It was author Roger Lewin who once wrote “Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.” Are you feeling daunted by the formidable task of homeschooling students, while trying to work from home due to COVID-19 pandemic school closures? Don’t worry! You’re not alone, as even seasoned homeschoolers are finding it challenging. However, with a little pre-planning and foresight, you can navigate homeschooling through these uncharted waters.
Schools in over 40 U.S. states and territories as well as Washington D.C. have shuttered their doors for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. Families and learners of all kinds from all over the country are working hard to adjust to this dramatic change in their daily lives. A good point of departure as you embark on this journey is pulling together information and resources designed just for parents who find themselves in a new role as homeschoolers.
Setting Up a Learning Space and Gathering New Materials
It is paramount that you designate specific areas of your home as learning environments, eliminating distractions such as television and phone alerts and notifications. One often overlooked point when spending many hours at the computer is the amount of light in the room: experiment with different levels of light to find out which causes the least eye strain. Do the same with the layout of chairs and furniture to reduce possible back and neck strain.
Remember that technology has its good points and its bad points and must be used responsibly. A student spending three hours on Facebook is not much different than spending three hours talking in the halls of a school. Let students know that most of their time on cellphones and computers should be dedicated to appropriate learning. It helps to set specific micro-goals for learning each day that your children can work to meet, discussing progress as the week goes on.
As a start, you may want to hold a family meeting where the ground rules are laid out and boundaries are discussed. Some things you will want to consider include the layout of your house and deciding on ways to signal that someone would rather not be disturbed. Designating at least one hour each afternoon as “quiet and study time” will allow everyone to respect these boundaries, and recharge for the second half of the day. Studies suggest that families who eat dinner together each night make stronger connections, so do make sure to schedule intentional time together.
Choosing Resources and Deciding on Learning Methods
On one hand there remain only a couple of months in the 2019-2020 school year. On the other hand, we all know how time flies, and soon summer will be over and autumn will bring with it the rigors of the 2020-2021 school year. Thus, you might want to keep your students’ brains sharp with a full curriculum.
If community resources such as libraries, museums, and parks are closed, try to be as creative as possible when designing your family’s learning strategies. Board games, game shows, and even interactive video games can be learning tools, as long as you review what was learned and share feedback with your children. Have your children memorize and read a famous Winston Churchill speech, or encourage them to act out a scene from a Shakespeare play. They might even upload them so their friends can watch the online videos. Consider crafting a homeschool educational workshop, known as a makerspace or hackerspace, where all the learning and hands-on tools are in one location.
Staying on Track While Making Room for Breaks and Down-Time
An important factor to successfully studying and working at home is setting a fixed schedule and sticking to it as closely as possible. Try to recreate a typical Monday through Friday school week and take weekends off to avoid burnout. Coordinate your parent work times with independent study periods as much as possible. Alternatively, you may want to set a looser routine that is not tied to the block but rather a set of daily or weekly goals to allow some flexibility and fit in activities, projects, and online research.
This is a golden opportunity to add interactive and creative elements to your children’s education too. For example, after a lesson on birds of North America, you could take them for a nature walk and see how many birds just reviewed by the students you can spot around your neighborhood. You can go online and find hundreds of clever science experiments to attempt at home (after reviewing them for safety). For instance, have you heard that many Americans are making homemade bread as a comfort food during the COVID-19 crisis? You can combine this delicious treat with a chemistry project and teach your children how yeast makes the dough rise. If students are interested in learning from experts, thousands of expert demonstrations are available via online video – the only limit is their imagination!
Defining and Achieving Success in this “New Normal”
Are you ready to give away your television set if you hear the words “new normal” or “social distancing” or “in these trying times” once more this week? These phrases have become ubiquitous, and we are literally learning to deal with this novel coronavirus on a day-to-day basis. The rules have changed, perhaps forever, so try not to be too hard on yourself or your family. Medical professionals know well the perils of stress on the human body and mind; adjust your homeschool scheduling, grading, quizzes, and other formal assessments accordingly.
Ultimately, your family’s homeschooling progress will probably not look like a linear graph. Instead, your graph will contain upward trends followed by setbacks, and then upward movements again. As ever, it’s best to define homeschool success on your own terms. Life’s journeys aren’t always easy, but with cooperation and creative solutions, we can make this homeschooling voyage a much more pleasant one each week.
About the author: Jessica Bayliss has worked with students and developed ed tech materials for over 15 years. She has taught in elementary schools and tutored students of all ages and has seen first-hand the lack of access to a quality education that many students face. As Vice President of Content for Study.com, Jessica and her team of instructors and subject matter experts help simplify life for teachers by creating lesson plans and other teaching resources so that they can focus on impacting students.