Hey guys! So, since I am a homeschooler, who has been working from home on a computer, and doing my work, for the most part, remotely, for a pretty long time, and somehow managed to maintain my sanity, I thought I would give some advice from my Ye Olde Homeschooler self, because seeing the entire world work from home is a little like watching my sixth grade year play out on a national scale, for every person ever–and it is… very gratifying, honestly.
What my homeschooling normally looks like
Okay, so first off, let’s get into how my homeschooling works to avoid any further confusion. So… how does Dragon stay home all the time and kind of function? How does she do it?
Um, okay, all jokes aside through, I am not as put together as I try to come off on the internet. In all actuality, I am a steaming hot mess who kind of read the Five-Minute Manager when she was seven and also could probably do your taxes and is slowly turning into a sad housewife, but that’s, um…. another story. I’m not perfect, and I don’t mean for this post to come off like I am, or make you feel like you’re not doing good enough. This is hard for everyone, and that includes me too–and if you’re struggling to be productive due to the virus or any other reason, that doesn’t make you dumb or lazy or whatever, it just makes you valid, and human.
Anyhow, I started homeschooling around what you Americans would call middle school years, and I call elementary school years–grade six and seven–and then I entered high school in eighth grade, and the whole system changed from mostly paper-based, mostly self-directed with my parents doing some of my marking to having more than a single teacher and a place I could actually get work done at in the local high school. As I got older, I started to use that space more and more, and for a while took an early morning class at mainstream high school and almost died, but anyhow, I still work two to three days at home pre-lockdown, and during my tween years worked 100% from home.
I don’t know how any other of my homeschooler pals out there do things–but that’s how I roll. So with the lockdown, academically speaking I know all of the ropes of doing things via DL with no direction from anyone, including my parents, from a distance, via computer and paper too–even though this is taking a huge toll on me emotionally and is also just really frustrating.
Know your learning style!
So, I think working from home can go really well for some people, and really poorly for others? I don’t know, for me I do my best work independently–but for other people, it’s just not ideal. It’s just very specifically formatted, unintentionally, for a very specific type of person.
I’m an auditory learner, personally–like, a very strong auditory learner, which I guess is why I tend to lean towards audio and audio production? When something is in audio format, it just clicks for me somehow. So I know this is gonna make you roll your eyes, but knowing your learning type can really help you figure out how to make working from home tolerable for you.
As well, knowing yourself in general is really important, since ultimately in a homeschooling/ distance learning situation, figuring out what works for you… is up to you. So for some people, working with a strict routine works best–but for other people I think just working when they feel like it is probably a lot better. So experiment with different setups and see what works for you is my best advice in that regard, I guess.
Anxiety and self-doubt
So here’s the tea: anxiety and homeschooling are really not a good combination. (Very ironically, since I think so many kids homeschool due to anxiety or some other mental illness.) And that is especially true when you first start, and if you’re already going through a stressful time, which I think so many of us are now. So I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that it’s natural if you’re stressed or scared, whether or not you have anxiety or any other mental illness–so yeah. If you’re wondering whether suddenly having to manage all of these things you’re used to having help with is scary, the answer is yes. Absolutely.
I don’t really have any tips for dealing with this, because honestly it’s still really hard for me, even after all these years doing this. But just know you’re not alone in it.
Okay, so I know this sounds like something you’d hear in a health class, but hear me out. With normal school, it’s like, you get home from school where you’ve been mostly off a screen all day, and then you unwind on a screen, watching YouTube or a TV show, maybe see your friends, etc. And then you’d do your homework on a computer or something. Which is reasonable. But with homeschooling, and especially during the lockdown… pretty much your whole life revolves around sitting on the couch, staring at various different screens.
Which is a lot. And I know it seems great for a little while, but pretty soon you’re staring at a screen having worked eight hours with no break in a semi-dissociative state pondering whether or not man exists separate of the machine with stomach cramps and a tension headache. So if you would like to prevent that from happening, which trust me you do, I recommend:
- Printing out your work as much as possible if you have a printer—aside from anything else, I’m 90% sure my mom read a study a while back that you retain information better when it’s on paper than on a screen, although that might have been a fever dream—and plus allows you to not lose your mind, and also doodle on the edges of the paper and crumple it up when you finish reading it, so honestly everyone wins.
