The word “Homeschooling” is a word that is used by parents who have made a choice for their kids and their families. They have decided that they want to opt out of the traditional brick and mortar education and take on the task themselves. They have decided that they will be disseminating curriculum and content to their school aged children. Usually, when this choice is made, parents purchase bonafide learning programs, create a special space in their home for studious activities, and join a network of other homeschooled families. With these other families, they plan outdoor excursions that allow the homeschooled students to have real field trips and other healthy social experiences. Homeschool is an exclusive title that should not be thrown out there, just because the compound word fits the geographic situation. The key idea here, for households who homeschool their children: choice.
I am afraid that the events that have occured in the last few weeks, have not left many parents with options. These parents are now being asked to take on the responsibilities that other families have chosen to do. These parents are now being thrust into a sea of online learning, review packets and videoconference lessons. Let’s also add the fact that it is being suggested that they create a daily schedule that includes meals and snacks, time for reading, maybe a nap, and some free play. All of this while leaving a babysitter or older sibling in charge of the house so they may go to their essential jobs. If not that, then they are trying to find time and space to manage the students’ schedules, while they stay at home to get online and perform their important employment duties. I think that I am out of breath just typing these sentences. That is a lot to ask someone to do, when they did not check the box to say, “Yes, I will homeschool my children.”
With all of that being said, it is still fair to ask parents to participate in their child’s learning. We’ve always expected that, but especially now, since the students are forced to be at home for an unprecedented period of time. I mean, with the many breaks that we have in our school year, like holidays, summer or snow, parents end up filling a few gaps by reading and writing with their kids anyway. But never do I recall in my 20 plus years of being an educator, have we been away from school this long, yet held inside because the world around us was a dangerous Petri dish. Never have I ever had a break from getting up early and going to school to work, yet, an inability to plan a trip or any other group activity. This time away from school is not like any that the parents have seen either. There is no recreational program to enroll their child in, there is no afternoon tutoring class and there is no option to take their kids to the pool or the zoo to get out and explore. Not only have these parents not chosen to be at-home teachers, but they had little time to prepare for this event. Within days, this job that we do so well, was thrust into their laps.
It may sound as if I am saying that parents should get a pass, now that it has been mandated that their child’s school is closed for the last 3 months of the academic year, but actually, I am just saying that parents deserve a little grace. Afterall, I went to school for several years to get my teaching credentials and I spent many hours studying “Best Practices” to use in my classroom situations. Currently, even the parents who are very good at parenting, are not clear on all of the aspects of teaching and learning that may make up a regular school day.
But as always, there is hope. Here are a few things that parents should consider, now that their children are home, and at school, at the same time.
1. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
Make a realistic plan that works for the family. This may include a lot of the things that are being suggested by their teachers. There will be some work for them to do that perhaps must be completed at some specific point in time. Keep them accountable for those assignments. But if you miss something else along the way or are unable to complete a certain task, save it for another time. That can happen to us at school, too, and we have a place for extra worksheets and activities that we keep for a rainy day.
2. Teach life skills.
Adding learning to real life activities is teaching. Depending on the age of your children, you can have them sort laundry, dishes, and silverware. Cooking together while following a recipe is also a great way to incorporate reading and measuring. They could even practice math by dividing snacks and other foods or discuss elapsed time using an analog clock and their schedules.
3. Plan ahead
Take a look at some of the skills that are being taught and choose activities that might match what they need to learn. Do your best and be creative.
4. Make learning fun.
I used to tell my class that I loved teaching, so I was always going to make my lessons interesting and fun for them, and, …. for me too. But, I had a saying, “If you are not learning, I am not having fun.” When you are showing your child a skill or reading directions to them, put a smile on your face. When some word that you are reading makes you think of a funny joke, tell that joke. I give my students 3-5 seconds to laugh and then I snap my fingers and we come back to the learning. This will keep the mood light and it will let them feel comfortable in speaking freely, if they have questions because they don’t understand something.
5. Know your child.
Some students are able to work for long periods of time and some need what we call “Brain Breaks”. This can be a “get up and stretch” moment or a time to watch a quick kid video while singing and dancing along. Also, as much as possible, be sure to let your child choose a space to do their work in and personalize it with a picture, stuffed animal or other item that they adore.
Okay, so for this one, don’t tell my bosses that I said this. But……you might have to pick a day or cluster of time where you skip the schedule. Yes, I said it; skip the schedule. This could be some kind of field trip day or whatever activity you can create, based on what you have to work with. You might be able to play an outdoor game in a lowly populated spot where you live. Or maybe you have some space in the hallway of your apartment building, or in a basement. You could move the furniture out of the way and eat on a blanket while watching a movie, or having a family group meeting. This situation has put a lot of thoughts in the childrens’ minds and I bet they have so much to say about how they are feeling and what they are thinking. We miss our students and I believe that they miss us too.
7. Be sensitive
Pay attention to the emotional well being of you and your child. Look for any changes in moods or dispositions and address them right away. Stay even tempered and don’t forget to find moments to compliment your child and show them love and affection.
Parents have become a bigger part of their child’s education than they originally thought they would be, when the year 2020 rolled in. This may be a crisis situation, but it can also be a path towards more chances for families to be involved in their kids’ learning. This turn of events may help some students increase their independence, when making choices that affect their academic progress. When I think of the things that teach us in real life, this could be the ultimate problem based learning model. In the end, we may have the most balanced, resourceful, and well-read students ever!
How is schoolwork at home going for you and your family? Leave me a comment below and let me know.