off the walls or how many times the ceiling light has taken a hit, but my GS LOVES this game, so I don’t really care if stuff gets a bit mangled, as long a no glass gets broken. It really helps get his fidgets out. And, not that I am necessarily proud of it, I use the game as an incentive for him to pay attention during class time (e.g. no cooperation…no game). Whatever works.

    Once morning classes are over, he still has two apps he has to spend at least 20 minutes on each day, so we break those up with play (Play with me, Nanny!!!), lunch, snack times and some Netflix viewing time on Nanny’s tablet (another incentive). No TV. I don’t have one. He will soon begin an afternoon small group reading class with his teacher that we will build into our schedule. Try to get him to finish any homework he might have before I take him home later in the afternoon—after his mom is finished with her (intense) work from home. His dad goes out to work.

    MAJOR KUDOS to THE TEACHERS! What a tough, tough situation. My GS’s teachers are working so hard. And, my thoughts are with working parents or those with other children at home who don’t have any help with their children who are in virtual school or—worse– parents who don’t have access to the necessary tools required for their children’s virtual classes—internet, laptops, supplies, etc.. Truly beyond difficult. May things improve sooner rather than later—for all our sakes–especially the children.

    Lastly, some books that might be fun for your two (targeted age 3-7) are a series books from DK Publishing – I’ve given two of these books each—one called Look I’m an Engineer and Look I’m a Scientist to my kid’s families whose youngsters are this age. The books have fun ideas/experiments with good pictures and directions to help facilitate learning in a fun way. There are other books in this series, too—Look I’m a Mathematician, Look I’m a Cook, etc.. You might want to check them out as a possible resource.

    Good luck, everyone.

  58. People with ADHDKIDS OR ADULTS Look Up this spray called ZEOLITE by Touchstone Essentials it helps bind to heavy metals and remove them from your body helping with mood/behavior/foggy brain/skin issues and lots of other symptoms. MANY REVIEWS and Testimonies!!

    By the way EMILY: Please research vaccines! They all have harmful ingredients and are not put through a gold standard of testing which is Double bllind placebo testing! They get a few months of testing and put through to market to sell. I’ve done many years of research on vaccines (artificial immunity) vs. Natural immunity and it will blow your mind on how our bodies are made to fight off infection and how vaccines are made and are an artificial way of “Immunity”.

    This is a great series to watch to be informed!!!!! It has 9 parts but REALLY great information I highly recommend it!!

    1. Emily and team: please delete comments that spread mis-information or place a warning label on them. If there’s anything this crazy year has taught us, its that a lot of harm is caused by people spreading mis-information either maliciously or through ignorance. Everyone who has a wide audience (Facebook/Twitter/bloggers) is reposnsible for how their platform is being used.

      1. I wholeheartedly agree!
        Stick to the science and stand in reality not conspiracy theory, pleeeeeease, EHD.
        Reality….not rumour.

  59. Hi Emily! So excited to hear you guys are making the decision to homeschool this year, we are too! As a teacher turned stay at home mom turned now unexpected homeschooler I would say to take a deeeeeep breath and cross off 80% of your list of items for the kids. A curriculum like blossom and root is meant to be a complete curriculum! At your kids ages they don’t need much more than an hour or two. They (and you) will get burned out if you try to do much more than that. Personally, I wouldn’t force things that they absolutely don’t want to do! The daily grateful and what we did this weekend journaling sounds sweet, but if they are not into it, they won’t get anything out of it! Your kids will be just fine when they go to school next year. Peer pressure is a hell of a thing and these teachers are trained to make the days run smoothly! This year I am homeschooling my 5.5 and 3.5 year old and they love it. We keep it short and sweet, take breaks when frustration sets in, and I cherish all the extra play time my oldest is getting compared to his zoomed in peers because I know (and research proves!) that play is how they learn at this age. If you or Bryan ever want a person to brainstorm with or to share ideas with I’d love to help!

    Good luck, I know you guys will do great!

  60. OMG YOU GUYS my friend Ashleigh has gotten so many things from her wishlist fulfilled in less than 24 hours and it is lifting her spirits/morale SO MUCH!! She is blown away. Thank you EHD team and readers for this. You guys are amazing. xx

  61. We just decided to homeschool (very similar parenting styles and both creatives so don’t feel bad! Late to the game too!) and also are familiar with Blossom and Root! Did pre-K homeschool (kind of, lol) with this curriculum and loved it. Planning to download it now for kindergarten. Thanks for sharing. Strength in numbers!!!

