So, here we are, at the end of week 3 since the government of the Netherlands decided to close all schools. We were informed a couple of days ago that this will go on until at least the 28th of April, but that’s the start of the May holidays, so there’s no school for sure till the 10th of May. Things are not looking good after that either, to be honest.
Anyway, in case -for whatever reason- you are curious about how we handle this whole homeschooling thing, I am going to give you all the details here.
If you read my previous post, you ‘ll see that we ‘d actually decided not to send our kids at school the Friday before the Sunday the government announced that schools won’t open. This actually gave us a couple of days to mentally prepare on how to go about things. I did some googling and figured that a routine would be necessary. Also, a classroom gnome. You might have no clue what I am talking about, but for Waldorf schools* the classroom gnome is a valuable teaching aid and kids love that creature. It is basically a doll made from all organic, natural materials (because, Waldorf) and that doll has many uses. He will talk to kids about different topics, the kids start the day by waking him up and putting him back to bed, before they leave school to go home. Now, I say “he/him”, because all little gnomes I ‘ve come across so far are male. Sunday night I stayed up late and made my own gnome. A GIRL.
If you want to take a closer look at her and see all her details, go watch the video I made on our first homeschooling day.
So, I had the gnome. Obviously I went very late to bed, trying to finish her. Such a great start for the week, to be sleep-deprived. But anyway. What needs to done, needs to be done. Day one was one great improvisation. But I did have some key points I wanted to stick too and I still do, 3 weeks later.
So here is how our school day schedule looks:
- We have a designated classroom space. We made this with a couple of folding mattresses, a blackboard/whiteboard combo and a season table or nature table, as it’s called in Waldorf lingo. That is a small table where we display plants and elements that match the season/celebrations.
- I always get properly dressed. Get out of my pyjamas, wash my face, tie my hair up to get out of the way. Try and look as fresh as their teachers look every morning.
- The girls come in the school area from the kitchen and give me their hand, so we could look each other in the eye, say “good morning”, connect and know that now the school day starts.
- We always sing 3-4 of the school songs. I feel this is important for two reasons: they are used to it and it gives them a sense that things go on and secondly, it is important for the youngest’s Dutch language development. She is crazy about singing so this helps a lot.
- We wake up Gra, the classroom gnome, once we are done with singing. We ask how she slept, if she had any dreams, how she likes the weather today etc. Then she sits on the nature table and can watch the lesson.
- I start by introducing the topic on the blackboard. I only write the title and sketch as I go. Below you will see some examples of how the blackboard looks at the end of the theme introduction.
- We then do several craft or STEM activities related to the topic.
- I always read them a story (and I try that this is related to the topic too) during their snack break (which is always fruit. Cause they will eat chocolate or cupcakes or some other sugary crap we bake during the day some time after school).
- We do some more crafting and then it’s free playtime. LM often asks to skip this to do more activities, but I try to encourage her to play more in the yard or roughhouse with VJ.
- Around 12-13:00, depending on the day, we round up our school day. The first couple of weeks we would then put Gra to sleep, but now the girls are totally in love with her and she joins them when they play in the garden or in whatever other activity we do. LM then takes her to bed with her in the evening.
How do we fill the rest of the hours of the day, ’till bedtime, I hear you ask. Here it is:
- 1-2 hours of screen time daily. Judge all you want. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We have them watch in English (reminder: we are both Greek and only speak Greek at home and the girls go to a Dutch school). So it counts as language learning in my book. Today, last day of the 3-week quarantine, we just gave in to the Disney+ free trial. I am pretty sure they got us hooked.
- Baking. Cakes, bread, tortillas. And cooking. And nice cream (frozen bananas mixed with cocoa or other fruit to create creamy vegan ice cream)
- Play in the garden, planting.
- They play with each other. THANK GOD/UNIVERSE/MOTHER EARTH/WHATEVER IS OUT THERE. They play so well with each other, I am very grateful we got lucky with that. Of course there are fights. I jokingly say that our youngest is like a Mexican luchador. She loves a good fight. She loves to come and spit on us and run away laughing. I can’t even say she saw it at school at this point. It’s just her style. Good thing she is incredibly funny and at that magical age of (almost)3. The oldest is really really patient with the youngest and tries to include her in her role playing games and doesn’t explode when the youngest ruins her complex scenarios.
- We read to them. A lot. I love early bedtimes, so if the goal is to have them asleep by 20:00, we eat lunch around 18:00, they have a bath together and then we read to them till they pass out.
