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Homeschool like a pro: tips from a mother and homeschool teacher of eight

"It’s not going to look like public school," Sarilyn Shanks, mother of eight, said.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — With Texas schools closed for the remainder of the school year, many parents have added 'homeschool teacher' to the list of their household duties. 

Sarilyn and Jake Shanks of San Angelo added that duty to their list many years ago, when their first child became old enough to go to school.

"Daycare costs would be outrageous, and I just wanted to be with them. When they’re little and you’re teaching them letters, sounds, numbers and colors, it’s just exciting to see them grow and learn. It was just wonderful," Sarilyn said. 

Of course, it's not always wonderful. Jake and Sarilyn have seven children in school right now, with ages ranging from kindergarten to middle school. The best way to handle it is by keeping a schedule that works for both parents and children, according to the Shanks.

“I always encourage schedules. You can watch somebody else’s schedule and try to force it into your life, and it’s like trying to get a triangle to go through a circle. It won't work. Find something that works for you. If you’re trying to force school to start at 7 in the morning but you naturally don't get into the flow of your day until 9, then think reality. Say, ‘at 9, we’re going to delve deep.’ If you’re a morning person, get zoned in and get it all done in the morning. After lunch, if you’re dragging, this is your break time. You’ll find your own flow of your own day," Sarilyn said.

When it's time for the kids to get into school, Jake suggested switching gears and putting some of your parental duties aside.

"There is a time where we're learning and working, where we flip the switch and dad is not dad right now - dad is boss. Mom isn't momma, she's teacher. When making a schedule, you do have to step away from that lovey-dovey area of your brain for your children and go, ‘ok, I’m about raising wonderful people at this point, and it's not always going to be wonderful,'" he said.

So, what does Sarilyn's homeschool day look like? 

"We start with bible time in the morning, then I teach some sign language, we do handwriting, and then we all split off. I take the younger ones, the others are in some books, my older ones are on the computer, and then we just sort of rotate. You move on to your next subject, bring your books over, I grade it, keep the little ones with me because they need more one-on-one learning...Then I move to middle age kids and older kids. At 1:30 or 2, we’re done. I don’t stop in the morning until 1:30 or 2, because I know myself, and after I have lunch, it doesn’t gel well with me to pick things back up," Sarilyn said.

The Shanks also insist just as your family has to find a schedule that works, parents must find learning strategies that work with their children.

"With technology, multiple things are available for all kinds of learners. If your kid is an audio learner, there’s audio books. If the kid’s a visual learner, you can look up a YouTube video and see how its done. You can get Spangler science boxes sent to your house and all you have to do is unwrap it, and it’s all you need for those kinesthetic learners that need to put their hands on something and do it," they both said.

If children and parents are having trouble understanding or teaching a concept, the Shanks recommend looking up video explainers on YouTube, calling friends or getting on Zoom with classmates. If all that fails, the Shanks suggest taking a break.

“I kind of associate it to potty training. You can try your hardest to potty train a kid of all ages, but, I’ve had eight, and I've learned that they’ll go and do it when they’re ready," Sarilyn said.

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