Learning in Quarantine – Sample Schooling Schedules With Hand in Hand Families

In our new fundraiser, Raising Kids Who Love to Learn, we’ve been talking about how Hand in Hand tools help kids become bold, confident, curious learners. Those tools more than come into their own if you suddenly find yourself in charge of parenting and schooling!

Read on and discover how three Hand in Hand families have used the tools these past few months in the mix of learning that’s happening in their own families.

Why We Worked through Emotional Baggage Before English and Math

Katy Linsley is a Hand in Hand Instructor, living with her two boys in Lancaster, England. As a child-led, play-based childminder and ex-Primary teacher, she initially felt confident in providing her sons with a daily mix of play and learning opportunities—until she realised the stressful events leading up to lockdown left her without any energy or creativity. “The best I could do some days was to pull out a box of toys they hadn’t played with for a while,” she says.

Read on to learn how she unpacked that emotional baggage to get to more playful learning and fun for the whole family: Why We Worked through Emotional Baggage Before English and Math

Flexible Schedules with a Focus on Energy Supports My Child’s Learning

Sonali Vongchusiri is a Hand in Hand Certification candidate and a homeschooling mama of three children (ages 9,6, and 3). She and her children live in Bangkok, Thailand, and Sonali uses an unschooling approach with her high needs older son, and a more traditional homeschool approach with her two younger children.

Here’s a glimpse into how their flexible schedule plays out and why no two days look the same: Flexible Schedules with a Focus on Energy Supports My Child’s Learning

Balancing Work and Play Took Practice

Elle Kwan is Hand in Hand’s content creator, host of the Hand in Hand Parenting Podcast, and a work-at-home mum to two kids who have been distance learning in Hong Kong since February when schools closed to quarantine.

She shares how the family have worked through initial resistance they all felt to learning at home, into days that combine online learning and working from home with Special Time and physical play: Balancing Work and Play Took Practice

Are Your Kids Learning Remotely? Or Feeling Anxious About Returning to School?

These posts are part of our Fall Fundraiser, Raising Kids Who Love to Learn. As a thank you for donations of $6 or more, you will receive the whole Raising Kids Who Love To Learn series.

Your collection includes:

  • 5 x videos by Hand in Hand Instructors on subjects like reaching resistant learners, overcoming distance learning and classroom disruption and advocating for your child.
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So many parents tell us that after years of struggling the support and tools Hand in Hand offers helps their families thrive.

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Balancing Work and Play Took Practice

Schooling at home hasn’t always been easy.

Changing schedules, changing school policies, changing wifi connectivity and changing moods have all contributed to daily ups and downs in the Kwan family. That has given us all a good chance to work out where our values lie, and we’ve done many experiments trying to figure out what works best for us as a family.

In February, when all this started for us in Hong Kong, the mood was fairly flippant. At that point, we thought that any quarantine would be weeks rather than months long, and my kids’ schools advised letting pupils pick and choose what work they did.

So it came as a jolt in month two, March, when we began to see Covid’s impact spreading from Asia, across the globe, and the realisation sunk in that this home learning could be for the long haul. Since then, my kids have been in physical school for a total of 11 days.

Our schedule has changed a lot, and our feelings about home learning have changed a lot too. My older daughter’s secondary school put the whole timetable online, so she’s engaged for most of what would be her normal schoolday. At first, she hated being away from her friends. Now, she’s happy she has less travel time, and meets friends one-on-one if it’s permitted, or online if it’s not.

My son, who is 8, gets set a daily amount, mostly focused on maths, English and a focus topic, and check-ins.

At our busiest, my husband is fielding meetings online, I’m interviewing, and the kids have their two besties over (our edu-bubble) to do school. On bad Internet-days, we’re often all found devices in hand, scuttling from hotspot to hotspot, and I’m left wondering if “usual” will ever return.

Here’s How Our Schedule Shaped Up

On an average day, here’s how our days look right now.

6 am

After 13 years of sleeping in until I got up, my dog gave me nudge in a new direction when she began to wake me at dawn. As a committed night owl, I hated stumbling out of bed early at first, but after some railing about this with Listening Partners, I began to appreciate the quiet house and now use that hour to get creative writing tasks started. By 7 am, when the rest of the brood begin tumbling into the living room, it feels like I’ve already “done something for me,” that gives me more positive energy.

7-8 am

During this time the kids read and eat breakfast, scan some Tiktok or play Animal Crossing, while I scan some news, and get ready to start learning. This a totally more relaxed affair than the schooldays of old where we were all rushing not to miss buses. I’m a complete housework procrastinator unless I have a routine. So I use this hour to wash dishes, load one load of laundry, and sweep the floors—luckily our apartment in Hong Kong is small—and then I count the majority of the housework “done.”

8-9 am

Both kids begin learning online. We bubble with a neighbour and usually there is just under an hour while my son and his friend are online, so I try to get a block of work done. I have to be careful that the kids don’t just move from online lessons to just online randomness, so I tend to work pretty close by.

