Find yourself homeschooling?

Above: Some of the Hensley children enjoying a treat – a day out at a wildlife park.

In 2020, family life with young children can be summarised in one word: interruptions.

I don’t mean the kind of interruptions where someone speaks while you are speaking or something happens that makes you lose your train of thought. I mean the kind of interruptions where you had plans – good ones! – which simply cannot go forward, and you are forced to do things a different way. Australian bushfires, COVID-19, distance education – 2020 has given us an acrostic poem of plan breakers, which is tough when little ones are asking, “What are we doing today?”

For five days out of seven, the answer to that question usually involves going to school. Until, of course, Covid brings interruptions: schools in lockdown, schools closed for cleaning, schools moving classes online. Depending on how things develop, restrictions and lockdowns might be with us for awhile. And so, families across Australia find themselves homeschooling. As a mother who regularly homeschools my own six children by choice, let me warmly welcome you to the club! Whether you are homeschooling for a few days or a few terms, I’m here to encourage you during these remarkable times.

Homeschooling isn’t easy during a crisis, even for those of us who have been homeschooling for years. Adjusting to a new learning format is tricky at the best of times, and to make it harder, add to that the stress of missing friends and an overall worry about the world. Demands from home, demands from work, and now demands from school – it is too much to bear alone.

Even when you have the benefit of wonderful school teachers who have heroically provided you with the resources you need to keep your child learning, you may feel out of your depth supporting your child in certain academic areas. That doesn’t mean you can’t homeschool successfully – it does mean you need to tap into your community. Fed up with fractions? A Facetime chat with your maths-whiz sister-in-law can rescue an otherwise-frustrating afternoon. Juggling multiple reading lessons? Get the grandparents involved! Grandparents and honorary grandparents can help with read-alouds (even over Skype) and give mum a much-needed break. If ever there was a time for members of the community to support one another, this is it!

No matter what your skill set, there are children out there who would benefit from spending time with you.

If you don’t have school-aged children right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t help the kids in your congregation. Are you a retired scientist? An accomplished baker? An artist or gardener? No matter what your skill set, there are children out there who would benefit from spending time with you. When families in your congregations are facing an interrupted school term, think of creative ways you can support them. And if teaching is not suitable for your situation, this is a great time to organise a meal, drop off groceries, or send a card of encouragement.

One of my favourite things about homeschooling is that I have time with my children to teach them things that really matter to me, and my Lutheran faith tops that list. An interrupted school term is the perfect time to recommit yourself to the priority of passing on your Lutheran faith. LCA’s Grow Ministries has resources on its website for growing faith at home, and you can ask your pastor for more ideas for family devotions. With parents and children working and schooling at home, everyone in the family can gather for a brief time of worship together, putting in place a habit that can continue, lockdown or not.

Spiritual health is every bit as important as academic health …

This is your chance to devote time every day to Bible stories and biblical literacy. In our homeschool, Bible is a subject alongside maths, reading, history, etc. We practise finding hymns and following liturgical services in our hymnals. We memorise Bible verses together as a family and talk about the seasons of the church year. We pray for our friends by name, we sing together, and we study Luther’s Small Catechism. In fact, Luther’s Small Catechism was especially designed to be used by parents to teach their children at home. We sometimes think of the Small Catechism primarily as a text pastors use during confirmation classes, but it was originally meant for at-home instruction, with each section of the catechism introduced with these words: “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household”.

We do none of these things perfectly, of course. We simply do our best and strive to make our Lutheran faith a priority. If you find yourself homeschooling during a time of crisis, talking with your children about your faith becomes all the more essential. Spiritual health is every bit as important as academic health, especially when our children are experiencing scary realities of isolation and even death. Soothe your children’s fears by talking with them about your faith and showing them God’s mercy to his people again and again during difficult times. Fight feelings of isolation by getting involved with families in your community. The Lord knows what other challenges 2020 will bring. If you find yourself homeschooling, I hope it becomes one of this year’s highlights!

About the Author

Joanna Hensley

A pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom, I’ve been teaching Latin in one way or another since 1999 — even before that, if you count helping my friend Jennifer study for our high school finals. When ancient language meets modern technology, interesting things happen. Adding an Aussie husband and kids to the mix makes for a life I am thankful to have.

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