boy playing prodigy music concert online

Homeschooling meets school at home – Part One

by Jennifer Blaak

April 28, 2020

So, as I alluded to in past postsI wanted to share what schooling looks like in our home.  I started writing it out with my typical “what we did during week x”, and then realized it was such a huge topic that it really needed it’s own post.  Our home is more unique than most.  Due to the pandemic, we can’t truly homeschool (more on that in a bit) but we also have to incorporate public school e-learning (which is far from traditional homeschooling). Thus we have homeschooling meets school at home.

I’ll explain all of this – don’t worry.  I’ll do my best not to ramble, but there is so much information I want to share.

I would like to start by saying my heart goes out to all of you families trying to juggle working from home and schooling your kids.  There are days that I struggle to manage it and I’m only working 1/8 of my usual workload!  I couldn’t imagine trying to do school this way while working from home full time.

kids playing prodigy together

First up, Mr. D and his homeschooling!

Mr. D and I (along with my incredible mom) have been homeschooling for the last 4 years.  We’ve found our groove only in this last year or two I would say.

Starting homeschooling can be quite daunting.  I was lucky enough to fall into a local homeschooling group who was able to point me to The Learning House – a store out in Goderich that supplies families with homeschooling curriculums.  I was told “talk to Louise” by the group…which were the first words out of my mouth when I called.  If you have any questions about anything curriculum or academics related – call The Learning House and talk to Louise.  She is incredible and her knowledge about how kids learn blows me away.  She was able to tell me exactly what curriculum to use for each subject, where to start, and which subjects to focus on most.

Now that we’re in year four, like I said, we’re in a good groove.  I’ll explain what we’re using in a moment, but I wanted to jump back to the comment above I made about how homeschooling is different than schooling at home and how we can’t properly homeschool during this pandemic.

What families are experiencing now is not the norm for kiddos who go to a traditional school, but it’s also not the norm for families who homeschool.  Mr. D would be the first to tell you that his routine has been disrupted and that this isn’t normal homeschooling.  While the academic portion may be the same, the social piece has changed completely.

Yes.  The social piece of homeschooling.

There.  I said the “S” word.  Social. Socialization.

Mr. D is a part of a great homeschooling group here in town and our family is part of the local YMCA.  Getting out and being social is HUGE for Mr. D.  Not only does he like going to the local playground and going for bike rides, but he enjoys coming along to help grocery shop and run errands.

Like kids in traditional school, he’s missing his friends.  He’s missing his weekly gymnastics, karate, and swim class.  He’s missing his weekly youth group hang outs and he’s missing his friends at church. and drop in nights at Jr. Innovators. He’s missing joining in on class trips organized by the homeschooling group. Track and Field has been cancelled as is the geography fair.  So while the academic portion remains the same, our typical homeschooling world looks quite different right now.

Typical homeschooling not only includes the parents choosing curriculum that is specific to their childs learning style and academic level, but usually also includes multiple social outings a week (whether that be playdates, recreational activities, or group activities/classes organized by the homeschooling group).

So we are homeschooling pandemic style.  With our social activities being on hold, our days are now split into academic time and free time.  Our free time is full of a lot of different things (check out my past blogs about things to do with your kids), FaceTime calls with friends and family, bike rides around the block, and walks down our street.

Our academic time remains mostly the same.

The photo below is a bit deceptive of a usual day because we’re actually sitting at the kitchen table.  Some homeschoolers have a dedicated school area…we don’t.  I usually just ask Mr. D were he feels like doing school.  Sometimes it’s the kitchen table, other times it’s the living room couch.  Some days he’s hanging from his therapy swing in his bedroom (more on that later), and other times we’re sprawled out on my bed.  I know at my moms house, they do most of the language arts at the table just for ease of printing, but if the weather is nice, they’ll do history outside where Mr. D can jump on the trampoline while listening to the lesson (I’m always amazed at how much better he pays attention and retains the information when his body is active!).

Mom son school work.jpg

Ok – onto the academics.  Here is what we’re using academic wise for Mr. D.  My mom has been incredible…doing the majority of the homeschooling while I was working (a few) jobs in years past.  Now that I’m doing this full-time, I’m able to be more involved with his homeschooling.

We’ve split the subjects up so that my mom still gets to teach Mr. D, and teaches what she most enjoys.  I take math, spelling, typing, world geography, and science. I also have a character building workbook we’re working through slowly. My mom takes Language arts (which also includes geography, art appreciation, and poetry), history, piano lessons, and memory work / Bible.