9-10 am

Play. Once we get our eyeballs away from the screen, it’s almost always beneficial to get my son involved in some play. This is most often Special Time, where he leads what happens. Lately, he’s been choosing hide ‘n’ seek, swordplay, Nerf gun assaults, and Lego battles, and is very physical. If he’s in a good place, we’ll tackle the first bit of (so-called) “independent learning.” Last term, there was always a fair amount of tussling even getting him interested. He said he “hated my teacher voice,’ and thought the work was “stupid.” (Some of the time, I agree, heh heh). One issue that came up for me is a pressing need to Get Things Done. I jump in with way too much enthusiasm, which he finds intimidating. I also battle feelings that he is not putting effort in where he should. Over the summer we worked on expectations we had around him getting his computer, knowing his schedule, and doing some of the work independently. I’d say it’s a work in progress, but we are inching towards some of these goals.

10-11 am

Snack time. Not the first time anyone has asked for a snack, mind you, but, actual designated snack time. My son (and his friend, if she’s here) often go off and lose themselves in some play for a bit, and then start an online class. My daughter pops by the kitchen, has a chat, and then departs to her room again. Again, I try and tackle some lighter work. Emails and quick bits of writing get done, but nothing that takes too much brainpower! If I’m feeling playful, I’ll challenge myself to see what I can get done in the 25 minutes or so that I have. (if I’m not, I choose the “focus” tab on Spotify and just try and buckle down).

11-12 pm

If there’s remaining schoolwork left at this time, it’ll go one of two ways: My son racing with a sense of victory to the finish line and whipping through the task, or him trying everything he has to avoid it: “I need water,” “I need music,” which leads to “I need headphones,” and then, “Did you know x,y or z? Look, I’ll show you.”

Since this is a pretty familiar pattern, we’ve been working on deciding which bits of work are hardest and doing those first, earlier, when there’s less tiredness, boredom and resistance. But it’s taken many, many months of tears and frustration to get to that. What it does mean though, is that I’m less urgent about a final task needing to be done, and less stressed if it doesn’t, which means it’s easier now to just listen about why he doesn’t want to do it.

12-2 pm

Since the kids are in school, they have stunted lunch breaks, which is a bit of a pain, to be honest. Mostly the small kids are done by 12.30, and play for an hour, while I prep. Sometimes they help, but not often. If there’s time we’ll play some cards or dominoes, or they’ll start chasing me about. The older kids are usually ravenous by 1.30 pm when they have a designated lunch break, while the littles race to finish lunch to get to their afternoon “check-out,” with teachers. It’s good to chat and laugh with the older ones about their day as the littles go off. My son can now articulate that he finds everyone at the table at one time quite difficult, and often he’ll move to the sofa and eat with a book.

2-4 pm

We’ve experimented quite a lot with the afternoon schedule, as their school day ends. I noticed a definite dip in energy, so start my afternoon chunk of work while they start their afternoon slump, which is usually a combo of TV slobbery, crafts, reading, a cup of tea and a biscuit, drawing and looking things up. I try to leave them to their own leanings.

4-6 pm

By 4 pm, energy levels are usually picking up again, and the kids get creative. This is where my daughter will start to bake, make DIY beauty treatments, or decorate her room, and my son starts big comic projects, a fort appears, or I’ll see him creeping around on some ninja mission. Sometimes they’ll draw or play around me, but It’s also my cue to start wrapping up work.

My kids are introverts, and not big into playing outside at the best of times, let alone in Hong Kong’s humid summer with a (required) face mask, and so they could probably go for weeks without leaving the apartment without some encouragement. There’s we have an expectation that if they haven’t been out the day before they will come and walk the dog with me. Sometimes they walk, sometimes they scoot or skate, sometimes it’s like I’m a pirate forcing them to walk the gangplank, but by the time we return things are usually much lighter!

6-8 pm

We all gather, grab a dinner plate, and watch a few TV shows together. It’s taken me a lot of years getting comfortable with this—the very opposite of the strict sit at the table rule I grew up with—but when my doubts set in, I remember how carefree this feels in comparison. And yes, a bit of me likes indulging that inner rebel.

8-10 pm

We shower and do a chapter or two in bed together before lights out. I’ll read, maybe watch a show, and try, try, try to get myself to bed by 11 pm and often fail. (I guess my kids aren’t the only ones working towards new habits and goals!)

What have I learned?

It’s not just my kids who are learning. Here’s what I’ve picked up during our distance-learning journey.

I started off so casual around school and then when it seemed to get serious I started vying for an imaginary “home teacher of the year award” only to watch all my prep and efforts go to waste, while I headed in tears for the photocopier (again). Now, I’ve learned a thing or two that works for us:

  • I am rather unorganised, and so this term I have an online calendar announcing all online classes, check-ins and appointments with teachers. My son much prefers this polite A.I voice casually informing him about classes, so it’s a win-win. I do not know why I went 5 months without, but there we are!
  • I now factor in brain breaks. To begin with, I was committed to the kids’ getting tasks completed. The trouble is they were not. That meant sessions were endless. Now, we have a set amount of time to do the task (or not) and then we have a break. Guess what? Everyone is happier with the “have a go” ethic, and more is getting done.
  • Special Time or rough and tumble play after the first chunk of online learning helps the rest go easier. And it’s more fun too! I schedule it in like any lesson, except if my son comes off the call fired up and racing to do things.
  • When they are online, I focus on my stuff. I used to hover and then a lightning bolt of “what are you doing?” hit me. Now I leave it to the teacher and use that time to work (or sometimes dress, haha).

