Our Five Ring Circus: The First Official Day of Quarantine Homeschool

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The First Official Day of Quarantine Homeschool


When my four older kids went back to school in September, I never would have guessed that I would be homeschooling one - let alone FOUR - kids by April! One child is homeschooled by choice, and the other three are now homeschooled by necessity. It's definitely a huge adjustment for all of us!

I started homeschooling Dylan in November. To be fair, he is a teenager, and he does Cyber School, so I'm not really teaching him. It's just my job to oversee his education, make sure he gets exercise, give him additional educational experiences, encourage a healthy social life, and make sure he reads and is exposed to the arts. (He is a talented artist, so no problems there!) I still have to share the reasons why we chose this for Dylan, but it has been a positive experience for him and for me!

Homeschooling is definitely not for everyone. While it works well for Dylan, it isn't the best option for Lexie, Lily, and Liam, who thrive in a public school setting. Lily and Lexie are very smart, and they are very involved in school activities. Liam has Down syndrome, which means he has an IEP. He has a wonderful team working to help him thrive - a general ed teacher, a special ed teacher, a para, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, and a social worker. He receives all therapy at school, and has so much support. The three of them LOVE school, which is why this new homeschooling adventure is difficult for all of us. But with schools now closed indefinitely, it's now our new normal...

As I mentioned in the social distancing post, school was simply closed for two weeks. It was a mandatory closure by the governor of Pennsylvania, so those days did not have to be made up. While the kids were off, the school district scrambled to set up an online learning platform just in case the closure ended up lasting longer. (Obviously, it did, and there's no end in sight.)

This wasn't like Spring Break, because we couldn't go anywhere or see friends. I knew without some structure, my kids were going to be miserable, so I started homeschooling. I started out with worksheets and workbooks, but quickly did away with them, and focused on other methods: learning through play, online activities, reading, writing in journals, watching educational videos and documentaries, and exploring outdoors. It was exactly what we needed to do.

As the second week neared an end, we began to prepare for online learning for at least the next month, but most likely more. Laptops and iPads were set up. (We had to pick up Lexie's district-issued laptop from her school. It was a very interesting experience with social distancing - kind of like The Twilight Zone.) We downloaded apps. Dozens of emails each day came in from the district and the teachers. An emergency IEP meeting by phone was held. Teletherapy sessions were scheduled. We had a test run to make sure we could all log in and access learning materials. The kids had Zoom meetings with their classes so they could see their beloved teachers and friends. They wanted to return to school so badly, but this is what needed to happen to keep more people healthy, and slow the spread of this scary virus. This is now our even crazier life...

Pittsburgh Blog

On Monday, the kids had their first official day of Online Continuity of Instruction (OCI). It was a learning experience for both the students and the teachers. Almost everyone is sad about this being our new schooling routine, but we're all in this together!

We're only two days in, and it has been a struggle. There are lots of glitches to work through. Parents are stressed, the kids are sad, and the teachers are working tirelessly to support all of us. I can't say enough good things about our district and our teachers right now. They truly went above and beyond, and we're all learning so much together. I appreciate the fact that they aren't pushing a ton of work on us, and that they are still trying to see their students regularly through Zoom meetings. It gives the kids SOMETHING to look forward to.

It's tough adding three additional kids and a special needs aspect to our homeschool routine. I know the first week is going to be the hardest, and that we'll settle into a good routine, but right now I'm very sad, overwhelmed, and exhausted. It feels like a full time job juggling all their educational needs with a baby, who demands my attention, sitting on my hip. My kids are missing their teachers fiercely, and just want to see their friends. The three of them were having AMAZING years with AMAZING teachers, and it just feels like it ended so abruptly, and was ripped away from them. I hate thinking about how they probably won't go back until the Fall, and there won't be any closure for them. (Now I'm stressing over whether we should move Liam on to second grade, which is in a new building with new teachers, or have him repeat first grade if that happens.) I keep reminding myself that it will get easier, and this is just a small chapter in our story. I need to take things one day at a time.