- Take breaks and regularly go outside if possible. You know what I mean—read a book, doodle, honestly even doing chores for an hour can help, just anything physical you can touch with your hands. Going on a walk, depending on the lockdown restrictions of your area, and getting some exercise also really helps me clear my head–or if you’re not allowed outside, go into your backyard if you have one, or out on the balcony of your apartment. Even cracking open a window and just watching the world go by for a little I think would be good.
- For me even just doing a different task on my computer helps a little if you’re too busy to take a small break and work on another project.
This is really just what works for me–but I hope these tips are, like, somewhat helpful.
My lockdown experience
I don’t know about your personal experience with isolation, because everyone is different. But I thought I’d talk a little bit about mine, just in the hope of… someone connecting to this or finding this comforting somehow. I don’t know, when I see people I know and people I follow online or even just my friends talking about stuff they’re going through, it really helps me understand myself and feel less alone and it’s just… one of the best things to see in life ever, period, so I try to do that as much as possible online, as is, um, probably evident. Given my entire platform is built on that premise.
So for me, isolation is turning me into a bit of a hot fucking mess, honestly. My sleep schedule is a mess, I have these weird anxiety/depression cycles where my dysthymia takes over whether I like it or not and just makes me feel like absolute shit, cry a lot, and just feel sad and cold and empty, and then anxiety is over there, being all “you are a literal death potato, stop being sad and go have a panic attack” and then I do, and then I work really hard until I burn out, and the cycle continues. I have a lot of mood swings too, and yeah, my brain is just throwing all of the fun curveballs at me.
I don’t know if this is something that works for everything, but you know the song, “The Next Right Thing” from Frozen 2, and how it talks about just taking things one step at a time when you can’t bare to think about the whole of it? That’s sort of how I’ve been dealing of late, a concept that, sorry to break it to you, my therapist came up with a lot before Disney did, but, um, yeah. I don’t check the news right now, because honestly, I can’t handle it–and honestly, it triggers the shit out of me. I don’t try to think about how long this is going to last, because the future is unpredictable especially in this situation, and if I go down that path, I am just going to end up in that really dark, empty place again. I never think more than a week ahead. I don’t let myself fantasize about when this will be over in too detailing specifics. And it sucks, and it’s hard… but right now, it’s kind of the only thing holding me together.
Email your teachers, kids!
Keeping in touch with teachers is, like, really important? I don’t know if this is something everyone already knows or not, but if you’re socially awkward like me it’s probably something you struggle with, so, um, yeah. If you have questions, you need to ask them, it is kind of what teachers are paid to do, and I know it’s scary, I know it’s hard, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes, and if you’re having an issue with something or need some information, your teachers can’t read your mind.
And especially right now, when there’s so little certainty, if you have a teacher who you’re close to and feel like you can ask for advice, or confide in, or just stay in touch with even casually, take advantage of that. This makes me sound like such a mom, but a huge part of working from home isn’t just being to a degree, your own teacher, it’s learning to advocate for your own needs and sticking up for yourself, which is something I think homeschooling has really taught me to do that I definitely did not know how to do before I started down this path. A lot of the time, we’re not taught to stick up for ourselves and our needs, and often have a lot of really bad feelings and fears behind that. It feels like moving mountains.
But if there’s any one skill to take away from this post, it’s to practice reaching out, and advocating for your needs, because if you don’t while distance learning, no one else really will. Which is hard, and scary, and definitely a learning curb, but a skill that has really helped me out in a ton of other areas, both personal and more professional, and that I think is really valuable.
I know every fucking mental health account on Instagram has said this already, but, um, in this case they are kind of right, even if I am getting a little fed up of seeing it on my feed all of the time. Habits are really hard to shake once you let them set–and I know, because I’m working on the outline for this post, like, one in the morning on my laptop with the full knowledge that I have much higher priorities right now on my to-do list and just really need to stop, but, um, anyhow, that is a whole other thing.
Just be mindful about the routines you’re setting up, I guess, and whether or not you want to be living like this for the long period. In the absence of school to determine when you eat and sleep and all that stuff, it’s easy for all of those things to just go out the window, but they’re still important, so… yeah.
And with these–um–these homeschooler tips from me, who you will now be referring to us your Online School Mom, you are… um… ready for kindergarten kids, I believe in you, off you go–no, that was bad. But seriously, I do hope this was helpful, and gave you at least a little bit of comfort during a really shitty time.
Lots of love,