There’s been a lot of trial and experimentation. I have leaned into listening to my kids and myself more. And, ultimately, I’ve enjoyed having everyone closer together, despite the challenges. There’s talk of us coming out of lockdown and schools opening in October, but if we close again anytime, I feel like what we have built together works for us all. At least for now.

How To Get Prepared for Virtual, Hybrid, and In-Class Learning

As a thank you for donations to our fall fundraiser, you’ll receive our new video and resource series, Raising Kids Who Love to Learn. With instructor videos, guides to children’s emotions, 100 ideas for getting playful, and lots of inspiration and printables, there’s plenty to fire up your child’s love of learning and help you all overcome education challenges this year and beyond.

The series is free with all donations of $6 or more. Go here to learn more and give. 

Elle Kwan heads up Hand in Hand Parenting’s content and is the host of the Hand in Hand Podcast.




Read the other posts in this series:

Why We Worked through Emotional Baggage Before English and Math

Flexible Schedules with a Focus on Energy Supports My Child’s Learning



Why We Worked through Emotional Baggage Before English and Math


Home-schooling during lockdown felt like I had many hats on. As an ex-primary school teacher and a play-based, child-led childminder I felt strongly that my two boys, 9 and 7 years old, would educationally thrive without completing every single piece of academic school work given to us by the children’s school.

Our school provided suggested activities for the children to complete but didn’t put pressure on us to complete any or all of it.

I was confident I could provide opportunities to learn as they played and by following their interests, and weave in learning both knowledge and transferable skills.

Except, initially, after the stress and anxiety leading up to lockdown, I had no energy or creativity to provide stimulating activities.  I found the thought of it exhausting unless the children drove it completely and I felt overwhelmed by the thought of being forced to have the children all day, every day.

The best I could do some days was pull out a box of toys they hadn’t played with for a while.

With my Hand in Hand instructor hat on, I knew my bigger focus was on the emotional baggage that we had all packed away during the month leading up to the lockdown.

Both boys had shown us that they were aware and struggling with the uncertainty and fear that seemed to be flying around Lancaster, the city we live in.  It seemed to be all everyone was talking about. From friends and friends parents to teachers and grandparents, all were serious and concerned. The boys picked up on that energy and information and asked questions around it, but their off-track behaviour showed us that they needed extra help at the beginning of lockdown.

“I wanted our day to allow for the emotional work to be done.”

I wanted to process that baggage, and to be safe and considerate of others’ safety, whilst manoeuvring through the pandemic and dealing with the lack of normal connections, the anxieties and fears, and the resentments and frustrations lockdown created. 

I wanted our day to allow for the emotional work to be done, which I knew would then leave our brains free to engage more naturally with learning.

So, for the first few weeks, we did 20-30 minutes of Special Time first thing in the morning and lots of Playlistening games all together. Using these two tools allowed plenty of opportunity for Staylistening when feelings came up.

At that time, I didn’t try to achieve anything other than keeping the family fed and vaguely clean!

I knew that getting plenty of Listening Time for me was also going to be crucial because my own anxieties had been evident. Caring for other families’ young children can be a big responsibility, and one I feel under normal circumstances. In such uncertain times, it began to affect my health, unfortunately giving me the very symptoms of COVID, with a tightness in my chest and shortness of breath. During my Listening Time, I worked on my anxieties around responsibilities, about my fear for my family’s health, and around my resentments for being put in a position I’d never wanted and never planned for. I was working through feelings around my helplessness and powerlessness.

Over the first few weeks of lockdown, we tried many different routines, focuses, and structures. Some worked well, some left us at loggerheads, and some worked one day but could not be replicated again. Some days the resistance from the children felt neverending, only for the following day to result in co-operation and productivity!

What I did notice after a couple of weeks was that we were mucking along in a much lighter, more collaborative way. I think the Special Times, Staylistening, and Playlistening along with gentle Setting Limits had enabled us all to offload some of that baggage we came to lockdown with.

For more on setting limits read: 4 Types of Limits That Children Need

Our Schedule Looked Something Like This

After those initial weeks, our lockdown days grew to look something like this;

7-9 am

We’d start the day with some connection time. Some cuddles, silliness and laughter (and sometimes tears) in the big parents’ bed. We experimented with plenty to get a few giggles going; making a tent by sticking dad’s leg in the air under the covers; by squishing and squashing each other as we all changed places in the bed to have a cuddle with another member of the family; playing “he’s mine!” where both parents playfully have a tug of war over a child. (My boys giggle uncontrollably at this game.) 

As a family, we tend to get breakfast, dress and wash at our own pace, with the expectation that we will all be ready by a certain time, and as the usual time constraints disappeared, I was able to use this time to set limits around how much the children helped out with household chores; tidying breakfast things away; unloading and loading the dishwasher; putting a load of clothes washing on; straightening their bedrooms; putting food shopping away etc. 

There was often a mix of playfully Setting Limits and Staylistening as feelings came up around those expectations of joining in with family responsibilities and getting dressed and ready for the day.  We always try to do those chores together with an adult, in a playful and as light atmosphere as possible. 

9-10 am

Outdoor exercise. We tried to mix it up, but we found that once we got out of the house and had some physical exercise and fresh air, we all felt more able to be light and connected.