  62. I have four children ages 12-19 and have spent lots of time in elementary schools in the last 15 years! My oldest was accepted at an Ivy adjacent college and received several full scholarships. When he was in Kindergarten the curriculum was 100% “play.” Basically you played, then you wrote about it. You are right on track. My number one advice to you to prevent your kids feeling “dumb,” (which is a very valid concern, that kind of self talk, or labeling by teachers lasts years and is hard to break) is to focus on reading and number familiarity!! (and writing) If they go to school not reading at grade level it will be very obvious to them. Read, read, read to them all the time. Work on sounds, work on sight words. Work it in to everything you do. If they go back to school reading above grade level they will feel so good about that. Same with number familiarity. Just work it into everything you do. (we have 6 tangerines, how many should each of us get on our plates) If you do those two things they should enter K and 2 very confidently. Good luck!!

  63. This is a such a great idea Emily to share wish lists of those on the front lines. Thank you. I just sent the watercolor sets to Georgia.

  64. Us parents are ALL feeling the pressure. This year is just a friggin’ disaster. (Would I get flagged for using the real F word? ‘Cause this year really deserves the real thing.) There are no right answers. We’re all just faking it until we can make it! Seriously bless the teachers for adapting. I’m glad you guys are doing what works for your family and you should never feel you have to apologize for your choices. Wishing you success for this school year!

  65. This is awesome! You might want to look into some Montessori inspired stuff! What you’re saying about “life school” is what Montessori- calls “practical life” “teach me to do it myself” is a big phrase in the Montessori world! My son is around the same age as your Birdie we’re homeschooling for pre-K too, we focus mostly on practical life work and lots of outdoor play! here’s our ig handle if you ever need inspiration @everydaywithEandJ 😊

  66. I was homeschooled from 2nd through 12th grade. For sanity’s sake, we had a R&R (rest and relaxation) period after lunch. Dishes were done, then everyone went to their rooms to read quietly/nap for an hour. I think this was the most helpful tip my mom ever received from another homeschooling mom.

  67. Tough decisions but so important to listen to what your gut is saying. We decided to take our girls out of preschool and homeschool this year. We have been super happy following Create Space Curriculum!!!!

  68. I think your ideas for homeschooling are on a good course. An additional idea is to look into the core concepts for each subject in their grade- specifically social studies and science.
    First, informally evaluate where they are now, then focus on expanding their broad knowledge base through lesson integration. Start with a concept they are close to grasping so you can fine tune your work flow and school time procedures.
    For example, understanding the needs of living things is a common science concept in the k-3 grades that takes multiple experiences to understand. By linking lessons in reading, writing, and science experiments to this concept theme you can do a larger project or series that the kids really enjoy and can make their own. (The search terms for this idea includes integrated unit or thematic unit.) In old schools terms, do some research with your kids to pick a topic they want to nerd out on (let’s say animals that undergo metamorphosis: butterflies or frogs) and then immerse yourselves into that world by reading, writing, singing, acting, drawing, etc. Use maps, research habitats together, build a model, watch a documentary then talk about it, go outside and observe. Listen to their questions and probe for misconceptions (correct those). Add in some fun math games, flash cards, sight words, spatial puzzles, free unconnected play, tons of read aloud and document what you can handle!
    Every five weeks, take a week to reflect on the changes, celebrate growth and reset to a new main project topic they choose that draws from a different core science and/or social studies concept(s).

    Can you tell I’m a teacher at home with my preschooler instead of working!? I love lesson planning!

    Google key concepts, core concepts, standards, for ideas like these science standards:

  69. Kudos to you and Brian for choosing homeschooling. There is already tons of great advice in the comments, so all I can add is don’t stress and worry about ticking off the curriculum topics too much. This is your chance to explore with your children and develop a true love for learning by teaching them what they are curious about.
    I can also recommend a free app called Amaze Kids. It has lots of great videos curated by parents that serve as wonderful conversation starters. For example “Why is the sky blue?” or “What do astronauts do?” You could check a video out on the app and then follow up with books, activities and experiments as you see fit. I do this with my kids and they love learning about the world around them.

  70. This is slightly related to the schooling conundrum/childcare etc – having just been reminded by your last post about your nanny, Sylvia, I’m curious about (obviously not nearly as important or relevant now…) whether you have any outside assistance. I know that you reference a potent tutor, but what happened to Sylvia?

  71. Have fun Henderson family! Don’t forget to teach grouping for math in first grade. You’re going to do great at this!

  72. I work for PBS and we have SO MANY awesome FREE resources for parents and teachers, guided by leading educational researchers. Start at Then sign up for a free account at The second site is developed for educators but totally usable by parents, too. You’ll find standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more, sortable by age and grade.

