by Katie Julius

If there’s anything this current pandemic crisis has taught me so far, it is the need for keeping things simple. Whether it is in our daily routines, meal planning, or homeschooling, our current lifestyle is forcing us to find ways to make things easier … simpler.

Over the years, homeschooling, especially in California, seems to have been about bigger, busier, better. Our schedules are often filled to the brim with classes, co-ops, field trips, park days, and more. None of these are inherently bad, but having them all taken away at once has given us the chance to look at what we are doing for school and evaluating what is really necessary. 

Many of us are in “survival mode” with one or both spouses working from home and our normal access to our homeschooling resources restricted. I don’t know about you, but my brain definitely feels foggy as I go throughout my day. We may have less to stress about outside the home, but there’s certainly new and different stresses being at home all day long while practicing social distancing. We are learning how to keep things simple during this time, for both our sanity and that of our entire family.

While most of our activities outside the home were extracurricular, our style of schooling relied heavily on the use of library books. We are fortunate to have access to hundreds of thousands of books through our local library system’s online request and hold system. However, with libraries now closed, I had to look at what we were doing and adapt my plans. Throw in dad working from home and my work schedule requiring more attention during the day and I knew we had to make some changes.

My daughter is in second grade this year, but not yet fluently reading. Doing school work independently is a challenge when kids are young and not able to read. However, she has shown some amazing resilience and has actually become much more independent in her school work the last few weeks. I don’t know if it would have happened naturally or if it is because of the current circumstances, but I can give her a checklist of items, the books or worksheets, and she’s able to do quite a bit on her own.

This is due, in part, to me simplifying what she is doing for school. For math, she is working on memorizing addition facts, so she will do one or two worksheets to practice them most of the week. She is able to review her “high frequency words” (similar to sight words) flash cards on her own now and will read through one or two short early readers before sharing the story with either her dad or me. We shifted our science to utilize one of the great resources that is now available virtually, focusing on the animal kingdom through a video, craft or activity, and a “field notes” journal. Our history, so far, has been working through some badges in the American Heritage Girls program.

Is this what a full day of homeschooling looks like during normal times? Honestly, sometimes. But now we don’t have to try to squeeze our academics in between our other activities as we rush from one thing to the next.

I’d like to think that these weeks at home will establish new routines and habits, helping remind us of what is truly important. However, I also recognize that many of us are getting cabin fever and are ready to get out and be with people and resume our normal activities again.

I pray that we won’t go right back to the way things were before. I know I want to make some changes to our schedule and level of involvement in some of our activities as I look to next school year. Despite the fact that I feel like we are definitely “crisis schooling” and not doing our normal “homeschooling” right now, I do appreciate our slower days at home.

I’m told this is what homeschooling was like in the early years–not so much the isolation, but limited resources outside the home. It gives me a new appreciation for those who pioneered homeschooling and the simplicity of what homeschooling can be. Seeing the creative ways that my daughter has demonstrated what she is learning and the ways in which she is growing as a reader have encouraged me to evaluate where my priorities have been and where I need to shift them.

I’ve felt for over a year now that we are stretched too thin but didn’t want to let go of anything. Yep, I’m stubborn like that. As I said earlier, none of the activities in which we are involved are bad. In fact, many of them are good, providing enrichment and socialization, and we enjoy them. However, during this time, God has been revealing to me where I might be able to cut some of the “fat” that has been filling our schedule so we can focus on what is truly important and one of the main reasons we chose home education–discipleship.

Discipleship cannot happen when our kids are under the leadership of others for most of their day. Sure, we can be involved with groups and organizations that are Christian and have believers in leadership, but we lose the opportunity to develop that discipleship relationship with our own children.

Use these weeks to pray that God will reveal to you what, if anything, you need to simplify in your life. Maybe it’s your schedule; maybe it’s extra responsibilities outside your home; maybe it’s the space where you do school; maybe it’s your curriculum. Whatever it is, seek God’s direction for you and your family, both now and in the future. God is not a God of chaos and doesn’t want us feeling like our lives are chaos either. Where is He calling you to simplify?