We’ve used a number of different curriculums in the past, changing only when his learning needs called for it.  Right now we’re using the following:

Math: Jump Math – this is not a very exciting curriculum and definitely very “workbook” style, however we’re only using this to fill in the gaps after completing his masterbooks level.  We LOVE masterbooks (more on that below when we get to Miss. A) but it does leave some gaps as it’s an American company. Outside of that, it’s our favourite math curriculum so far.  We bought our first math book from them and paid the shipping, but have since opted to buying their math books as e-books and printing off the worksheets as needed.

Also, if you missed my last posts where I talked about Prodigy (an awesome math game) be sure to check it out (and ask your kids about it!)

Spelling: All About Spelling is the program that was recommended by Louise when we first started our homeschooling journey.  We switched away for a while – I honestly can’t remember why!  We’re back with them this year and it’s just so good.  The way the lessons are taught, concepts explains, and the manipulative make it a huge win.  A lot of homeschooling families LOVE this program.

Geography: Masterbooks Elementary Geography and Cultures.  This is a great package for kids of ALL elementary ages.  It includes a little passport for the kids to stamp as you travel across the globe in the lessons.  The books are bright and colourful.  I think one of Mr. D’s favourite things about this package is that you learn how to say the same four phrases (“hello”, “goodbye”, “thank you”, and “peace”) in the country’s official language.

Since the lessons are short, we sometimes jump onto this youtube channel, scroll through to find the country we’re learning about, and watch the video lesson.  This guys is a classic youtuber (talks fast, lots of flashy images) which makes it IDEAL for kids who love watching YouTubers. The guy does a great job including so much information about each country.

Science:  We’ve tried SO many different science curriculum and still struggle to find one that we love.  I’m not going to list the ones that we’ve tried and not loved, but the one that I’ve been able to adapt most has been this one by The Good and The Beautiful.  We don’t follow it word for word, but the lessons are easy enough to adapt so that the kiddos are engaged more.

During this pandemic we’ve sort of moved away from this for the time being and have instead just been sending time exploring Brain Pop.  The kids love this website and the lessons are short yet full of information.

Language Arts:  Again, we’ve tried a few language programs.  We started with All about reading which was recommend by Louise.  This was perfect as it included so many games and manipulative (Mr. D is a visual and tactile learner).

As he’s matured, we’ve switched over to The Good and The Beautiful.  Again, we started by purchasing the books and have moved over to downloading and printing the lessons ourselves.  By the way, not only does this curriculum combine phonics, reading, spelling, literature, writing, grammar, punctuation, art appreciation, and geography (phew!), BUT their PDF version of the first 5 levels are FREE.  Huge win.

History: We absolutely LOVE The Story of the World curriculum.  We’ve finished volumes 1 and 2, and have started volume 3.  Mr. D loves the format of the lessons and is totally engaged in how the information is presented.   I can’t say enough good things about this curriculum.

Music: Mr. D really lucked out being part of a musical family!  We dabbled with the ukulele earlier this year (which apparently comes really natural to Mr. D? ).  He whipped through the lesson book really quickly so we’ve taken a break for now while we focus on piano.

My mom plays the piano (and organ) and loves teaching Mr. D piano.  Right now they’re using The Piano Kids Series.  It does a great job of combining music theory with piano play.

Memory work: We don’t necessarily have a curriculum for memory work, but my mom does a great job of picking out bible verses for Mr. D to memorize.  I think right now they’re working through some different Psalms.

Typing: We trialed a few differed typing programs but found that they were either too boring or moved too quickly.  We recently had a friend turn us on to typing club and it seems to be the winner!  It’s free (although I did end up buying a year subscription at a sale price!) and provides lots of feedback for the parents.  Mr. D loves it as it combines lessons with games, gives immediate feedback, and has short lessons!  He can whip through 4 lessons in about 10 minutes which boosts his confidence a good deal.

That’s the academics list for Mr. D!

language arts school at home

Now, onto Miss A and her school at home!

Her academics are a bit different in that during the gap of school closing and school coming online, we did traditional homeschooling.  I pulled out a math curriculum for her level along with a phonics program and off we went.  School came online two weeks later and we dove in, doing our best to do this 100%.  By the end of that first week we realized this wasn’t practical (for a few reasons) and after talking with her teacher, got the green-light to create a fusion of learning for her (her teachers are seriously so incredible!).

A quick disclaimer to all the teachers reading this (before I dig into e-learning):
Your job is super hard.  I mean really super hardI love homeschooling, but I could NEVER teach a class of 20 – 30 kids.  Never.  Take that one step further, you’re now having to teach that same group of kids over the internet…and not even in an online classroom.  You can’t walk around the classroom while the kids work to check in on how they’re doing.  You can’t teach the way you have up until now.  Your super hard job just got 1,000 times harder.  My heart goes out to you –

Okay.  So, first off, hats off to all of your parents navigating this crazy e-learning world.  Schooling at home is definitely harder than homeschooling….and here’s why.

