It’s April 2020, so it’s a pretty good bet if you’re a parent, you’re schooling your children at home, and your life is in flux and crisis. There has been a lot of interest in our home school over the last few weeks, especially from Jewish parents for whom resources are scarce, and so, I wanted to create as much of a resource as I can for those trying to figure out how to school at home as best you can.
But before I start, I want to make something very clear: This is not school at home. And you cannot be expected to be perfect at this out of the gate. I have spent years reading and chewing over educational philosophy and best practices, and I spent a year teaching fifth grade (albeit over a decade ago now). You are not schooling at home, and you are not going to be Pinterest-perfect at this. That is not the aim. The aim here is survival and enrichment.
So what does that look like? My perspective on this situation is you should be spending the time teaching your kids things that they won’t necessarily learn when they go back to school (and they will*, I promise). And so, in that vein, here are some resources for learning skills that are not traditionally taught in schools:
Sewing: We’ve been using this book in our homeschool; you’ll need a sewing kit and buttons, etc. Be sure to go through the book and figure out everything you’ll need before you get started. It’s very frustrating to start a project and realize you’re missing a button or a type of thread; trust me on that. This sewing board is great for practicing stitches.
Watercoloring: This book is a great introduction for simple watercoloring for fun, and I have enjoyed doing it with my daughter. You watercolor right in the book, so make sure you buy one for each student (and for yourself, if you want to play along). I really like this watercolor set and it comes with a brush, but if you want more, here’s my suggestion for that too.
Art, more generally: Two paid resources I’d like to mention as well.
Talya Weinberg is my kids’ local art teacher and she has been teaching my daughter on Sundays and in her dedicated homeschool class for over a year. Talya has shifted to an online model and is teaching one-off classes on weekend and weekday mornings. Check out her website; her classes are amazing and have been selling out. Some of them have Jewish themes as well.
My favorite Charlotte Mason art resource just released a new digital courseof study that follows the Mason model of art teaching. Her course is on sale the month of April, and then will be $50 for the entire series, which you can watch and rewatch anytime. Her YouTube and Instagram are also great resources.
Cooking: Spend a meal a day with your kids as sous chefs. If your kids are a bit older, consider this book to unleash them into the kitchen by themselves.
Storytime: I wrote this post with two ideas for books with Jewish short stories you can read with your kids. We also read a chapter in a book a night; we’re currently working our way through the set of Boxcar Children. The Costco website (and store, if you’re able to go) has a surprising amount of children’s book sets, classic books and affordable at that. I’ve been reading with my older two kids for about a year, so starting when they were 5 and 4, and we began with great success on the Roald Dahl boxset. My older daughter listens to Narnia on Audible, my 5-year-old son likes listening to Frog and Toad are Friends on Audible also. Audible is doing a free Stories resource for kids.
Gardening: This is something we’ve started here now that we just moved to a new house. I just recorded an AMA podcast with a girlfriend on my podcast on Gardening, and she recommends this book on how to rely on your own land for food.
Nature and nature journaling: You should be going outside if you don’t live in the middle of an urban area. I highly recommend starting a nature journal; it checks a lot of boxes: science, art, and even physical education as you walk around. Nature journaling is great for perception and really helps me be in touch with the beauty of the world that HaShem created for us; a good reminder we all need right now. This is a great book about getting started with nature journaling. My friend Nicole Handfield wrote a great post about getting started with nature journaling and has also recorded with a popular CM podcast on the subject.
Jewish subjects: I’ve been reading a chapter a day of learning with my daughter called Nach Yomi, which can be begun at any time, and there are a lot of daily options for Jewish education for adults that could be repurposed for kids as well. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has a great Family resource for kids in upper elementary and middle and high school to learn Parsha with parents.
Crisis resources for those new to homeschooling:
AmblesideOnline (a Christian Charlotte Mason curriculum): For the last several years they’ve offered a crisis curriculum, which is currently featured prominently on their website.
Charlotte Mason Institute Alveary: This curriculum (which we used this past year) is also offering a free crisis curriculum on their website.
A Gentle Feast: this is the curriculum we are using next year and they have also published a curriculum for families to use in crisis.￼
*: If you are a Jewish family considering making this switch to full-time homeschooling after this current situation has passed, and you’re considering Charlotte Mason, I’m starting a reading group with one of her volumes in May. I also admin a Facebook group for Jewish Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. In the coming months, I will be offering reviews of two things Jewish homeschoolers will be interested in: a new curriculum I’m trying out called A Gentle Feast and an online Hebrew curriculum, iTaLAM.