  73. I am shocked your pediatrician cannot get you in early for delayed vaccines/boosters. Children who are not vaccinated on schedule are not only at risk of getting sick themselves, but they can also spread illness to others who aren’t protected, like newborns who are too young for vaccines and people with weakened immune systems. By getting your child’s vaccines on time you’re not only protecting your daughter — you’re helping to protect your friends, family, and community, too. You may want to put a disclaimer on this post. I know you meant for this to be a post about homeschooling but casually mentioning you happened to be behind on the vaccine schedule is a little careless and irresponsible as a blogger.

  74. We made the same decision – we are homeschooling our first grader and our four year old is tagging along! We’ve gotten through one week (we are using Oak Meadow curriculum) and as much as I try to be go with the flow about the things I do have to plan out the week day by day. We’re also doing a farm camp thing one day a week which I am hugely, hugely grateful for. We are in New Hampshire where the Covid numbers are quite low (although creeping back up..ugh).

    Our schools are open currently with kids going two days a week. I’ve been agonizing over whether or not to send my first grader, but the remote learning option was hard on our family so I am sticking with our decision. Two nights ago I asked my six year old if she was feeling ok with Homeschool or wanted to go back to school. Her response was comforting and worrying all at once, “All I want to do for the rest of my life is stare at your face.” Umm….OK???

  75. Hi. Trying to donate to Ms. Lee’s wishlist, but there is no shipping address. Please ask her to add.

  76. Since you’re moving to Portland, I thought I’d mention the Village Free School there.
    You might really love it. It’s a democratic school, which is unschooling with a focus on respect and freedom for kids.
    My kids are going to a democratic free school here in Wa and we all love it. It’s nonpunitive, gives my kids freedom to choose what they want to learn, respects them as whole people and goes through highschool. It seems to me like something your family might love!

  77. I unexpectedly homeschooled my kiddo for 1st grade; he wasn’t ready to sit for most of a day, but he was a hugely inquisitive child. I didn’t want his experience of school to be a string of scoldings and him having a negative experience with school.

    A few notes – homeschooling isn’t “school at home” – there is zero, zero, zero need to sit down and “do” school from 9am-3pm. You get to set the pace, and if your child grasps a concept in 15 minutes? You can move on. You’re not waiting for 25 kids to get on the same page. Conversely, when your child is struggling to understand something – you’re there for one on one help, and can proceed at a pace that works for them.

    Aim for a daily rhythm – less rigid than a clock, but yes, the same basic flow of events.

    Start your day with both gross and fine motor skills: e.g. run, jump, walk along logs and balance, swing on swings. Then move to fine motor skills: finger-knitting with yarn, playing a simple c-flute or small recorder, etc. Both these activities get the kids ready for “thinking” work.

    To that end – do the most challenging academic tasks in the morning, *after* you’ve run around and done a few minutes of fine motor skills projects. It’s a lot easier to tackle this stuff first, and let the rest of the day be easier and easier.

    Integrate lots of breaks – snacks, meals, and especially movement breaks. Climb trees, carry firewood – find activities that really have them using their bodies – and the BEST thing of all is to have them do meaningful work. Things where they feel like they’re making a difference and can see tangible results.

    Read lots of books. If Charlie is learning to read – snuggle up with him and take turns reading from his most favorite books (ones he likely already knows most of the words to). Run your finger along under the words as both of you read aloud, trading who reads each sentence back and forth. Work up to trading paragraphs back and forth! That he already knows many of the words makes this so much easier, and if it’s stories he really loves? So much more compelling than bland starter books.

    At the end of the day: don’t sweat it. They’re both little, they won’t be “behind” (everyone’s going to be “behind”) – just focus on them having fun and positive experiences with learning.

    You’re doing great – at this age, they’re going to learn so much by *doing* life things with you, it’s really going to all work out.

    p.s. My kiddo is in 10th grade now, ended up “ahead” of his peers because he just absorbed so much through reading and living and doing things together over that year. We didn’t “do” school for more than about 2-3 hours a day. The rest of the day was doing “life” things together (which teaches an incredible amount at that age).

    And if you’re looking for a fantastic math program I highly recommend Right Start Math, coupled with the zany “Life of Fred” math books. My kid went from not caring about math to *loving* it because of these two resources.