  1. You can’t choose what your child is learning.  I’m not talking about the actual subjects, but rather academic level.  Even within the same grade, the kids won’t all be at the exact same academic level.  Some kids require more explanation of concepts while others will find the work a bit easy.  With homeschooling, the parents choose the curriculum to fit not only the childs academic level but also their learning style (some kids are more auditory learners while others are more tactile learners).  This makes e-learning super hard.  You’re being given a standard lesson to complete with what can sometimes feel like minimal teaching.  You may start to realize that your child is either behind academically.  You might be noticing that your child is flying through the work and ahead academically.  In either case, you are probably finding your kid is going to fight you, tooth and nail, when it comes to having to complete their school assignments.  Take a deep breath.  This is hard.
  2. E-learning might not be including enough teaching for your child.  Some schools are able to implement “zoom classes” where all the kids login to a zoom meeting at a specific time and take part in a class where the teacher can give a lesson virtually.  There are a lot of schools who aren’t. Miss. A’s school (or at least her grade level) is not doing zoom classes.  They are using google classroom (which took me a little bit to learn), which is pretty nifty.  The subjects are separated out in one area and the weeks assignments are posted each Monday.  There is a comment area under each assignment where you can ask general questions, or if you like, you have the option to send the teacher a private message within that same page.  What we’ve discovered for Miss. A is that the teaching included is mostly in the form of educational youtube videos.  For our kiddo, this isn’t enough teaching.  Couple that with her being behind academically and it’s not a great system for some of the subjects (which is why we’ve landed in a fusion scenario).  That being said, she’s really enjoying the phys. ed., art, and social study activities the teachers have been sharing.
  3. For you work at home parents, you’re having to juggle working full time while being thrown into a situation where you are also teaching your kids school.  Schooling your kids is something you’ve never had to do before.  For homeschooling families, we made the choice to teach them at home and most of us aren’t working a traditional 9 to 5 full time job.  There are only so many hours in a day and I’m not sure how you guys are pulling this off.

lexia school at home

Ok – now onto (more specifics) of Miss. A’s academics.  I want to add quickly that her teachers made it very clear from the start that the ministry of education only recommends 5 hours of distance schooling per week for kiddos in grade 1.  I’m going to pay attention this week and next to see how many hours it’s actually taking us each week to complete her work.

One more note is that we have Miss. A with us only half the week so we are definitely not schooling everyday.  We alternate between doing school 2 days a week one week to school 3 days a week the other week.  We definitely pack more in on the shorter weeks, but also make up (if needed) on the weekend since, let’s be honest, everyday is like a weekend for most of these kids lol!

Like I said earlier, we ended up being able to setup a fusion of schooling for her.  Her teachers are amazing and know her pretty well.   What we were able to agree upon was that we would focus primarily on math and language.  Any extra additional work assigned that she completed would be the icing on the cake, but not required.  Both language and math are modified programs which I’ll explain below.

Language Arts: Miss A’s school has a subscription for an amazing literacy program called “lexia“.  She has a goal of spending 60 minutes per week in this program.  We usually do 15 – 20 minute increments depending on her tolerance.  She is sometimes a bit reluctant to get started, but once we make it past the first 5 minutes, she’s good to go.

To compliment this program, we’ve also been using a program called reading eggs. She loves this because as she goes through the lessons, she earns eggs which can be used to buy items for her virtual pet.  (Pssst…parents…right now they have a 30 day free trial!).

Along with those two apps, I also have a phonics program for her.  Foundation Phonics by MasterBooks includes interactive 3-5 minute lesson narratives teaching a letter & sound or blend through a Biblical story or concept, reading practice through words, sentences, Bible verses, and the lines to Jesus Loves Me, engaging worksheets featuring coloring, reading, problem-solving, writing, and activities, and suggested hands-on activities for each lesson that utilize common household items such as crayons, rice, flour, etc.  All in all it’s a pretty great book.  We definitely don’t do this everyday, but do try to get through 1 – 2 lessons a week.

Math: Included in the Reading Eggs subscription Miss. A was gifted at Christmas (thanks Nana and Papa!), is their partner program, MathSeeds.  This program was something we started during that gap between schools closing and her school going online.

Once school went online, we did our best to get through the math lessons but found them to be much to difficult.  After some discussions with the teacher, and providing them literature on the mathseeds program, we got the green light to move forward with focusing primarily on math using the mathseeds program and only completing the math assignments that made sense with where she was within the mathseeds program.  Her teachers are fantastic.  So we are now back into mathseeds, doing a lesson within the app first, then completing the worksheets associated with it (free to print from their website).  Once the worksheets are completed, we move onto the next lesson within the app.

