You, like so many others across the country and world, have suddenly become a homeschooling parent. You may have gone through all of the stages of grief within the first week, but now you're wondering, how do I do this for the foreseeable future?
Below are some tips and tricks from an elementary school teacher that will help you (and your children) stay sane during the long quarantine days ahead.
Be Kind To Yourself
First, and most important, please be kind and patient with yourselves as you learn this new "normal." It may feel like you are now the sole person responsible for your child's future success and every move you make from now until the quarantine is lifted will have a direct impact on their ability to become a Fortune 500 CEO.
News flash: IT DOESN'T! Your children will be fine if they don't leave your homeschool ready for the Ivy Leagues. Breathe, moms, dads, and caregivers. They're gonna be fine!
You are going to do the best you can with what you're being given, and your child's teacher knows it, too. They're just grateful that you're willing to work on learning related activities while schools are closed. Anything you do during this time will have a positive impact on your child's future.
Check In With Your Child's Teacher and District
The advice given in this article comes from my experiences as a public teacher, but may not be true everywhere.
The first thing any parent should do before they start distance learning/homeschooling with their child is reach out to their child's teacher and school district. Every district may have different expectations about how often a child needs to log in or turn in work digitally. They may or may not be grading work. It all depends on where you live and the district you attend.
There is no better way to find out what is expected than to contact those staff members and ask. In the coming weeks your district may send that information out to you anyway.
Ask questions as they come up, and don't be afraid to be the parent that asks them often. You and your child deserve to feel supported and secure during this time.
Set a Routine, But Break It When You Need To
You and your children are probably craving some sort of normalcy at this point. One way to help get back into the groove of normal life is to have some sort of structure or schedule in place for your homeschool. There are tons of great examples online that you can look at (Facebook, Pinterest, Google...you'll find them all!), or you can work together as a family to create one that is tailored to your needs.
You know your kids better than anyone else.
Do they need more wiggle time in the morning? Schedule a brain break!
Do they need some down time in the afternoon? Hello, rest time you beautiful creature!
As often as you can, stick with that routine. This will help bring a level of calm and certainty to your household that you've probably felt was missing since the COVID-19 quarantine began.
That being said, don't be afraid to break the routine when you need to. Every classroom teacher will tell you there are times when schooling has to take a backseat. It might be because you're all having a rough day emotions-wise. Talk through that. Take the time to process those emotions together. It may also be rough to learn inside because the weather has finally gotten nice.
Take a walk!
Have lunch on your lawn!
Mix it up when you and your children need it.
We all have the best intentions when it comes to getting things done. During your time at home, be mindful of how much you're asking your kids to do academically, and how much you're expecting of yourself to teach or work through with them on a daily basis.
Look, no one knows how long this is going to last; pace yourself!!
Doing 5 hours a day of online school is going to burn you and your children out faster than you can say "Schools are closed for HOW long?"
Some schools are suggesting the following for time spent at home doing distance learning/homeschooling:
Pre-Kindergarten/Pre-School : 30 minutes per day
Kindergarten - 1st Grade : 45 minutes per day
2nd-3rd Grade : 60 minutes per day
4th-6th Grade : 90 minutes per day
7th-12th Grade : 30 minutes per class, per day (Total of 3 hours)
This is just one model. There are plenty more. What they all have in common is the understanding that doing schoolwork for 8 hours a day, all day long , is not realistic during this time. In fact, if you visited your child's school, you'd see that happening there, too.
Set The Space For Learning
Find a place that is a designated school area and make it both comfortable and calm.
Turn off the TV!
Put away phones and other non-essential electronics.
Make sure kids have comfortable and sturdy furniture. For your family it may be the kitchen table, others it might mean the back porch. Wherever it is, create an environment where children can focus and feel comfortable.
Keeping a dedicated space will help you and your children make the mental switch between school time and home time.
Note: homeschool uniform requirements are up to you. This teacher is rocking her yoga pants and hoodies all day, every day.
Learning Looks Different Than You Might Think
Just because your child is at school for 7-8 hours a day doesn't mean that they're sitting at a desk doing worksheets or typing on a computer the entire time. Homeschooling shouldn't look like that either. You have so much to offer when it comes to teaching your children about life skills, too! This is a great opportunity to help teach your kids about things that happen outside of academic learning.
Help teach your children life skills like cooking, cleaning, and finances. Show them how to mow the lawn or change a tire. Share some creative time together by making arts and crafts, or writing letters to loved ones and decorating the envelopes. That's the perfect time to show them how to address an envelope, too!
This is the perfect opportunity for you to teach your kids the things that schools don't always have time for!
Don't Be Afraid of Technology, But Don't Depend On It
Distance learning, as many schools are now calling it, will require you and your children to spend more time on technology than you may like. It's a necessary evil at this point. Remember that technology doesn't have to be scary. When in doubt? Google it! There are so many amazing resources out there for families who are learning how to navigate Google Classroom, Schoology, Class Dojo, or Seesaw.
It may feel like you're all alone trying to learn this tech right along with your kids, but there is probably someone out there who had that same question, figured it out, and made a YouTube video on how to do it. Your child's teacher, librarian, or district technology office are also fantastic resources.
These staff member across the country are making resources to share with families to help ease the transition to online learning. Reach out! They're there to help!
It is important to remember that online learning shouldn't consume your child's day. Just like we don't want our kids online playing videos games all night long, sitting them in front of the computer all day isn't doing them any favors. Take screen breaks often. Encourage movement and discussion. You've got time to get the work done, but that doesn't mean it all has to be done in one shot.
Just Because It's Different, Doesn't Mean It's Wrong
You are going to encounter learning and instruction that is different than the way you learned it. That. Is. Okay. You may be tempted to teach your child a different method for multiplying or dividing or adding or whatever it is they are currently working on. Don't.
It may be frustrating for you to learn something in a way that seems odd or strange, but there's a method to the madness. Trust that your child's teacher knows what is best for them instructionally and academically.
That is literally their job and they are highly trained at it.
Remember earlier when I said there are videos on just about anything technology-wise? Guess what! YouTube is treasure trove of instructional videos, too! Not sure what partial quotients division is? YouTube. What is a bossy e? YouTube.
Your child's teacher may also have videos that they've made or suggested to help with these new methods or lessons, too! Let them help guide you through the things that have changed since we were in school.
Physical Education Is A Must
Take the time to be outside or active during your homeschooling day.
Depending on where you are and what access you have to green space, this could look like many different things. If you're someone who is lucky enough to have access to great walking or biking paths, use them! Even just taking a walk around the block and being outside of your home space can make a significant impact on your child's mental and physical well-being.
If you aren't lucky enough to have lots of outdoor space available, check out YouTube for some great indoor activity videos.
There are hundreds of amazing physical education teachers who are live-streaming or recording in-home activities for kids and adults alike.
Best of all?
They are free, high quality workouts created by professionals who know how to make physical activity fun. Participate with your kids. You'll be surprised at how good you'll feel after that break, too.