  78. As a child who was home schooled I would recommend it as a temporary, for a couple of grades experience. It’s a great opportunity to reduce the amount of time needed in class. I was home schooled for two years and was able to exceed my grade level expectations by only doing class work in the mornings. I was in ‘class’ 2hrs max per day. Downside, too long at home and it is difficult to adequately socialize a child. I spent a lot of time only in my nuclear family and struggled to adjust to playing with kids my own age when I returned to school. It didn’t take me that long to adjust but I was very ‘mini-adult’. I didn’t know slang, my vocabulary was amazing for my age level but my peers didn’t know those words yet, and I was used to having a lot of independence. That caused some friction when I reintegrated, lol.

    I’m mildly dyslexic and I had a brutal time learning how to read. My parents pulled me from my bilingual public school after I completed Kindergarten. I’m from Canada and bilingual English/French schools are really common here. Despite being fluent in French and English the dual language wasn’t helping me learn how to read. They home schooled me for grades 1 & 2 with my sister. It was a challenge! I have vivid memories of how hard my parents fought for me. At the time I wasn’t diagnosed so they didn’t know why I was struggling so hard with reading. Especially since I loved stories! Our family is very much a reading family 🙂 I rejoined public school in Grade 3 after I had learned how read at a normal grade level and by Grade 6 I was scoring in the top 5% across the province for my English grades and reading at a first year university level. Homeschooling changed my life and I’m so grateful for having the one-on-one supports I needed from my parents to learn how to read. Without my parents dedication I doubt I would have done as well as I did in school or gone on to university.

    I think it’s a bit easier to home school here, although I’m sure it varies from state to state. In my home province the curriculum is posted in a living document so as the province changes their expectations it’s publicly available. You can arrange to have a local school include your child in the standardized testing so you know where they are succeeding and where they could use more support to meet grade band expectations. All the provincially approved textbooks, workbooks and resources that teachers use in classrooms are publicly available and you can order them from the same website teachers use. It’s really easy to find the resources, especially if you plan on re-integrating your kid down the line. It does take a bit of legwork but it’s doable. They also have different models to accommodate different learning styles and age levels.

    My only advice, enroll your kid in a daycare or similar kid based environment if you decide to do home school as a long term solution past covid. I was doing so well academically home schooling that my parents didn’t consider all the important social lessons we learn as small children. I’m sure that’s very obvious to a lot of parents here! Merely a cautionary tale from someone who lived this 🙂

  79. Wait. I thought you already had a place lined up in Oregon. It was a family friends maybe? Or am I remembering incorrectly.
    Second, I know baking for first responders is super fun, however usually they would much rather have something nutritious. Even something like your homemade granola.

  80. My sister-in-law has raised her kids off the grid and “un-schooled” them for the last 10 years. They’re now 15 + 16 and articulate, smart, well-rounded, well-read, multi-lingual global citizens. Birdie and Charlie are getting so much from this experience you won’t regret it!

    There are so many ways for kids to learn and no “right” way. Check out the writings of Ellen Rowland.

  81. Wow! Thank you so much for being transparent! You have no idea how much this one post encouraged me. We are starting homeschool this year as well, not due to COVID, but other personal reasons. To say that I am ecstatic and ready would be a lie. I was about ready to throw in the towel and say that I’m just not capable of doing it. Your honesty is like a breath of fresh air! Much needed in comparison to all of the other homeschooling tips, tricks, and “beauties” of it that have felt so overwhelming and unachievable. Sorry for the rant but thank you again!

  82. We’re really liking Spielgaben with our Kindergartener this year (the ten year old secretly likes it too). There’s optional curriculum but it’s very free form and you get all kinds of blocks and strings and sticks. It’s been a great free play toy even when they aren’t using it for school.

  83. This is hard, you’re doing great. I’m 36 and I was homeschooled 1st-12th grade, but not during a pandemic! The biggest differences between my experience and now is how much socializing/team sports etc etc we did that may not be available to you at the moment for obvious reasons and also my parents took a long time to come to decision to homeschool and make a plan (although they always took it 1 year at a time), which is a luxury you didn’t have.

    I have a lot of thoughts about homeschooling and education in general but for the sake of brevity, I’ll share the biggest gifts my parents gave me via homeschooling: the love of reading, encouraging creativity/play, and critical thinking skills. These helped me learn how to learn, be curious, think independently and discuss things from many angles. If it’s any comfort…all 4 kids in my family were homeschooled and one is an ICU nurse, one is an attorney, I’m a creative professional in NYC, and my sister is studying marine environmental sciences at a university.

  84. I had the same issue re: immunizations with my kiddo! The whole thing felt ridiculous given that we’ve been essentially banned from visiting our family doc except in cases of extreme emergency. Argh.

    On another note, I decided to homeschool last year and I’m here to say: you will do an amazing job, you’ll build & strengthen beautiful connection with your kids, and you’ll feel empowered! Your ideas are all awesome and, as long as your kids are in an environment of friendliness and calm, their learning will be limitless.