Along with that, we are also using this math book from masterbooks.  We are completing the lessons as makes sense with what she’s learning in the mathseeds app.  She’s really enjoying these worksheets and I’m loving how they are helping cement the new math concepts with hands on activities.  These masterbooks math lessons include short, story based lessons (which for this book, are all animal based – huge win), real life application, hands-on activities (which is great as she’s a tactile learner), and full-colour worksheets (which are engaging yet not overly stimulating visually).

At the end of each week, Miss A. is able to email the teacher the worksheets she’s completed for the teacher to provide feedback on.  This allows Miss. A to still feel included in the classwork and the teacher an opportunity to monitor her learning.

All that being said, we are still following along with what her teacher is assigning in the google classroom and turning in the assignments when able.  Some we are able to complete right away while others we put aside until we’ve reached that concept in our lessons.

French: This is a rough one as I am not super great at French.  Miss. A loves singing her French songs and copying the French words as they’re spoken.  This is another subject we’re completing sort of modified.  For example, while the teacher has assigned work that includes the names for parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, we are focusing on learning the names for parents and siblings.  Then once we’ve grasped that, we’ll move onto grandparents, then aunts and uncles, then cousins.

One thing that homeschooling has taught me is that you can’t rush your kids to learn.  Teach them where they are and move on when they are ready.

Science and Social Studies: So far she’s only had two assignments for this class.  They are focusing mostly on community helpers and buildings.

The first assignment we accessed a learning resource called “Pebbles and Go” through her school boards library.  This was a great assignment as she was able to choose which community helper she wanted to learn about.  She was taught via a “read to me” book that taught her all about veterinarians (which she pretend plays all the time!).

This second assignment is more of a project where we have to build a community building model and then write a bit about the helpers that work there.  After that we upload a photo of the model along with the text she’s put together and turn it in.  Thankfully this doesn’t have an assigned due date!

Music and Visual Arts: These assignments thus far have been about rhythm (hand clapping) and crafts (for visual arts).  They don’t typically have a due date but Miss. A enjoys doing them to break up the day.

Health, Phys. Ed., Dance and Movement: This has been Miss. A’s favourite so far as the activities so far have been some of her favourites – yoga and dancing!

Week one encouraged the kids to get active and practice some mindfulness with a link to Cosmic Kids Yoga Page. The kids could choose which video to do (Miss. A chose the halloween video).  She’s really shown a growing interest in yoga so we’re seizing the opportunity to work on our core strength and balance!

Week two was all about dancing!  The teacher linked to this GoNoodle youtube video and challenged the kids to learn a new dance!  I can honestly say that Brandon and I enjoyed this throwback dance (okay, maybe it was more me than him!)

Macarena dance school at home

Ok – that was long.  If you made it through, you’re a rockstar.

Teaching your kids isn’t easy.  Living through a pandemic isn’t easy.  Being required to stay home all day, everyday, isn’t easy.  Not being able to see friends or go to the playground isn’t easy.

But we’re doing it.  We will get through this and we will all be okay.  Our kids will be okay.

The most important thing to remember is that when it comes to school at home, watch and read your kiddos.  If it’s too much for them, pull back.  If it’s not enough, add more.

Don’t worry about screen times (yes I hear all of you nay sayers, but let’s be real for a second).  This is a season (albeit a really long one!). It is absolutely possible to balance fun screen time with fun yet educational screen time.  If you’re kids are into Disney +, open up the national geographic tab and watch some earth or nature documentaries.  Miss. A watched a great one about dinosaurs the other week.  If your kids are into youtube, open up any of the streaming specials available on youtube right now.  Mr. D had a blast watching “The Phantom of the Opera” when it was available as well as a cirque show.  Screen time doesn’t have to be mind numbing lol!

So that’s it for part one.  I have no idea what part 2 will include, but I have a feeling there will definitely be a part 2 on this topic!

I would love not only your feedback on this school at home post, but would also love to hear how school at home is working in your home!  Are your kids doing virtual classes?  Are they setup in Google Classroom?  Have you started supplementing with other resources such as Outschool?

Head over to my facebook page and leave a comment under this post.


Jennifer is a lifestyle family photographer located in Southern Ontario. Jennifer also photographs newborns, babies, maternity, and creative branding sessions. She serves Ancaster, Brantford, Burlington, Cambridge, Hamilton, Kitchener, Oakville, Niagara, Woodstock, and the GTA.
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