Homeschooling Tips & Tricks

Teacher Appreciation Day 

Homeschooling is now more possible than ever. But it's important to have a plan before diving right in.  English teacher and Liam & Co. fan, Amber Hodges offers a great recipe and foundational tips for homeschooling success. 

Hey there!

My name is Amber Hodges, and I am so excited to take over the Liam and Company blog today!  I have been a teacher in public education for 11 years, and a mom for 9 years--we’ve got a houseful of boys over here!, and I would love to take a minute to share some tips and tricks for success while you embark on homeschooling and digital learning. It’s like all my favorite things have collided--Liam and Co., education, and family--and I’m practically dancing around the kitchen at the thought of it! 

First, let’s all just take a second and breathe.  As a high school English teacher, I run a classroom with anywhere from 30 to 40 teenagers, and I am here to tell you that manning my kitchen table with two children on chromebooks is SO MUCH HARDER.  As a teacher, I only have to worry about teaching in my classroom.  As a homeschooling mom, I am the lunch lady, custodian, principal, librarian, hall monitor, recess aide, daycare supervisor, bus driver, teacher for my high schoolers along with my own kids, and doing all of it at a low decibel because my husband is now also working from home--curse you COVID--and heaven forbid we disturb his office hours, am I right? 

Your teachers know everything is chaotic, and they are worried about the mental health of your entire home, and especially their student. All they ask, is that you make an effort and leave the rest up to them. It’s important for kids to keep problem solving and learning, and if you are doing your best to touch on those things each day through their lessons, you’re winning.  Find a happy medium in your home that allows for learning and harmony.  As I’ve called upon my professional training, and my years of parenting, I’ve come up with some things that will hopefully make your homeschooling adventure a little smoother.  Let’s check that out!

1. Routine! 

My kids (and myself really) thrive from routine.  Ours may not work for you, but it could be a starting point, so here it is:

        1. 8:00AM--wake up, breakfast, ready for the day
        2. 8:30AM--exercise: Cosmic kids yoga on YouTube is one my kids have loved, along with riding bikes at the park.  I either exercise during this time as well, or before we get started on the day.  I cannot emphasize enough how much moving your body will help your mental state!
        3. 9:30AM--digital learning
        4. 12:00PM--Lunch
        5. 12:30PM--Fun activity! I have scoured the interwebs high and low and will share some of our tried and true activities with you.
        6. 2:00PM--Quiet time.  Reading or Netflix--it doesn’t matter, but it has to be quiet!
        7. 3:30PM--Get Outside.  I jokingly refer to this as the witching hour, but this is when I kick my kids out to the yard to play while I prep for dinner.
        8. 5:00PM--Dinnertime
        9. 6:00PM--bathtime, family board game or movie night

2. Snacks

Anyone else feel like their pantry has a revolving door? The constant need for snacks was driving me batty, so...say hello to the best mom hack ever--the snack tray! I used to use this concept when my kids got home from school, but now I employ it in the morning and in the afternoon.  My kids know that I create a snack tray in the morning for them to have during digital learning, and again in the afternoon doing quiet time.  Nothing in the tray gets refilled, and all other foods are off limits.  This prevents the constant eating, wasting of food, and skyrocketing grocery budget.  Don’t have a veggie tray? Use a muffin tin! Just throw in whatever you have.  I try to mix up salty, sweet, fruit, veggie, and junk food into each tray.  My boys love it, and I no longer am having to decide between their college fund or buying more goldfish crackers.


3. Digital learning tips

First of all, no one said it had to be completed in one sitting.  Don’t be afraid to take breaks.  My kids do better if they hunker down and get it out of the way, but your child may prefer to do half in the morning and half in the afternoon.  Figure out what works best for you, and run with it.  Second, keep that line of communication with your teachers open.  They want so badly to hear from you.  If you have a question or a concern, send them an email! My kids have also really loved chatting with their classmates over google hangouts.  Sometimes we call them up on hangouts to ask questions, and sometimes it’s just for fun. Either way, seeing their peers has been a huge positive for my kids.  


4. Make time for fun

It became really obvious really quick that I needed to come up with a fun activity for my kids each day so we all had something to look forward to.  I’m not about spending a ton of money on this, and don’t even talk to me about making slime.  Most of our activities use supplies I have on hand, but if I could suggest one item to get that I use ALL THE TIME it would be a giant roll of butcher paper.  Here are some of our favorite activities so far:

        1. Color scavenger hunt--color squares on lunch sacks and send the kids to find items that are that color.  The kicker is that they have to fit in the sack.  Then, have show-and-tell, and send the kids to put everything back where it goes.
        2. Giant Wordsearch--I took a big sheet of butcher paper and created my own word search for the kids.  You could easily just do this on normal paper.  I argued that it helped my preschooler with letter recognition, and my third grader with spelling.  Helpful tip--use a ruler.  My lines got all kinds of wacky.
        3. Drive in movie--Put all that online shopping to good use! I took two amazon boxes, and we turned them into cars.  My boys colored on them--one ended up being an airplane--and then we watched a movie in our cars with popcorn.  I clearly sat on the couch because we didn’t have a refrigerator box on hand.  
        4. Paint your name--I used that butcher paper again, but you could do this on cardboard or regular paper.  I drew their names in block letters, and designed each letter with a different pattern.  The boys used paint--you could easily just color--and made their own masterpieces of their names.

As a teacher, I have felt so much heartache from not seeing my students, but I’ve also found so much joy in deepening my relationships with each of my own children.  I hope when future generations talk about 2020, they talk about how we came together and grew closer as families.  I hope they talk about how we disregarded old practices in education and discovered better methods of doing things.  I hope they appreciate ALL the efforts ALL people put in--healthcare workers and teachers, but especially parents.  Some days you are going to thrive, and if you’re like me, some days you’ll just be glad everyone is alive at the end of the day. You are not alone, and we will get through this thing together!