March 2020 has turned quarantine into a verb and millions of parents into homeschool teachers. Welcome to the COVID-19 surprise school-at-home event. The challenges are many, but not insurmountable. As a former homeschooling parent myself, I’ve compiled tips and resources for those finding themselves on the educational front lines for the first time.
Start easy and take activity breaks. Sherrie, an occupational therapy practitioner and experienced homeschool parent, suggests focusing on a few selected subjects as you get started, knowing that you can build as needed. “Definitely build in movement breaks between subjects to improve concentration and regulate mood,” she advises.
Decide what works best for you and your family. Include your children in making a schedule that everyone understands. You don’t need to imitate the school environment in your home. Some might prefer a relaxed learning environment, others thrive on a detailed routine. Regardless, communicating a workable plan is important for you as a parent, and for your children, to have a sense of structure.
Learning takes many forms. This could also be a good opportunity to have your child learn about topics of personal relevance. For example, your kids could research your family’s cultural heritage, investigate a special interest, or learn a new skill. Ask them to research how math, writing, and science are used by people in different careers. They can take notes and tell you about their findings during meal time. Older children can plan and prepare meals. Double win!
Don’t stress about covering every topic. Make the most of the extra time with your children. Talk to them about their interests, hopes, fears. Bill, an educator and homeschool dad says, “Always remember you’re teaching children, not subjects.” You can weave character, values, and faith into lessons and conversations. For learning responsibility, teamwork, and skills, Tina, with 28 years of homeschooling experience, suggests kids be included in daily chores.
Help! I have toddlers and older children! Becky has experience to share. She suggests setting the younger children up with a fun activity they can do on their own, and is only taken out during “school time.” This makes them feel special and included in the learning process, while still allowing you to work with your older children.
- If you have a safe environment, take regular breaks from screen time and get outside. Alternate watching kids with a neighbor, if possible.
- Working from home? Schedule individual time for each child as possible, so they know when they can have your attention. Set clear expectations.
- There are many safe and helpful internet resources available.
- Scholastic has launched a learn-at-home website, ideal for kids K-6 grade.
- Kahn Academy has short, engaging lessons in math and writing for all ages, and is especially helpful for older students.
- Museums, both national and international, have posted virtual tours like this tour of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
What if I don’t have WiFi or my own computer? Some schools are handing out WiFi “hot spots,” and many utilities are offering free services during school shutdowns. Check with providers in your area if you don’t have home WiFi.
Parents and caregivers, most importantly, cut yourselves some slack. You know yourselves, your family, and your kids, the best. There is no one right way to educate your children. The most important consideration now is your family’s health and wellness.
For information on helping your kids deal with the changes and stress caused by COVID-19, check out last week’s blog post on managing Coronavirus anxiety.