I tried to be as child-led as possible, without expectations for what we might “achieve,” and I aimed to load the children up with connection, giving them the same delighted attention I give in Special Time, and letting them lead, or saying “Yes” to what they wanted, wherever possible. (With both boys, this wasn’t Special Time exactly, but close). Scrambling up nearby woodland slopes was one of the boys’ favourites, as was playing hide and seek in the woods, and football training and circuit training on the local green spaces, where we all enjoyed making up games and exercises. We also scooted and biked to unexplored neighbourhoods nearby. 

10-12 pm

After being outdoors the boys were keener to sit down and do some maths or English that had been set for them by their teachers. We usually took a drink and snack break between maths and English. I’d use the break times to do more connection, give cuddles, and do some quick Playlistening games to get some giggling going. Although the boys needed me around during school time, it was more for moral support and encouragement, which allowed me to have a cup of coffee, un-load dishwashers, washing machines, and prepare lunch at the same time.

12-1 pm

We’d sit down for lunch with their dad and enjoy catching up with what we’d been doing in the morning. I usually needed some adult time by now, so the boys’ Dad and I would take a hot drink into our bedroom and give free time to the boys.

1-3 pm

Our afternoons were much more flexible. We would have some Special Time and do other activities together.  If school sent inspiring activities we might try them together, or otherwise we’d think up our own activities, cook or bake together, or try out a new hobby or project. How on-track we were all feeling would determine the order and structure of our afternoon. Sometimes we’d do doing Special Time first, and on other days we’d wait until later.

3.30-4.30 pm

If one of the children had a Zoom calls with friends, where they could chat, play games, and laugh together, I had time with the other child one-on-one. I used this time for Special Time or sometimes to do individual music or language practice.

4.30-5.30 pm

The children chose what they did for the hour before dinner, including screen time.  This gave me a much-needed hour to be by myself, either to quietly get dinner ready, finish chores, or just have a quiet brew and chat with a friend.

5.30-7.30 pm

We would all have dinner together and then begin bedtime which usually started off with some Playlistening games and silliness, before showers, and storytime. As with in the morning, this gave an opportunity for playful or gentle Setting Limits and Staylistening to help clear anything that had come up during the day and helped the children feel connected enough to fall asleep peacefully. I also scheduled my Listening Time on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

My boys are set to go back to school full-time sometime in September, and I will be childminding as usual three days a week during the school term. The boys have loved being at home, and I anticipate some rough patches as they move back into school life.

We’ll up the amount of Special Time before school restarts, and I’ll focus on Playlistening at school pick-up as well as some family play before bed. I’ll use my Listening Time to work on the probable anger that will explode from my youngest as he struggles with his anxieties around new teachers, new situations and his resentment around needing to sit at tables rather than climbing trees!

If we have to go back into lockdown again, I’ll try to remember what’s important to us, slowing down so that I can hold on to connection as the important thing, and clean clothes as less so!

Katy Linsley is a Certified Hand in Hand Instructor, from Lancaster, UK. You can follow her at www.heartsandmindparenting.com, and sign up for her talks and classes.

Inspire Your Child’s Curiosity and Love of Learning

Katy Linsley, Certified Hand in Hand Parenting InstructorKaty donated this post for our fall fundraiser, Raising Kids Who Love To Learn. Please consider a gift to help Hand in Hand Parenting keep support free and available to parents through 2021.

All donations of $6 or more receive 5 x videos and a full resource pack to help you and your children love learning. Get help with resistance, overwhelm, and grumpiness, and find out how to set good limits around learning, inspire creativity, and have more fun however your family’s learning looks this year.

Go here to see what’s included and donate. With gratitude.

Read the other posts in this series:

Flexible Schedules with a Focus on Energy Supports My Child’s Learning

Balancing Work and Play Took Practice


Flexible Schedules with a Focus on Energy Supports My Child’s Learning

My homeschooling journey actually began six years ago.

While I loved the beautiful books and curriculum and carefully planned days of traditional homeschooling, my sensitive, strong-willed, unique needs son did not and when his dysregulation, aggression and anxiety were at it’s highest, I dropped everything, including home learning, so that I could focus on restoring connection, emotional regulation, and executive functioning. 

What I did during that time was to keep our home filled with books that I carefully selected to supplement his education indirectly. I now practice unschooling with him, and “eclectic homeschooling,” (unschooling with some traditional homeschooling), with my younger two children.   

Lessons I Learned About Homeschool

Did your heart THUD when you heard about more remote learning for another year for your child? Does your heart sink or tense up now just thinking about it? Or are your kids going back to school and you’re feeling a restricted wave of relief?  Restricted because you are keenly aware that you might be distance learning at any point during the school year.

I feel you, moms and dads.

And I want you to know you are doing good work. Seriously, you’re making magic each and every day you’re navigating schooling at home, work, meals, clean up, and whatnot.  No joke. Actual. Magic.

I started homeschooling my children before COVID times. 

My mission with my children’s learning experience is to foster internal curiosity and wonder and instil in them that learning and growth are part of a joyful lifelong experience. I focus on ensuring they learn the basics and trust that any gaps in their learning will get filled in as they come up. 

Here’s How Our Schedule Looks (Sometimes!)

No one day ever really looks the same, no day feels “typical,” but there are some definite rises and peaks in energy and go-to tools that I use.

Dawn Onwards:

Our mornings start off relaxed. After everyone has gotten ready and had breakfast, I notice that they—and I—all benefit from downtime.

