Life right now is very different for all of us. For parents home with their children, who are now trying to keep up with their education online, it can be extra challenging. Here are some tips on how to manage it.
It can be really tough to make an overnight switch to the fact that we, parents, are now “homeschooling.” After all, how many of us have given serious thought or made a structured plan for homeschooling? Probably very few of us. Will it be enough for them? Am I giving enough of my time to them? I started this coronavirus crisis by researching tools and talking with friends and teachers to get an idea of what my 8 year old would need while being out of school indefinitely.
My son, like any elementary age child, needs a structured day filled with a variety of activities. I was nervous about the quick transition to him being home 24/7 when he would normally be at school, being social, getting exercise, and learning.
I started to think about how chaotic just a three-day weekend off school can get. It’s suddenly vacation mode. The silliness, staying up late, then fighting bed time, “but I don’t have school tomorrow…” I was prepared for a meltdown every night for the first two weeks. So far, by utilizing these resources I’ve compiled for you, my son has been able to stay on track and have fun yet educational days.
My biggest tip is to give yourself a break. Start easy, think fun. There is no way your child is going to be able to commit to a 7 hour school day at home, and they don’t need to.
Start with a schedule
I compiled a simple and effective schedule for my 2nd grader by researching schedules for elementary kids, and talking to other moms and teachers. I didn’t want an entire home school schedule by any means, I wanted this to be an easy transition.
The first part of the day for us is simple – drink some water and eat breakfast. You can start with anything your family normally does as their morning routines. Do things that create a positive environment and make your child happy. In a time like we are in, it can be easy to get anxious. Big Life Journal has great ideas on how to create a positive morning for kids of any age.
Make time for exercise
On our schedule, after breakfast is time to exercise. I understand that we don’t want our kids playing at a playground with other kids. And I understand that not everyone has a big yard to run free in – we only have a small back patio and live in condominiums. My kid getting exercise daily seemed like an exhausting task to keep exciting every day. So I found a few fun and free ways to get exercise at home, and in the neighborhood. Always practicing social distancing, of course.
- Take a walk around the neighborhood for at least 30 minutes.
- Do 30 minutes of exercise activities, get ideas here.
- At-home yoga videos for the whole family. Here’s a list of the best kids yoga videos on YouTube.
- Play a fun game of tag around the house, or in the yard.
- Play a fitness version of Simon Says. There’s a graphic below.
- Post a daily exercise routine, like these:
Have fun learning
Since most of us have never homeschooled before, I think it’s unrealistic for us to be able to commit to sitting down and providing lessons several times a day while also trying to figure out how to stay productive ourselves. Whether we have transitioned to working from home, or being out of work completely, there are so many changes going on that we are trying to cope with.
There are a lot of fun and educational resources out there for your kids to do. Your child might have some lessons your teacher is sending while school is out, but here are some additional resources that you can add to your week.
- BrainPop is offering free access for schools during the coronavirus pandemic. You just have to sign up and enter your child’s school to get access.
- ReadWorks.org is a great tool to use for reading and language arts. They suggest parents and guardians give a donation of $25, but you can access all the content for free. You can even print out reading work sheets for your child from home!
Sometimes we like to watch shows on Netflix, Disney+, and Youtube about our favorite animals. There are several animal documentaries streaming, such as DisneyNature’s Bears, African Cats, Born in China, and several National Geographic documentaries on animals around the world. You can also head to explore.org to see live animal cams from around the world! My sons watches these in his class and I thought it was really fun. We like to watch for polar bears in the Arctic.
Scholastic also has free learn at home – which include daily lessons based on your child’s grade level, up to grade 9. Each lesson includes stories, articles, or videos for your child to have fun learning. This one is a favorite!
Sometimes we get preoccupied with making sure our children are doing “schoolwork”. Reading, math, science, history…that we forget we need them to get creative – use the left side of their brains! My son loves his art and music classes, and loves playing on his keyboard. I added about 30-45 minutes of our day to dedicate to music or art time. We listen to music and dance, draw, or play music.
Here are some other fun ideas to get creative while your kids are home from school:
- Create a comic book
- Tie dye
- Learn a new song (also on an instrument if your child has one!)
- Learn a dance
- Draw a picture of what you want to do this summer
- Create a vision board
- Teach them a favorite recipe
- Take a virtual tour of a world-class art museum
Reading is an important part of learning. Everyone should be reading something everyday! There is no better time than right now for the whole family to read new books. That book you’ve always wanted to start, or create a fun reading list with your child to finish before school starts again. It is important for children to get at least 20 minutes of reading a day, especially if they are not in school.
- Epic! is a great reading app for children, which is free for the first 30 days when a parent signs up. Epic! has books for ages 12 & under, audio books, and Spanish books.
- Sight Words learning app is for the younger kids who are learning to read. The games use sight words and flash cards with fun animations.
- Reading Prep Comprehension is a great free app that is for older kids that are learning reading comprehension. New stories are added each week, and you can pay for even more stories.
- Endless Reader is another great app for kids early readers, and introduces sight words and uses interactive puzzles.
Advice from a former home-schooling mom
Writer and editor Jennifer Hill Robenalt homeschooled her son for 4 years. “Homeschooling is a conscious decision that requires weighing a lot of different options and scenarios for your child,” Jennifer says. “With COVID-19, that choice didn’t happen. It was thrown at parents who are already experiencing a lot of stress and uncertainty. So, I would tell parents to resist the urge to buckle down and get straight to work. It’s completely understandable how parents want to provide a sense of normalcy and dive into a routine. But these are extraordinary circumstances and we all need a lot of space to figure out what works for everyone in the family. There’s no rush.”
She has some other good advice for parents right now:
When you’re working with kids at home, you don’t need to fill an entire school day. Keep lessons short and build in lots of breaks. Because it’s a stay-at-home situation right now, online resources will play a key role in building a schedule. We put up a new schedule each night in preparation for the following morning and looks something like this:
8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9 a.m. Kid fitness or yoga video on YouTube
9:30 a.m. Virtual field trip to the Smithsonian
10 a.m. Journal writing
10:30 a.m. Online lesson of an educational platform like Brainpop.com, IXL.com, Time4Learning.com, Khan Academy, ALEKS, or any number of online learning platforms
11 a.m. Break
11:15 a.m. Read anything
11:45 Lunch with a documentary
12:15 Project time! This could be a writing project, building something, researching a special interest, making art
1 p.m. Meditation
1:15 Done! Of course, this can and should change based on your child’s interest. Schedules will take a little trial and error.
Times right now can be stressful, and overwhelming. Let’s make sure that we make the best of it, by spending quality time together as a family, at home. Take this time to learn new things, cuddle up and have movie nights, try new recipes – and don’t give yourself a hard time about giving your child a strict school routine to follow. It’s important for our kids to not feel any stress or hardship when things suddenly change. Give yourself and your children some free time. Time to decompress, alone time, and make sure to get out in the sun every now and then.