Teaching your kids at home doesn’t have to be scary. As a teacher, I have some tips that will help you figure out how to homeschool your kids amidst all of the coronavirus chaos, even if you have never done anything like it before.
If you’re like most parents, life is throwing you into an intense game of dodgeball all while wearing a blindfold. Every day brings some unexpected challenge to the new “normal” you are trying to establish. I feel your pain! Being a teacher, mom, and wife to a first responder, these last two weeks have tested me more than anything I could have imagined. My son has instantly become my newest student and I am mostly responsible for what he learns in the next couple months, if and when he returns to school this year. You might be feeling like your child isn’t being provided with enough work, whether that’s through worksheets, projects, or distance learning. Or you may not be getting the information that you need. Bear in mind that “remote learning” is new for all of us, and teachers, kids, and parents are all getting more of a handle on it each day.
Parents are not the only ones affected either. Children are feeling the effects of social distancing. My students are reaching out because they’re missing that connection to their friends. I honestly thought this generation might be lost to the Tik Tok and Snapchat shenanigans and never appreciate human to human conversation, but instead, they’re tuning in to Zoom calls daily and wanting to SEE their friends and teacher. We have had incredible discussions about what they are experiencing and the trials of finding the joy in missing their last months of 5th grade.
Since I’m a teacher, my mom friends are reaching out to ask me how to navigate this homeschool crunch. Here are a few of my best tips:
Put a Positive Spin on Homeschooling
Show your child that you’re excited to be with them! This is a unique time in your parenting career and your child’s life. You (hopefully) won’t get a shot like this again during the rest of their childhood. Take this time to get to know your kids better, especially for those of you with older kids that you have already felt pulling away. Use this time to your advantage. You have an opportunity to provide an entirely different experience than what your kids are used to in the classroom. As you begin getting into the material provided by your kid’s teacher, ask them to teach it to you. Nothing makes a student’s eyes grow bigger than the chance to teach an adult something. You will be surprised how much your kids know and how much you might not. Give them the opportunity to show you strategies and concepts that you might not know (and if you do know them, act like you don’t). Give your kids that moment to teach you because it will make them feel smart, strong, and capable, and make your relationship stronger.
Prepare Before You Try To Teach
I can’t emphasize how important it is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Students get distracted instantly when you have to stop and read the directions. Take a look at the material before you give it to your kids. That way you can research some of the stuff if you don’t know it. Common Core is structured differently than the way we learned growing up, so read the directions even if you thought you already knew how to do it. That being said, it’s not a big deal if you teach your child a method you are more comfortable with, so just use your judgment.
Remember, even though we’re all on house arrest, take a moment to reach out to family members and friends who can share, too. My Grandpa taught me more about things that happened in his lifetime than any textbook ever did.
Let Your Kid Make Some Decisions
Let your children help design their daily life during this pandemic and make it something that will work for them. Remember that their routine has likely just been demolished. They are adjusting to life outside a classroom of 25+ kids and the structure required to manage that. They’re connected to those they normally see only remotely or not at all. Be patient and give your kid some control. We are all in this together, let’s make it something that brings your family closer together. Instill a love of learning and family during this time. Go for quality over quantity!
Setting Up Your Homeschool Space
If you have the space to dedicate an area of the house to studies, do it. It makes it easier for your child to switch gears and get into homeschool mode if they have a certain place to sit and have their things. Think of your old trapper keeper… you had paper, pencils, gel pens, erasers, anything you needed to doodle your worksheet until it was unreadable. Your kids like the same stuff! They like the options and opportunities to do the same things. No matter the age of your child they will need choices for writing instruments. Make crayons, pencils, markers, pens, and other fun items readily available to keep the flow going. This is the time to pull the old pens and pencils from the junk drawer in your kitchen or office!
How to Structure the Day
Talk about structure with your student before you begin. Don’t change everything on the first day. Ask your child how the day starts at school and try to do something that is the same. If you do not receive hours of work from your child’s teacher, be happy you now have this time to pursue your passions. Find out what your child really wants to learn about and start researching.
Time at home will move a little faster than at school; one student completing work is much faster than an entire class. Expect tasks to be completed fairly quickly and then on to the next, so build in time for fun breaks. As a teacher, I connect the most with my students during free time. They could get creative and relax a little, which is when they “let me in” to their creative worlds and share their interests.
As we head into the unknown, remember that we are all in this together. Reach out to family and friends, digitally of course, and use the village to teach these kids. Now is the time to savor the extra role you’ve acquired for your child, as a teacher and a friend. Take the time to play with your child too. Go ahead and teach your kids the life skills that you wish you had at their age. Connect with them on a new level and have fun with it. Watch as you teach them the little things that end up being the big things. Teach them how to be resilient and flexible as our world faces this and let them know that there is an end and this will not last forever. Teach them how to help those in the neighborhood. Teach them to love school at home no matter what the lesson is that day. Teach them to be great members of our society, these lessons are the most important. Have fun, learn together, and stay healthy.