They play. I work, focus on my self-development, clean or join them in play. If I am cleaning or cooking, I create gentle playful invitations for them to join. This looks like a game of “Whose shirt is this?” as we hang laundry, or talking to the dishes as we wash. I find that my younger children find it supportive if we try and tap into their senses doing this (for example, as they put each dish on the drying rack, we say “clink” together). 

When I want a moment to myself, I can directly share this with my kids and take a moment for me to reset.

Midday Onwards:

After lunch, our family naturally rests. This is a time where I may do some direct learning for my younger children. This can be guiding my 6-year-old with reading, writing or math.  My 3-year-old NEEDS to be doing school, too, so I keep simple things for her nearby. This looks like drawing a squiggly line on a piece of paper and she puts dot stickers on it, pouring and dumping or some other simple, Montessori-style activity.

Afternoons are where we go outside, get social and get sweaty.  We may go swimming, play tag, ride bikes or an excursion out to the park, store or elsewhere.

Evening Onwards:

My eldest thrives in the evenings after the younger two have gone to bed. His interest peaks in the evenings when it’s quiet and still and he has my full attention.  When we do direct learning (through his request), it is supportive to keep the experience short. So we do four math problems versus an entire page. 

And we have flexibility. Not EVERY day looks like this.  Not EVERY day has direct learning.  What’s supportive is to stretch my kids. We do our best when we stay out of overwhelm by noticing when it’s time to pull back, and doing so. 

And on the days where we are not directly learning, my kids are still absorbing.  We may be baking together and they indirectly become aware of measurements, fractions and time.  What I’ve experienced with my kids is that ONE emotionally-engaged experience grounds concepts in much deeper than ten direct but emotionally bland experiences.

Following My Child’s Cues For Learning

What do I mean? 

My kids are all curious about business and money as they watch me grow in my business.  They actually see me love what I do. My eldest sees me writing on the computer when I work. He’s always loved drawing and handwriting stories. A few years ago, he was inspired to write a story and asked if he could use the computer. I said, “Yes…and…did you know there is a special way to position your fingers so that you can type quickly?” 

I waited for his “yes” and curious eyes.

“Will you show me, mama?” he asked.

Oh yes!  

In ten minutes, I showed him the basics of typing and he took off from there and wrote an entire story. 

How to Beat the Resistance

What my experience these past years has taught me is that what kid’s resist with schooling is when we become completion-focused. I mean when completing the “work” becomes more important to us than our connection. In those times, what they resist is the “have to” or “just get it done” energy.  You know…when there is a worksheet you want them to do and you know that if they actually sat down and focused on it, it’d take five minutes but instead you spend two hours on it.

How have I overcome this?

I focus back on that energy.

I mix connection in. 

So, right now, my eldest wants to learn multiplication tables and asked me to make worksheets for him. On the worksheet, I put a spot for his name at the top and underneath I put a second question. I put fun questions like, What’s your favorite movie?  Would you rather swim in a pool of ice or tomato sauce?  What do you think tastes worse – broccoli ice cream or fish popsicles?

When I ask for these small things below his name, I shift my energy from “just do the worksheet” to “I want to get to know something about you I didn’t know before.”

It’s building connection and trust right into the learning experience.

When my middle son was first learning to read and not very interested, he’d sound out words like this:  “hhhhhhh….aaaaaaa….tttttt….hhaaaaatt…CAR!”

I Playlistened with him by taking a turn for me to read and I’d say “cccc….aaaaa….ttttt…..ccaaaaatt……BANANA PANCAKES!” 

He’d laugh and laugh and say “No, mama…it says CAT”. 

He also LOVES food and became internally motivated to read when I put up a meal plan on the refrigerator because he wanted to know what we were going to eat that day.

We’ve now reached a point where continuing to learn to read is a value I want to uphold for my 6-year-old, so I hold a loving limit that we practice for at least five minutes a day. He gets to choose what activity we do and where we sit in the home, and I bring my enthusiasm and delight for this time. Often, I’ll build connection by telling him,  “BUT, you can’t read until you find the book I hid,” or getting some whole-body action in by taping cards up high that he gets to jump to pull down and read.

Listen to Yourself

What I’d love to leave you with is to listen to yourself. Homeschooling someone else’s way is not easy. Find what resonates with you and your family, the rhythms that support you and leave what doesn’t. 

Oh, and cut yourself a lot of slack on the days when you just don’t have it in you. Snuggling up and reading a book together counts as school. So does supporting your kids in navigating sibling squabbles—think debate class, negotiation skills, and empathy skills.

Now, that’s a full curriculum.

Fire Up Your Child’s Passon For Learning

Sonali is a Hand in Hand Certification candidate and the founder of Raising Your Strong-Willed Child online summit. She supports parents of highly sensitive, strong-willed kids in her Facebook community and on www.raisingyourstrongwilledchild.com

Sonali donated this post for our Raising Kids Who Love to Learn Fall Fundraiser, now on. Please consider a gift to fund the good work Hand in Hand Parenting does supporting parents and children through hard times.

As a thank you for donations of $6 or more, you’ll receive the whole Raising Kids Who Love to Learn resource series, with 5 x videos from Hand in Hand Instructors, plus printables, 100 Ways to Play guide and our ebook Understanding Children’s Emotions.