Down syndrome Blog

The past two days have been a work in progress. It's new and different, and not everyone is pleased about this situation! Dylan does a blended curriculum for cyber school, which means he has a live session every weekday at noon for his toughest subject, but only has one live session per week for his other classes. He completes everything else at his own pace, and he is excelling in one subject, so his teacher dismissed him from his weekly live session for that class in March and April. (His early days are Wednesdays and Thursdays with a live session at 8 AM both days.) SO...we don't really have to be up early.

The girls can log on at any time to complete their work for OCI, but Liam has a Zoom meeting for circle time every morning at 10:30. I wake him up 5 minutes before it, but he immediately starts smiling and waving at his teacher and friends! Liam also has teletherapy sessions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, so all work is completed around his schedule. His first teletherapy session was on Monday for OT, and it didn't go well. He ran away after 5 minutes. Today, however, he participated in the entire 30 minutes of speech therapy! It's just very confusing for him, but I'm grateful we're able to continue to work with his therapists.

Lexie was able to complete her assignments without any assistance, but she's technologically advanced, and an independent worker. She did, however, start crying today, and said she misses school so much. I just feel bad for the kids and the teachers right now.

Lily was having a bit of trouble using the laptop on Monday, so I switched her to the iPad today, and it went much more smoothly. I do need to oversee her tasks, but she can complete the work on her own with no issues. I do have to juggle time between her and Liam. Lily absolutely loves going to school, so this is really tough for her. She was so excited to connect with her class for a Zoom meeting on Monday afternoon, and show them her pets!

Social Distancing

So here we are, two days in. Homeschooling two teenagers, a third grader, a first grader with special needs, and taking care of a baby is tough! As their "teacher," I had 7 hour school days yesterday and today, and that's not really a homeschooling day - my days with Dylan are 2-3 hours in comparison! Although this situation is less than ideal, I'm incredibly grateful for the time spent with my kids, for our health, and for the support of some truly amazing teachers! Together, we can do this! (I hope. Send chocolate. And lots of tissues and caffeine!)

Big Family Blog

Tell me about how your school district is handling this closure, or if you are already a homeschooling family, please share some tips on how to homeschool multiple kids!

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Social Distancing and Homeschooling


  1. I am not considering myself as a homeschooler. My kids are just doing their schooling online and on their own. I have to help Simon a little bit but definitely not all day. I wish he had more school, actually!

    1. My husband keeps pushing me to homeschool all of them, but after three days of this, I know it isn't for me or them. Dylan does well with it, but my other three prefer going to school!

  2. We’re in Florida and doing digital learning through the 1st of May. We’re lucky in the sense that our district was already digital for grades 6 - 12 meaning each child was already provided a device that they used in class. There’s still an adjustment because the students are used to that teacher support in class with the technology. It’s been a struggle but we’re making it work!!

    1. That's great! Our kids use devices and websites at school, so it hasn't been too much of a learning curve, but some of the websites have been crashing. I'm sure it's due to the increased traffic, but it's frustrating!

  3. Oh my gosh - you guys definitely have your hands full! I think it's great that Dylan is already acclimated to homeschool or cyber school so you're off to a great start! xo, Biana

    1. That definitely helped, but I don't think I'm cut out to homeschool all of my kids!

  4. Yeah, I think it's tough when you have multiple grades that you aren't so much homeschooling as schooling at home. I know our district has each teacher setting up lessons and work like a normal school day and parents are really struggling to keep up all the work with all their kids as well as their own jobs and just trying to parent through all this. I'm kind of at an advantage having three boys in various grades that I've homeschooled for years. Our day usually only last 4 hours or so but we combine our learning in so many subjects and always have. We use movies, hands on experiments, read alouds, board games, nature walks, etc. so all but math, reading, and writing are done together. I'm sure, like you said, you will fall into a routine and I hope it will get easier for you.

  5. Homeschooling more than one kid has to be tough, especially when you have a couple kids that really need your help and attention - plus a baby!! I hope that you all fall into a nice routine and things get a bit easier. That's great the kids have Zoom meetings with their teachers and classmates, so they don't feel SO isolated and cut off. It's a crazy time, but we'll get through! Also, if any of your kids need help with Reading or English, let me know. That's my area of focus.


  6. Very cute! I hope you are surviving all this craziness. I am doing my best but certainly have my days.


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