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From Mom to Mom: A seasoned home school mom gives us her top 5 secrets…

By Liana Cannon

We know you’ve never done this before. You’re already a chef, a driver, and now Corona has you being a home school teacher as well! No one predicted a global pandemic, and certainly no one predicted schools abruptly closing and forcing all your kids to be in the house all day everyday for you to home school.

For moms who have never even considered home schooling their kids, this is a daunting task and it’s hard to know where to start! So I found a long-time homeschooling teacher and mother to help us tackle our biggest worries.

Helen Kepo’o is a mother of four kids, 14 and under. She decided to home school her children because she wanted to give her children a “God-centered education with the world view in mind” and let her kids spend more time with their siblings.

I met Helen’s family at a group service project. It was the middle of the day and she and all her children were there making various materials for humanitarian aid. Her family intrigued me because they come every week and befriend the elderly while serving their global community. Helen says her family does service projects together as much as possible so they can meet and learn from people of different backgrounds and generations, develop a larger worldview, and form strong communication skills.

Many mothers are wary of homeschooling because there’s a lot of unknown surrounding it and some wonder if they can provide as quality an education as alternative school systems. But Helen says she has seen many benefits from teaching her children from the home, including the strength and closeness of her children’s relationships to each other and the love they have for the people around them- not to mention the benefits of comfy chairs, pajamas, and no homework!

“I don’t want successful sports stars or performing arts stars or large bank owners,” Helen says. “I want them changing the world through their service to their fellow man as God intended for each of us. This changing of the world will look different for each one of them, so I want to give them a good understanding of the world in which we live…”

Helen said there are a few things we can do to get our home schooling efforts off the ground.

Limit Distractions

I know, easier said than done, when everyone is home 24/7, but Helen says it’s important to model a love of learning so your children will also treasure their learning experience. It may be difficult to have your kids take learning at home seriously at first if they’re used to having home be a respite from schoolwork. Limiting your personal distractions, such as screen time and other household duties, will show you recognize the importance of learning. Helen suggests not giving each person an individual screen so they can focus on learning together. 

Let Passion Be Your Guide

The first question on every parent’s mind is “Where do I begin?” If you haven’t been trained in lesson planning, it can sound like a mighty feat! But Helen says she merely sculpts each day by her passions, what her children’s interests are, or what she feels is right to teach that day after saying a prayer. She said there’s no one way to structure a home school lesson, but offered an example of her daily routine for guidance.

“I read a book out loud to them all and then have them write a few lessons they learned from the reading. I allow them to create while I read because my boys NEED to move. They build with Legos, paint, play with Playdough, etc. I will cut up all kinds of fruits and vegetables for them to eat while I read to make things more enjoyable for them… We also do a lot of logic math to train their minds to think and rethink situations or problems and that it is ok to try and fail, and then try again. We don’t do a certain number of problems, instead we do a certain time frame…and they really gain a joy of accomplishment and figuring it out all on their own, [which] skill will bleed in to the rest of their lives…”

One fear holding many parents back is “What if I don’t know the answer to my child’s question?” Luckily, though, Helen says we’re not required to know everything (and neither is any teacher!). Those are great opportunities to pull out some resources and search for answers together as a family. “A joy for me has been that I have learned more [from] homeschooling my four children than I ever did in all of my 16 years of college,” Helen said.

Use Age to Your Advantage

Your kids are in different grades so they’re obviously on different academic levels. How do you accommodate each of their needs when there’s only one of you? Helen says she combines a lot of the schooling together and it helps to have the older ones help the younger ones. Giving the opportunity to teach younger children can be a way of instilling comprehension in the older children as well.

Helen advises to relieve yourself of the pressure to make sure your kids are 100% up to par with the other kids their age because all children are different. If someone is struggling, don’t stress yourself and your child by trying to push forward to hit a particular ‘benchmark,’ that matches a certain age or grade, but take time to help them fully understand that certain skill. If you are worried about a large age range, though, Helen says getting a writing workbook helped her younger children fill in the gaps.

Don’t Stress the Fun

Too many parents are overly concerned of how to make every lesson and activity the best thing their kid has ever experienced… but is that realistic? Helen says too much attention is given to trying to make everything ‘fun,’ which sets you and your kids up for eventual disappointment. She says there’s a difference between ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyable;’ it’s good to make sure everyone is enjoying learning, but that will look different for every family. One thing her family enjoys for their physical education is go to a local ‘Ninja Warrior’ gym and train together.

“This has given my kids so many great life lessons on working hard, losing, working harder, learning from mistakes, and then next time either improving or even winning.”

And in this digital age, you don’t have to come up with lesson plans all on your own! There are a plethora of online resources tailored to your specific situation. Even YouTube can be a great resource to learn about each other’s interests. Find ways to use your community to teach about current events and history.

Here are a few sources to help you get you off your feet:– For great math activities and problems to solve together!– Now providing free online classes!– Great lessons on all subjects.

Look up local organizations to volunteer with to learn about history, current events, and gain perspective: Operation Underground Railroad, The Nazarene Fund, Open Doors, Compassion International, The Magic Yarn Project, Tabitha’s Way Food Pantry, Stitching Hearts, etc.

Change your mindset

Yes, this is a unique situation we’re in. Yes, you may feel under qualified. Yes, there’s no end in sight. But Helen said this is a wonderful opportunity and the first thing we all need to do is change our mindsets. You only get 18 or so years with your kids, and now you have a few more precious moments back to make an impact on them.

“Homeschooling was fairly hard for me at first because I thought it had to be strict, over scheduled, stressful, rigid, and restricting like I always felt school was,” Helen said.  “It has been a wonderful journey for me to make it fit exactly how I want it to fit for my family…  I want to enjoy every moment I can with my children so that I will never regret that I didn’t spend enough time or teach enough to my children.”

Helen reassures that things will get easier as time goes on and as you try new things. “I don’t consider what I do “homeschooling,” I consider it “real life schooling.” I want my children ready for the real world when they are ready to go out on their own. If I can prepare my children for missions, marriage, children, careers, and how to deal with hardships, I will have done my job well.”

Find more helpful resources for our current situation here.

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