See the whole series here, and click to give and get your series now. Read the other posts in this series:

Why We Worked through Emotional Baggage Before English and Math

Balancing Work and Play Took Practice


20 Things I Learned About Homeschooling

Thinking about homeschooling your child? These 20 insights from Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor Lara Zane shed light on making the decision and what it takes to get a good start.

When my son was nearly six, we pulled him out of the small, friendly local school where he’d been for the past two years, to homeschool him. It was, and remains, one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my decade of parenting so far. 

And it was, and remains, one of the very best decisions I have made, both for him and for our family. This does NOT, however, mean that it has been an easy ride.

Taking that initial leap was pretty terrifying, triggered by a growing awareness that school was a poor fit for our son. But as I did my research, I became increasingly excited by the prospect that education could mean so much more than school. As my daughter approached school age a few years later we then felt that rather than a ‘last-ditch escape route’, home educating was now a proactive ‘best fit’ for our family, and we opted not to send her at all.

Four years into this journey we have all learnt a huge amount and the children are thriving. But it has gone nothing like I expected!

Here are some surprising things I’ve discovered on the way…

1. Homeschooling is all about relationship. If you have a good, deeply connected relationship with your child then you will be able to navigate the ups and downs of the journey together a LOT more easily. Investing time and effort in building that relationship will do more to improve your chances of a good homeschooling experience than anything else you can possibly do.  For us, discovering  Hand in Hand a year or so into our homeschool journey quite literally made it possible to survive and then thrive. There will be days where educating your children yourself will drive you insane and you’ll want to march them straight to the nearest school and pitch them over the wall, and other days when it will be utterly magical and you be so so glad you chose this path.  Putting relationship first leads to a lot more of the magic!

2. Support is critical. The more support you can build into your life, the easier things become. Getting out there and making friends with fellow homeschool parents who ‘get it’ is incredibly valuable – and if in-person is not possible right now then there are many super supportive groups online. Having people around you who can listen when things are hard makes a world of difference so if your existing friends and family welcome the idea then that is wonderful. Don’t despair if not – often people start out dubious and come round to it in time after seeing the children thrive. Some even become stalwart supporters of the whole idea and enjoy being able to spend time with the kids and share their own passions with eager learners. And don’t forget Listening Partnerships. They are a vital part of my support network – being able to offload it all to someone who will just listen, and remember that I am still a good parent, and my kid is still a good kid is like gold dust. If you don’t have one already, then set this up – you’ll be so glad you did.

3. You matter too! This point underscores everything else – it’s very easy, and very common at times as a homeschooling parent, to become overwhelmed by trying to be all things to your children and losing your sense of self in the process but it doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, hard as it is sometimes, it’s really important to look out for yourself too, the same way you do for them.  You are modelling to your children how to ‘live life’ so building in support to keep you going and projects that light you up shows your kids that adults can enjoy living and learning too. Who knows where absorbing that idea might take them? 

4. Deschooling really matters. Taking some time to step back from formal learning and focus on connection allows you all the opportunity to learn to trust yourselves and live together as a family in a way that you might never have done before. It really is different to experiences over brief holiday periods and takes time to adjust. Focus on building in regular predictable Special Time to deepen the connection with your child – it’s the foundation for everything. Big feelings may well bubble up to be heard as children realise that they are not returning to school, whether their experience there was positive or negative. By Staylistening through these feelings, and building in opportunities to Playlisten around them you help clear the way for more relaxed flexible learning later.

Get a free guide to Special Time here

5. Learning comes in many shapes and sizes. One of the many wonderful things about stepping out of the classroom is that you can truly personalise learning to your child. Want to take a deep dive into ancient history, outer space, or creating art or music? Whatever your child’s age or stage you can use their interests to cover all the key basics and so much more. Being flexible about what and how your children learn means that it’s possible to accommodate different aged siblings without having to work entirely separately with each though of course, they will all need individual attention that is relevant to their needs. 

6. However your child learns, whatever their challenges, home education can be awesome. Got a kid who needs to move constantly? One who excels in one area and/or struggles in another? Working with additional educational or sensory needs? These can all be accommodated at home in a way that is challenging for a single teacher in a full classroom to manage. Once you start observing how your children learn best you may be surprised by what you discover, not least that every child really is unique – even within a family, every child will probably have different preferred ways of learning. Being able to recognise and allow for that is such a gift to our kids.

7. Learning can be chaotic. School learning generally involves building small bits of knowledge into a cohesive whole. Real-life learning can be very different and might look utterly random and riddled with holes. And yet, children can learn really well that way, as anyone with a toddler who can name a dozen dinosaurs accurately but can’t yet talk in full sentences will know!

8. You do not need to ‘teach’ your child. Facilitating their learning is enough. Being there, delighting in them as much as you can and Staylistening to their struggles is a powerful part of their learning journey. And sometimes getting out of their way and letting them explore their interests is the most valuable thing you can do. Every home educator I know has at least one story that goes ‘I have no idea how they know so much about the Russian Revolution/Coding/classifying insects – they just seemed to pick it up’. You also don’t need to be the only person your children look to for support – other adults and children (and Google) will help them along, either formally if you set this up or informally in ways you never predicted. Remember, you helped them learn to walk and talk. You can help them learn algebra and grammar when the need arises.