How do I find the time/energy to do this homeschooling thing, I hear you ask now. A reasonable question, one asked by facebook friends and followers as well. Here you go:
- I don’t do anything for my Etsy shop any more. No new products, no promotions, no social media. In fact, my facebook page has transformed into “homeschooling chronicles”. You can go have a look and see what I teach the girls every day and get ideas for activities. Will you also see new products to buy? Nope. Cause I am not making them. Cause I have zero time. So yes. Tip n.1: Abandon your work. Joking aside, I feel very very very lucky that I can do that without true financial implications for our family, as my husband is the bread winner and I can play the artist (sadly, he is an artist too and sleeps waaaay too late, trying to make room for his passion after working hours/putting kids to bed)
- We share cleaning duties with N.. During the day I all the dish washing that comes up and vacuum about 30 times a day, as needed (it’s needed a lot with all that crafting). He often does the dinner dishes and helps a lot to do a reset of the house during the weekend.
- I prepare the lesson plan after the girls go to bed. I ‘ve become more and more efficient as the days go by. Now my process is: pick a topic, google “interesting facts about (topic X) for kids”, go to pinterest, search for “crafts on (topic X) for kids”, go to fairytalez.com, search for (topic X) to find relevant stories. Print, print, print, prepare any crafts that need preparation. Done! And it’s ONLY 23:59! Yay!
Do you want to know what I find challenging about this emergency home schooling?
- I am always tired, I have to invent everything from scratch. Teachers and homeschool teachers have organised lesson plans and resources developed over the years and even though they still have a shitload of work to do, they don’t have to re-invent the wheel. I am lucky my kids are so young and I don’t have specific material to cover. Our school’s approach for this age is “let kids be kids, let them play, make sure they feel safe, let them enjoy the fresh air, play in the garden, get dirty”. I love the school’s approach in general. I also really value their efforts to stay connected with the kids (they even sent physical mail with a picture of the class gnome saying how much he misses them and little treasures in the envelope as well ❤ )
- I have doubts about my approach. Based on the school’s philosophy, I am offering way too much material/information/mental stimulation. We already been “warned” that LM is a tad too intellectual and could use some more physical exercise/stimulation/challenge. On the other hand, I know my child and where her interests and curiosity lies and what her passions are. So we do some juggling and we got a skipping rope and we chase each other and climb on the garden fence. But she quickly gets bored of all that. After all, the whole Waldorf idea is to help a child become who they are. But then again, be balanced. So, there. I swim in a sea of self doubt and confusion.
- Between homeschooling, work, preparing meals for 4 people three times a day and trying to do our own thing, we are stretched thin with N., but still trying to find some time to spend as a couple too (We are watching Frankie and Grace at the moment. We love it.). When we fail to do so, I feel bad. Not guilty-bad, but more “oh, it’s such a shame we love each other but we are juggling so many balls right now”-kindda-bad.
- Big challenge: accepting the fact that some times the youngest just wants to do her own thing, preferably while also hanging off of me and interrupting me every two seconds. Accepting that this awesome activity I prepared is not regarded as such by her highness, LM, and can she please watch a video now? That was a steep learning curve for me, but I ‘ve become much better in following my children’s needs and pace.
Do you know what I really like about this quarantine/homeschooling/work-from-home thing?
- I come to realise every day that I chose the right life partner. I see so many memes out there about killing each other after day 5 and I get that they are tongue-in-cheek and I laugh with them too. But I am genuinely happy that N. is the person I get to be stuck with during this crappy phase.
- I am actually kind of an introvert. Yes, I do miss my friends and I ‘d love to go for a brunch with them. But I am at ease being at home. In fact, we got a mail that we have to go to school on Tuesday to pick up some stuff and I felt a sense of dread coming over me, about the time that all this will be over and we will have to go back to the rat race.
- I like how I am a better person/mom now, that I am not stressed and tense all the time, to make sure that the kids are on time for school/swimming/play dates. Yes, I need a structure, but now the structure comes from within. It’s a rhythm that makes sense to me and my family, not an externally imposed routine. I really really hope that once this horror is over, we will all learn something from it. And we will figure out new ways to do things, in order to be more in tune with our selves.
- I like how I have the freedom to follow the passions of my children and learn through them, without having to follow a school curriculum. I ‘ve been flirting with the idea of homeschooling before, but I always thought that this way my kids wouldn’t be able to socialise properly (especially since home schooling in the Netherlands isn’t a big movement at all…till now) and they’d certainly never learn math. I ‘ve been known to lurk in home schooling and even un-schooling pages for years now. I am reconsidering things. Thinking how and if things could really be combined. And no, when I talk about homeschooling, I don’t mean helping your kid with their homework for the following day. I am talking about exploring new worlds together and expanding horizons.
So, that was that. Again, if you are curious to see what we are busy with, go to “Toverstuff” on facebook. I post there every day what we’ve done along with all the relevant links of videos and tutorials of activities.
Best of luck with your emergency homeschooling journey and if you want to share your experience and thoughts with me, please do!
*our kids go to a Dutch Vrije School (Free school), which is basically a Waldorf school