I'm hearing from friends who are worried not only about how they are going to keep their kids at home and learning during these unprecedented times, but also keep their sanity. As a homeschooling mom for several years, here are my top 10 tips about how not only to survive the school closure, but to thrive:
1. Don’t try to keep public school hours
Listen to me, mamas, one of the most important lessons that I have learned over the years is that you can learn an entire day’s worth of school work in just a couple of hours at home. With the advantage of one-on-one instruction and fewer distractions, you’ll find their attention levels are higher and you can get more done in less time.
2. Learning comes in many forms
Don’t underestimate how much kids learn just by living life with you. Doing written work is great, but all of the research shows that kids learn a ton just by playing and it is an essential part of child development! You can turn virtually anything into a learning experience. Do you love cooking? Practice math skills by letting your kids help in the kitchen. Love to be outside? Nature is an amazing place to learn real-world science lessons. Look under rocks and see what flora and fauna you find just on a walk in your neighborhood. Get a book or app that helps you identify local plants and trees. The possibilities are endless!
3. You can teach with Netflix
You heard me. Netflix. There are dozens of educational shows on Netflix that will appeal to visual learners! Animals, space, nature, history, geography, and even food and nutrition are all things that your child can learn about from some of the amazing documentaries on Netflix! (And Disney Plus!) The History Channel even offers FREE study guides and lesson plans to accompany many of their programs.
4. Realize children do not remember worksheets
They have their place, for sure, but don't depend on them. My daughter loves doing worksheets and writing practice, but she also burns out on them easily. Sometimes we just need to get up and do something! Studies show that the more you can get your kids’ bodies moving, the more they will learn.
5. Take breaks
You are going to butt heads with your kids. There may be tears. There may be yelling. It’s hard. I won’t sugarcoat it for you and tell you that you’ll get through this completely unscathed. Tensions are high during uncertainty and having routines interrupted only adds to the chaos. Knowing (and accepting) this ahead of time will help you to stay calm and collected when things aren’t going as smoothly as you’d hoped. Take breaks! If I can promise you anything, it is this: Your child’s education will not suffer if you need to step away and regroup for a bit, or even take a day off.
6. Reading is the best learning tool you can use
If a child can read and comprehend text, they can learn literally anything. Reading to your child (even older children love for their parents to read to them!) and audiobooks are great ways to continue learning during school closures. Storyline Online, Storynory, and Loyal Books are all amazing places to find audiobooks and stories!
7. Don't pressure yourself
When I started homeschooling, I envisioned myself sitting at my desk happily filling out my color-coded teacher planner, scheduling my days in beautifully charted out blocks of time. In this fantasy, my kids would eagerly sit down at the kitchen table and complete their school work that I had meticulously planned out, without a smidgen of protest.
I realize now all I was doing was putting way too much pressure on myself.
8. Extend grace -- a lot of it
It is OK when things don’t go as planned. It took me a long time to realize that. We were all used to doing things a certain way, and I had to learn to extend grace not only to my kids, but also to myself. I got angry and frustrated with my kids for silly little things that did not matter. I was putting unfair expectations on them, and on myself. It’s ok to change things up unexpectedly if your original plan isn't working as expected. Be easy on yourself!
9. Busy work is worthless
If the work is not meaningful, it’s useless. Know your child’s learning style and use it to your advantage. You don’t have to do things exactly like public schools for your child to learn.
10. Find support
Being confined to the house can make parents feel very lonely and isolated. Even if you can’t get out of the house, it is essential that you form a support system! Schedule FaceTime and wine dates with your best friend after the kids go to bed. Use Zoom to organize a virtual storytime with a few of your kids’ friends. Please know that you’re not alone in this! With the technology that is available, there are tons of ways to stay connected to the world without risking your family’s health.
This homeschooling mom's favorite no-cost homeschooling resources:
- Khan Academy
- Free e-books
- Progressive Phonics
- Teach your Monster to Read
- Deep Space Sparkle (art lessons)
- Prodigy Game (math)
- National Geographic Education Resources
- Big History Project
Brandy Watson is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Tupelo, Miss.