9. You will panic! Many times over! And then along will come a magical moment that makes it all worthwhile. Take that panic to your Listening Partner and offload your own fears. You’ll then be able to decide how to move forward with more clarity and be more able to notice the learning that IS happening every day. Often you’ll despair that your children will ever learn something and then, when they are ready, they will learn faster and better than you thought possible – even the tricky stuff like reading or long division.

In a spin about your child’s learning and education? When you donate to Hand in Hand Parenting now, you’ll receive Raising Kids Who Love to Learn. The series is full of ideas about how to solve struggles around learning – no matter where that takes place for your child this year. Click here to learn more.

10. You can’t always predict what will grab them. You’ll come up with the best possible idea ever and your children will be utterly uninterested. And then the next day you’ll leave something random lying around and it will become a focus for some amazing unexpected learning. Giving your kids time and space to discover their own interests, and HOW to learn is a great way to set them up for lifelong learning.

11. You will try, try and try again. Most home educators try out multiple curricula/styles of learning/groups and activities etc before they find what works for them. You’ll overschedule and then under schedule as you find your feet. While it can be frustrating, this is an important part of figuring out this lifestyle and what works for your unique family and it takes time. And just when you find what does work for you, your kids will grow and it’ll all change again. I love the concept of tidal or seasonal learning – that it’s ok for different ‘seasons’ to look very different. Maybe a few weeks or months are filled with obviously academic learning followed by a period of lots of time in nature and sports activities and then another where it seems like ‘nothing is happening’. You can be sure that every season contains valuable learning and allows you to feel refreshed and renewed, ready for the next shift when it comes. Consistency is less important than we’re led to believe! 

12. Not all knowledge on the curriculum actually matters. Maybe your child becomes an expert on the Azteks but doesn’t know much about Ancient Rome. That’s just fine – there is more to life than can be found in a curriculum, and much in the curriculum that is not actually essential to successful adult life. It’s good to be flexible about what ‘counts’.

13. You do not need to keep ‘school hours’. Outside the constraints of the classroom, academic learning can happen much more quickly than in school – there’s no need to wait for 30 kids to sit down, line up, be quiet, etc. This means that even if you choose (or are required by your country or state) to do a certain amount of ‘desk work’ each day it won’t take a whole day to accomplish. This allows so much more free time for free play, being creative and even getting bored – all incredibly important and often squeezed out of busy schedules when so much of the day is taken up by school.

14. Learning happens everywhere and ‘everywhen’. From discussions in the supermarket about the nutritional breakdowns of different cereal brands (and from there to how the digestive system works and how to eat healthily), to the just-before-bedtime plea to do some maths questions it’s hard to stop children learning if they are allowed to discover their own interests. It’s hard to imagine if you have children who have been put off learning but kids really can love it if they are allowed space and time to re-engage their innate curiosity.

15. If in doubt, curl up and read a book together. Or let them draw, or play lego or do handstands while you read (or stick an audiobook or podcast on – it counts too and might just give you 10 mins to pee in peace!). SO much learning can happen this way, even on a duvet day when no-one changes out of pyjamas!

16. Home education does not happen just in a perfect ‘homeschool room’ or even at a messy kitchen table. The world is your classroom and free or low cost resources are so plentiful from the internet and libraries to museums and natural spaces that it can be hard to choose which to use.

17. Rhythm helps. Having at least a basic idea of when you build in key activities during your day and week is really useful, and you get to choose what that means. For us, Special Time, reading together and opportunities to play and do activities with other children form a structure for our days and weeks on which to hang everything else. Being willing to mix it up and change that rhythm for a spontaneous outing / learning opportunity / snow day is important too. 

18. You will be endlessly interrupted and have to adapt to living all of life with small people in tow. And you will realise that accompanying you through all of life, is actually a great way for your children to learn ‘how to do life’. From cooking and cleaning to filling the water tank in the car, fixing things or choosing insurance, having kids in tow will both slow you down, and speed up their ‘life learning’. Embracing the inconvenience as an opportunity can help you stay sane!

19. Kids seem to need endless meals and snacks!!! This shouldn’t be a surprise but whenever I ask other veteran homeschoolers what their experience is like it always comes up! And of course, if you want to use it, this gives great opportunities for learning about cooking, budgeting, planning, research, reading (recipes), maths (cooking together and shopping), healthy eating and so much more. You could even research food from different countries and cultures, or historical periods to make the constant food requests into a whole learning project. Or… you know… just point them at the apples or crackers! That’s ok too.

20. Socialisation (in a non-pandemic world) is not an issue. In normal times there are so many opportunities to socialise with people of all ages, and while that’s trickier with Covid restrictions there are still ways to keep up the social contact. We often think of schools as great places to socialise because children are surrounded by others of the same age but it’s helpful to consider that the eventual aim is to be able to relate well to others in adulthood. Being supported to build relationships with other children AND adults is a great way to manage that, while also providing the ‘common interest’ friendships that enhance our lives at every age. And if you have more than one child, the extra time spent together often results in siblings who are really close. All the homeschooled kids I know are comfortable holding conversations with kids and adults alike and adapt well to different situations. Particularly as they hit their tweens and teens homeschooled children often seem to have a robust sense of self that allows them to hold their own and be confident about making the decisions that are right for them rather than always bowing to peer pressure. Whatever the educational setting, your listening to them as they figure out who they really matters.