    I’ll add (please excuse me, I’m an early childhood social worker and can’t help myself): read aloud as much as possible, every day! Twenty minutes minimum, but aim for an hour! This will do wonders for your kids’ vocabulary, appreciation of language patterns, and attention spans. At their ages, you can totally dig in to Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, The Cricket in Times Square, and other lovely classics. I totally sincerely believe all our kids will make it through this year just fine so long as they’re read aloud to often & from wonderful books 🙂 Reading is magic 💛

  85. Thank you for this post!! It gave me soooo much food for thought. I’ve taken the next 6 months off to literally sit NEXT to my 5 yr old and be the “watch the zoom” police. It’s not working for either of us! I literally know I would personally die if I was in a 6 hour zoom meeting everyday, so, not sure why a 5 yr old should be expected to do it! Check out other options. thank you thank you!

  86. Thank you so much for including the teacher wish lists and GoFundMe’s! I don’t always know where to look for these types of donations so it was great to see it at the end of this post. More of this please!

  87. Lots of great ideas. Your kids need to be moving and talking about stuff as much as possible. Yoga balls when sitting or Hokki stools in their size ( I have in my class of middle schoolers, super effective and cute and colorful) or let them stand up or lay on floor. Movement develops the thinking part of the brain. Read Spark by John Ratey, there is so much research on this. Do lots of stuff outside. 5-7 minutes is a big chunk of focus time for little ones. Measure and count actual things. Have them dictate stories and illustrate. Yes to yoga, dance, catch. Lots of midline crossing and hand to eye coordination activities. If interest lags at the very end ask them to tell you their answers in different funny voices. Have them do the last problem on one foot. That makes it novel for student and teacher. JUMP Math is an effective math curriculum that I like a lot.

  88. As fellow Enneagram 7, I understand where you’re coming from regarding missing doctor’s appointments/vaccines. My kids were always down to the wire with school and vaccine. While I had the best intentions to adult and get all these ducks in a row, sometimes other things needed attention, like the bedroom I was painting. A few years ago, I started doing something that changed my parenting life. I sat down and planned two weeks of doctor’s visits for the summer, usually August. Even if my kids didn’t get vaccinated, they still have an annual well-check with our pediatrician, they also get their 6 month dentist appointments in, hair cuts are scheduled during this time (obviously, we do haircuts throughout the year too, but this is “back to school” fresh), and eye appointments. I block out two weeks in the summer and in between doctor’s visits, we have fun getting ice cream, staying up late, watching movies, we make it as fun as possible. Usually, I plan these two weeks a year in advance (easy to do once you get on a schedule. Most doctor’s offices will make the appointment for the following year), but if I can’t, then I plan it in January. It makes it so much easier to then schedule swim lessons, vacations, and camps around those appointments. By turning it into a “project” or “event”, getting those appointments becomes an “all” instead of a “nothing.”

  89. I homeschool, even pre-covid. May I suggest reading aloud chapter books to your kids and listening to audiobooks as a family (16 hour car trips, much)?

    A blogger and reading advocate I follow is Sarah Mckenzie with the read aloud revival (google it). She is sweet and lovely. I was not a reader growing up and these books and time with my kids is THE MOST cherished, deep, touching time. It is life-altering. Need I gush on?

    Start with the Little House books, Mercy Watson everything (anything by Kate DiCamillo is AMAZING), the Vanderbeekers, the Penderwicks, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Ugh. It is just so good. You’ll never be upset for choosing family time. Never. And don’t feel like you need to explain away your choices. You be you, Hens! Rock on.

  90. The WSJ just had an article about resources for social and emotional skills. (Disclaimer, I haven’t used any of these):
    -OK Play (free app, UCLA input, ages 3-6)
    -Mightier (biofeedback game system, Harvard input, ages 6-12)
    -Generation Mindful (positive discipline, ages 3-6, some older)
    -The Imagine Neighborhood (podcasts, 10-20 minute episodes)

  91. Emily, if you read these comments, once you move to Portland you don’t need to document all your kid’s work. Yay Oregon!!

    I’ve been homeschooling for 8 years now and I completely love and embrace the “lifeschooling” concept. My kids make their own breakfast and lunch, they help with chores, and they are taught to bargain shop and organize a space.

    Great article!!!

  92. This was such a lovely post. Kid Class is my favorite idea ever. I’m stealing it. I hope you and your loved ones are faring ok with the wildfires. No doubt these are hard times. Sending love to California and Oregon.

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