Washington Post Series on Teacher Advice for Homeschooling Parents

Note to readers: The post and email series below were created in mid-2020, about two months into the sudden school shutdowns created by the Coronavirus pandemic. A little over two years later, I took another look to see if I could revise the series and make it relevant to parents under less extreme circumstances. My conclusion?

Not really.

There are certainly nuggets in here that would be helpful to parents. Maybe parents hoping to better understand the minds of teachers, or be better teachers to their own children, or suddenly managing their children’s education for other reasons.

But reading this series again mostly just brought back memories of how crazy those first months of the pandemic were, how much of a shock to parents’ systems, how unlike anything most of us had ever experienced. I hope these emails were helpful to people who subscribed at the time—reading them over, it feels like this was the contribution that I was most qualified to make. They were also some of the last pieces of writing I was able to pump out before the demands of pandemic parenting forced me into a two-year break.

As of this moment, the email series is still live and pretty much untouched since 2022. I hope it won’t become relevant again in the way it was when I created it. I also hope to write some material that is geared toward parents in “normal” times. But, in the meantime, if you have any reason to subscribe to an email series like this, please feel free.

And now, onto the roundup:

Here’s a quick roundup of the columns in my recent Washington Post series for parents learning to home-school on the fly during the COVID-19 school closures.

Sanity-saving advice for parents now trying to teach their kids

New teachers are often swamped with urgent-yet-conflicting advice, even the best of which has exceptions they’ll learn the hard way. Sound familiar? That’s because in many ways, parents are now rookie teachers. And they’re getting much of the same advice. This advice tends to fall into two conflicting camps, each with their own promises and pitfalls, and many an early-career educator has steered too hard in one of these directions. Here’s a review of both camps, plus tips for correcting course if you need to.

A new teacher’s worst day in school — and how it can help homeschooling parents

The worst day of my first year of teaching happened near the end of October. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was right on schedule. About two months into their careers, new teachers hit the dreaded time-frame known as “the disillusionment phase.” This is a time when teachers are exhausted, caught in a self-woven web of early missteps, and especially prone to thinking that their mistakes will ruin kids’ lives forever. Which is why it seems like a good time to share a bit of perspective gained after 11 years of (mostly) successful teaching and over a decade of coaching other teachers through the hardest parts of their first year.

How home-schooling parents can avoid exhausting their emotional energy too early — and in the wrong places

You know, you know: You’re doing it for the kids. Unfortunately, knowing that isn’t the same as being well-equipped for the moment when one of those kids spills juice on their distance-learning worksheets for the second time! In one hour! Just the opposite, in fact. One thing I learned the hard way as a teacher is that, like time and energy, our best moods are limited resources. Start the day with an emotional rubber band already stretched to its breaking point, and you’re likely to snap by three o’clock. Which leads to you beat yourself up because, even “for the kids,” you couldn’t rise to the challenge. Which doesn’t help with the rubber band problem. With that experience in mind, here are a few lessons to help parents make it to the end of the “school day” with their sanity intact.

Preparing for the dog days of summer homeschooling

It’s been a long few months of distance learning, and many parents are probably counting the days until June. Soon the mandatory lessons from school will stop. No longer will you find yourself locked in a family-wide round of Zoom-scheduling Twister or valiantly keeping up with assignments across multiple educational apps. When summer arrives, you’ll be blissfully, breathlessly on your own. But also terrifyingly on your own. And you’re going to need a plan. Here are teacher-style planning tips to help parents prepare for this long, hot pandemic summer. 

A Teacher’s Guide to Reluctantly Homeschooling Your Kids

One week of daily emails to help parents learn the basics of teaching on the fly. Plus, how to stay sane.

A Teacher's Guide to Reluctantly Homeschooling Your Kids

One week of daily emails to help parents learn the basics of teaching on the fly. Plus, how to stay sane.