Homeschooling in Challenging Times
Current events present homeschoolers with useful opportunities for teaching and learning throughout the year, but some seasons just seem to be overachievers! In the fall, there are elections, which can spark a unit study on American government. In some years, there is a tsunami of negative economic news that can spark a study of economics and financial literacy..
Finally, there’s the beauty of autumn itself. As I write this, we’re just starting to see leaves shading from summer greens into the rosy reds, clear yellows. and warm oranges of fall. The dogwoods are sporting bright red berries, while the pyracantha is blanketed with a heavy crop of rich orange berries. Squirrels are bustling busily with winter preparations, cheeks full of acorns as they make innumerable trips up and down the trees.
Teaching, learning, and growing even when the world seems upside down
I mention these three things together as a reminder that even in the face of political uncertainty, financial stress, and negative news, homeschooling can go on. There are still the steady seasons and cycles of nature to nourish the spirit. Children can be sensitive to stress and bad news, so as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s important to limit the inflow of negativity. This doesn’t mean mean ignoring important events but rather, choosing good sources and using them wisely.
An election can be a learning opportunity
In an election cycle, for example, there’s no need to get caught up in the constant barrage of charges and counter-charges in campaign advertisements. A newspaper is a quiet source that presents news in an easily fact-checkable format and without the annoying blather that tends to fill time in a 24/7 audio or visual news cycle. During an election, you might use the newspaper as you and your homeschool students study how the American political system works. Above all, avoid unreliable news sources and learn about fact-checking from a reputable source and teach it to your children.
As election draws near, find solid, accountable news sources to learn about the candidates and issues, and include your teens in discussions about issues. If you don’t take a newspaper, a weekly magazine can adequately summarize the major points and leave out the gossipy little unpleasantness that is not really a factor in the race. If you limit input to what is manageable and age-appropriate, your children can learn what they need to know without inappropriate stress, and you won’t be overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything.
Teaching economics can start early
With homeschooling, you can use current events to help teach financial literacy and economics, especially if the news is filled with recession and unemployment and other difficult things. Again, you’ll want to place the incoming news into a historical context. This might be a good time to read and discuss Richard Maybury’s Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? for younger students or Thinkwell Economics for high school students. [Note: Any links that open in Amazon are affiliate, of course — you can read more about that in the footer below. Thank you!]
You can also choose to learn from games such as Monopoly, the free online Stock Market Game, or Robert Kiyosaki’s Cash Flow Game. Games are one of the experienced homeschooler’s secret weapons — they’re not just good teachers, but they’re also fun. In addition to teaching economics, you’ll want to build financial literacy so that your students can manage money well. Tools such as You Need a Budget or Dave Ramsey’s baby step plan, can help with financial literacy. I also recommend learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship with a micro-business. All these things are constructive, and they will help students understand the reality of market conditions and cycles, which will place any current difficulties into historic context.
When money is tight
If you find yourself needing to cut back on expenditures, there are ways to do it without shaking your children’s essential security or your own. Read the delightful books, We Had Everything But Money and We Made Our Own Fun, by the publishers of Reminisce Magazine. These are a great fit for homeschoolers — packed with the personal stories and ideas from people who survived and even thrived through tough times.
If you have older students, Your Money or Your Life could make a good family read-aloud. It’s a classic book that offers a plan for managing money while focusing on things that really matter. You and your teens might also want to read the Mr. Money Mustache blog (also available as an app) for sound advice on living frugally and well. One way to approach the blog is to start at the beginning and just read straight through, but it can be helpful to start with a quick overview of his philosophy in the “Zero to Hero” post.
Homeschooling offers the perfect opportunity for stretching your family dollars by planning a garden for spring, practicing handcrafts, creating frugal menus, and learning to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Again, these simple activities not only increase individual skills and save money, but they also offer a connection to the skills of our grandparent’s generation. Creative and constructive projects can be a source of joy or even the foundation for a microbusiness, so they are perfect for times when money is scarce.
Savor the small things
Finally, take the time to be present in this beautiful autumn. I know that autumn won’t look the same if you live in Death Valley or Siberia, but no matter where you are, there are ways homeschoolers can celebrate each season. Marking these moments of transition can help to make special seasonal memories for your family. Autumn is a wonderful time to:
- Work on nature notebooks or a phenology wheel
- Plant daffodils and hyacinths and other bulbs for spring
- Study the biology behind the color changes in the trees, and the migration of birds and butterflies
- Pull out the crock pot and cook a hearty stew
- Bake homemade bread
- Change to warmer colors in your home and wardrobe accents
- Get out the warm, fuzzy knitting, crocheting, or quilting project you put away at the beginning of summer
- Gather around a backyard firepit (or barbeque) on a nippy evening and roast marshmallows
- Play hide and seek in the early dusk
- Bake ginger cookies and pecan pies
- Read or listen to autumnal classics such as Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
- Visit the Excellence in Literature site to read month-themed poetry
- Enjoy being home with your sweet family
Home is where the heart can be at peace
Above all, remember that home is where life is lived, and make it serene and lovely for your family. It will be the backdrop for their memories of childhood, and what matters is how loved and secure they feel in it, not its location or size. Chances are, if you’ve ever visited your childhood home, you were surprised to see how small it had gotten;-). I know that I was.
I also never realized that our urban neighborhood was on a side of town that many people were afraid to visit. I lived there, and I was loved, so I loved in return. The goofy photo at left proves that you can have fun, even in a tiny city backyard! I enjoyed hanging out on the garage roof, reading (the back face of the roof was usually shady), thinking, and occasionally adding something to the homemade whirligig we had installed up there.
The bottom line for peaceful homeschooling is that it’s not the things you have (or don’t have), or the events and panics happening in the wider world, that matter. It’s what happens inside the four walls of your home that shapes what your children will remember. Keep the cold winds of turmoil outside, and create a peaceful place where happy memories can be made.
You might also like How to Create a More Positive Learning Atmosphere.