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[caption id="attachment_170648" align="aligncenter" width="800"]"Suddenly homeschooling" by Patti Maguire Armstrong (CatholicMom.com) Image: Pexels.com (2020), CC0/PD[/caption]

Amid the COVID19 pandemic is schooling — a very big thing. It has completely changed routines and responsibilities in families across the country.

I understand both kinds of schooling. I homeschooled for 19 years. The older children went to a Catholic high school with the two youngest (of 10) also attending grades 7 and 8 simply because they had begun a new Academy for those grades in which all the area Catholic schools came together.

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For those in this situation for the first time, here are a few thoughts that helped me along the way.

Give it time. Even parents who homeschool by choice have a learning curve that never ends. There are always ups and down, discoveries and frustrations. It takes time to adapt and find and a routine that works for everyone.

Call on God. Often. Everything goes better with God in it. And don’t forget the Blessed Mother and the angels and saints. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is a patron saint of schooling.  Offer up the difficult moments, ask for help, and start and end the day with prayer.

If your children go to public school, now is an opportunity to add religion into their day too. Reading children’s books about the lives of the saints can be inspiring for everyone.

Find the Blessings. Despite the challenges, there are many blessings. Your family is together during a time that is making history.  There are opportunities for conversations and growing together in faith and prayer.  And despite the hardships, our lives are still filled with many blessings that not everyone in the world can enjoy such as electricity, running water, soft beds and the technology to stay connected.

More Time. There’s no strict schedules or rushing around to get to school on time or get to activities afterwards. If fitting music lessons and practice is a problem, it just got much easier.

Are there hobbies or tasks you never seem to have time for?  Consider an art project, planning a meal, watching documentaries, or planting a garden. How about reading a story together?

Homeschooling is Not the Same. Do not feel like you need to re-create their typical school day at home. Plus, there are many learning opportunities from hands on learning such as baking or fixing things to interacting with siblings.

There are ways to engage everyone all at once and still learn too. We used to play preposition bingo, with everyone filling in their squares from a list of prepositions. Then, I would pick them out of a bowl. They were learning prepositions and playing a game all at the same time.

Our kids loved doing spelling bees also. Even the preschoolers  joined in. Their spelling list could be knowing the names of shapes or letter names. How about board games? And kids could invent their own board games and take turns playing each

Of course you want to keep the learning going but don’t get too pressured. It’s best to focus on the basics: reading, writing, grammar, math, and then give yourself some space to be creative and have fun. Keep your expectations low. Your kids will be learning more than you realize.

Don’t be Shocked if Your Kid Drive You Nuts at Times

I never met a mom, homeschooling or not, who did not experience frustration at times. With the quarantine, some of the usual outlets are not available to anyone such as the library, co-op education activities, museums and zoos, or getting together with friends.

When tensions get high, stop and pray, asking God to give you the grace that you need. We are also learning how to be together in ways we never were before giving us training in how to be more respectful, patient and apologetic.

Get Plenty of Fresh Air and Exercise. One of the drawbacks of regular schooling is that children are trapped inside for too many hours. Getting outside and getting exercise does a body and mind good. Not only is it healthy but it is an outlet for everyone. It’s amazing how a walk, bike ride or an outside game can melt tensions a way and ignite good moods with endorphins.

Some fun ways to play that you may have forgotten about are jump rope, hopscotch, “Duck, Duck, Goose,” tag, and hide-and-seek -- or just take a walk or bike ride.

Cultivate Thankfulness

It’s so easy to complain now that our routine has been disrupted. Don’t let that that become our default setting, or we develop negative habits and make ourselves miserable. Instead, tell each other and God what you are thankful for. Even difficult moments can have silver linings, like being thankful for an apology and clearing the air or correcting a problem.

Take turns when saying grace before a meal for everyone to think of something they are thankful for. Or how about making a jar where people can write down what they are thankful for and read it aloud at dinner time or after evening prayers?

Sharing the things we are thankful is contagious. It spreads joy and helps to lift each other up. This situation won’t last forever, but in the meantime, let’s be thankful for the ways that God is working in us.

Copyright 2020 Patti Maguire Armstrong