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How do you homeschool when you never have? Moms offer advice

Rick Wagner • Mar 29, 2020 at 11:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Your children are out of school, possibly until August, and you’re now their teacher.

The first advice from two homeschooling mothers in the Kingsport area? Don’t panic.

A BLOOMINGDALE MOM’S ADVICE

Julie Keeton is homeschooling seven children, the youngest a kindergartener and the oldest a freshman in high school.

“The biggest thing is, even for high school kids, it’s such a time of uncertainty,” Keeton said.

She noted that homeschooled children normally don’t just study at home all day since they have activities with Scouts, sports and play dates, all things suspended because of efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve.

“At least my kids are used to a routine,” Keeton said. “Make sure they feel safe. All the other stuff can wait.”

For instance, she washes her hands frequently and uses Lysol disinfectant and lets her kids know what she is doing and why. She said all parents and adults should be “making sure they know we’re (adults) doing our best” in this uncertain time.

“We are all isolation schooling now, and that is so different than homeschooling. We are keeping our kids in away from their community groups, churches, Scout groups, drum practices, clubs, sports, and all activities. In an instant, our homeschooled kids were isolated from most people they know,” Keeton said.

“For now, we have put school on the back burner because we are all navigating uncertain waters, and I can tell that all of them have anxiety and fears. We are working hard to do art projects together, yard work, hikes, science experiments, and lots of FaceTiming with their friends. It is hardest to explain, especially to our 5-year-old, about where her best friend, Lily, is and why we can’t go see her. Our kids went from playing basketball every Saturday with their best friends to being home and leaving very little.”

Keeton also recalled her son, Weston, who died after a heart and lung transplant. Because of that, she said she and her husband, Adam, are “extremely grateful for those people who are taking this seriously and isolating themselves so that they can help flatten the curve and not catch it and give it to their loved ones.”

ADVICE FROM AN INDIAN SPRINGS MOM

Chelsie Verbal knows about homeschooling from two perspectives: as a student who started it in 10th grade and helped get her brother homeschooled from fifth grade onward, and as a mother of five children, ages 3 months to 7 years. She has one child in second grade and another, 5, in kindergarten.

“If they’re starting from ground zero, just get the feel of being together day in and day out,” Verbal said.

“Just start with some good books you want to read together,” Verbal said. “For my kids, they like a lot of the online activities.”

She suggested ABCmouse as an online resource for smaller kids.

“We’ve always done a mix of textbooks and online,” Verbal said. “Utilize some of the freebies out there.”

Verbal said another thing is not to be afraid to ask for help. She said she needed, sought and got help with math and geometry in high school. She said Facebook posts from current and retired teachers offer folks help with school work. One of those is retired Hawkins County teacher Annalisa Bowery, who posted an offer to help recently on Facebook March 18 and referenced other educators who had.

“Don’t stress out. Do what you can with what you’ve got,” Verbal said.

She also urged parents to think of this as an “opportunity to get to be at home with them, and it’s always a blessing to be together.” She also said that getting a taste of homeschooling might make some parents think about that choice long term. Even if not, however, she said parents should work through it.

“Just make the best of it as much as you can. It will have to get better eventually,” Verbal said.

WHAT ARE HOMESCHOOL RESOURCES? 

For those who are using public-school-suggested websites and resources but want to explore homeschooling further, Verbal suggested KACHEA, the Kingsport Area Christian Home Education Association, one of several groups that offer support and a homeschooling community for the area. In addition, Homelife Academy is where she reports her children’s grades and attendance twice a year, an entity commonly called an “umbrella school.” Families also can register through their local school system.

“This is really a great time to focus on interests as a family, play games, read and get outside together,” Verbal said of folks not interested in changing to homeschooling all the time.

“When ‘boredom’ creeps in, parents should get creative,” Verbal said. “Good old-fashioned chores never hurt anyone. Free time could be used to write some letters/color pictures for loved ones or shut-in folks. And ‘quiet time’ is healthy for everyone. We live in such a fast-paced society, this is a golden opportunity to simply slow down and be. I’m a bit old fashioned.”

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