It’s good to remember that homeschooling is, essentially, just an extension of parenting. The same principles apply. Love your kids, delight in them, give them clear warm limits and plenty of opportunities to play and be listened to and you’ll find your way. Remember that no choice is final – you get to think consciously about what you want for your family and choose the path that works for you right now. Only you can make that decision and it does not have to be final. There are many ways to raise and educate kids well, the key, as always is your relationship and connectedness with them. All else flows from that.

Join us for a new video series and explore ways you can inspire and encourage your child’s curiosity and intelligence. Free when you donate $6 or more. Learn more.

Meet Hand in Hand Instructor Lara Zane

Lara Zane is a London-based, Certified Hand in Hand Instructor, mum to two children and a former teacher with a love of neuroscience. Lara’s areas of special interest and experience include working with children who are highly sensitive, spirited, intense, anxious or aggressive and those who show signs of giftedness/HLP, learning or sensory differences. Her next Starter Class begins in January 2021.

You can email Lara or find out more about her classes here: Email Lara. 

How Connection Keeps Your Family Secure During Covid-19

Read on to learn why connection is key for keeping your family secure through Covid-19

family keeping connected during covid

Covid-19 has left most of us parents feeling emotionally taxed, mentally exhausted and depleted of physical energy, all for obvious reasons. 

With children out of school for the summer break, we may feel relieved that “homeschooling” is no longer the word of the day, now, however, we face a greater challenge: How to occupy our children’s time with so many social distancing restrictions around us.

Hurdle number one? We’re guessing it’s screens.

Yes, kids LOVE video games and screens of all kinds and each family will decide how much screen time is acceptable in their household. Also, we know that older children prefer to play with their friends and peers, online and offline.

Co-authors Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Mate, M.D., cite the Pediatrics journal ( 2011) in their book, Hold On to Your Kids, that states: “According to a recent poll, 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day(…). 75% of teenagers now own cell phones (…), thus, a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet and on cell phones.” 

The authors also draw attention to concerning statistics regarding internet pornography, cyber-bullying, and increasing dependency to video-gaming at an early age.

Of course, we know from scientific research that screens will never replace the parent-child connection that is fundamental to a child’s optimal brain development and life-long emotional wellbeing. 

The Education Training Research Associates (ETR), with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, conducted a literature review on the effects of parents developing a secure connection with their children early in life. The final publication, Parent-Child Connectedness: Implications for Research, Interventions, and Positive Impacts on Adolescent Health (2004),  brings together findings from 600 research studies on the parent-child connection. ETR’s meta-study concludes that the parent-child connection is the “super-protective factor” against adverse outcomes in adolescence, such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy or violence, or dropping out of high-school.

These findings reinforce what humans always have known but seem to have forgotten: that the most vital need of any child’s development is the need for attachment and connection.

There is no greater gift a child can receive than the connection he or she feels with parents and primary caregivers. So, this summer, decide on your screentime, get those guidelines in place early, and then devote as much time connecting with your child.  

Seven Ways To Keep Connected Everyday

These seven tips and easy ideas will help you foster connection with your child every day, even in these most difficult moments of parenting:

Laugh with your child every day; don’t take yourself too seriously; find ways to solve problems through laughter. Joke, play rough and tumble games, be silly. If you find play hard, check out this list of 25 Ideas To Get To More Playful Parenting

Do whatever your child wants for at least 10 minutes a day totally uninterrupted and undistracted. Promise not to check your phone, not to worry about cooking, cleaning or work. Give this time a name, such as Special Time, Mommy or Daddy and Me Time, or Boss Time. Follow your child’s lead in whatever activity they choose.  

Listen to your child’s feelings with patience. If they express anger or have a need to throw a tantrum, cry or yell, say things like: “I’m sorry it’s hard,” “I’m right here.” I’ll be here for you for as long as you need to feel your feelings.” You can read the science behind this approach and how crying is emotionally healthy for children’s development.

Set limits and say “no” with warmth and love. Children need limits to grow strong and to feel safe in the world.  Be firm but kind. Do not use shame, guilt or humiliation to “make them listen to you”. You can use this approach to set kind, firm limits in five words or less

Help your child more with summer school if you are doing it, and chores. Say things like: “I will not do the work for you, but I will partner up with you.” Here are four ideas to try if your child resists doing chores. 

Be vulnerable and authentic with your child. Don’t be afraid to open up to your child and say things like, “I don’t know/ I need help/ I am not in a good place right now/ I need some time alone /I messed up/ I will come back to you in few minutes.“ Your child will see that in your house all feelings and emotions are valid and seen. 

Find ways to take care of yourself and keep your own emotional “tank” filled. Exchange listening time with other parents, take walks alone in nature, meditate, journal, dance, or talk to someone you trust if things feel too hard to handle. Parenting is hard and no one can do it alone. All parents need and deserve support.

Following these seven steps—or at least some of them—daily, will keep your family strong and secure through a summer with Covid-19 and beyond. We’d love to hear how they work for you. 

Hand in Hand Instructor Mihaela Plugarasu is the lucky mother of an 8-year old boy, a co-parent and a college professor in Miami, Florida and loves teaching about children’s emotions and how to parent them well. For more practical tools and ideas, catch up with Mihaela on her Parenting Made Conscious Facebook Page 

Download your free workbook today and get a breakdown on how to bust boredom, when to expect tears and upsets, and 16 ideas for rough and tumble play.