Surprised by Homeschooling

Mar 20, 2020 | Posted by Jennifer


Many of us at IEW are veteran homeschoolers and are being peppered with questions and concerns from friends who are suddenly finding themselves in the unexpected position of needing to homeschool. If you know someone who is feeling uncertain or stressed about the prospect, we hope this post may provide some comfort and insight. We also hope you and they can join us on Monday night, when Andrew Pudewa will present a free webinar called “A Crash Course for Accidental Homeschooling.” Andrew, the founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, and his wife homeschooled all seven of their children. He will share his comforting wit and wisdom as he explains how to continue learning at home, what the benefits of reading aloud are, why and how to incorporate poetry memorization, and how to implement the free lessons offered by IEW.

Some Thoughts about Homeschooling for the Newest Members of the Group
by Jennifer Mauser

Many of my friends are now finding themselves in the position of suddenly having their children home every day due to the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps through the rest of the year. Uncertainty abounds. As a lifelong homeschooler, I hope to help you transition as gently as possible if you find you are also in that position. As such, I thought I'd share a few pointers along with hefty doses of love and encouragement. I homeschooled all of my children all the way into college. It's a way of life I have embraced for well over two decades, and while it hasn't always been easy, I wouldn't have traded it for anything.


So here are a few of my suggestions.

Breathe. Remember that you and your children are going through a traumatic event. It is okay to adjust expectations for all of you. It is okay to decompress a bit and adjust to the new normal of working from home, eating in all the time, and not getting together in groups. Take time to play some family games. My family loves Uno®️, Sorry®️, and classic board games. We also love to play ping pong on our family dining room table (when my husband isn't using it as his office away from the office, that is).

Read aloud a lot. Regardless of their ages, read to your children. Become armchair explorers. Read classics that instill your children with sophisticated vocabulary and syntax. Read exciting books that take them outside of their home and into worlds they never imagined. Some of our family’s favorite books are Half Magic, The Eagle of the Ninth, Little Women, The Hobbit, Redwall, and The Railway Children. Some of these are in the public domain, and you can access them for free at If your local bookseller or library is closed right now, order the hard copy or ebook. Reading out loud to my children I believe is the single most important thing I did, above science, and yes, even above math. And it was something to do that was fun and relaxing that we all looked forward to.

Listen to audiobooks. I wrote a blog post on the subject, where I list some of my favorite sources of audiobooks. Some of these sources are even free. And check your local library's website. They may offer Hoopla, which is a great way to listen to a book.

You do you. What I mean by that is don't feel as if you need to replicate what the schools are doing. Schools have to work with a lot of students and cover a lot of ground (hello, testing requirements?). You just have your precious children. School will not need to go a full day. You will not have twenty or more children to manage. In most cases, you should be able to get through what needs to be done in a few hours each day.

Focus on the 3 Rs. If you aren't required to by your online school policies, don't sweat science and history too much. Focus on reading, writing, and math. You can watch science and history videos online. Check out juvenile biographies on people of history or on science topics (virology, perhaps?). Talk about what you all have learned over lunch.

Encourage delight-driven exploration. Do you have a future chef? Have your child plan and prepare a meal. Bake cookies (there's math in that). Learn about nutrition. Do you have a gamer? Perhaps invest in some programming classes. My kids enjoyed the Teen Coder books.

Explore the great outdoors. While keeping in mind the social distancing mandate, get outside and go on a hike, walk around the block, or toss a ball in the backyard. Do some gardening. Collect and press leaves. Feel the sun on your face.

Keep journals, but it’s not what you think! At IEW we want to make sure that students of any age don’t have a “blank page” experience that is often caused by journal writing assignments in schools. So rather than have your kids independently write in a journal, do one together! Ask them questions such as these: What is the best thing you did today? What is the worst? What do you want to tell your future grandchildren about what happened today? Then write down their answers. You are then modeling for them that ideas become words; words become writing. This is a valuable exercise for children of all ages! If your older children want to write on their own, encourage this! Praise them for their efforts. “Inspire, but don’t require.” It's a great way to relieve tension, and what you and your children write may become a treasured family document some day.

Listen to music. I love to listen to a wide range of music, everything from classical guitar to Gregorian chant, to country music, to modern worship. Depending upon what I play, music can calm or energize me. Use it to your advantage!

Strive to keep the TV silenced. If you turn it on, much of what you see and hear is about everything that's going wrong. That can certainly increase the angst everyone is feeling. Limit social media as much as possible, and encourage other activities in its place.

Listen to your kids. Let them talk about their fears and ask their questions. You may not have an answer, but just being a comforting presence in their lives is soothing.

These are certainly extraordinary times we live in. I hope that by working together, we will be able to flatten the curve, save lives, and return to our normal lives as soon as can be. But until that day comes, I also hope that you are able to find that precious silver lining thread in the gray clouds of uncertainty.

Stay safe. Peace be with you. Hope to “see” you Monday night!


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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