During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all taking on the challenging — yet rewarding — job of teaching children. This territory — unchartered for many — is stressful to navigate, but it is definitely doable. We consulted with experts to create a list of tips to help you get the most out of non-traditional instruction while also maintaining a positive relationship with your kids.
CREATE A WORKPLACE
At school, kids have ownership within much of their daily routine. They sit at a desk and they use a cubby or locker for their things. Katherine Smith, PH.D., School of Art in the college of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati says this helps kids learn organization and focus.
“When teachers are in the classroom, they work hard to organize the physical space of the room for different types of learning, various activities, and efficient transitions of those activities and supplies,” she says.
At home, it is important for kids to feel like they have a place of their own while they are completing their school assignments.
“Parents can help their children carve out their own workspace that has a good work surface, lighting and a place for their supplies,” continues Smith.
With the proper environment, kids may be ready and willing to start their school day at home.
ALLOW FOR FLEXIBILITY
There are obviously some timing obstacles to consider as you adapt to a homeschool approach. Take your time; you may have multiple children in different grades. Many parents are just trying to find a rhythm as they enter strange new circumstances, working from home or out of the home and trying to manage teaching kids, too. Finding the right time for children to complete schoolwork with is a challenge.
Take a look at each of your kids’ schoolwork and estimate how long it may take them to complete their assignments. Kelly Harper, a local homeschooler of two, shares some of her best advice.
“School at home does not take all day, so don’t feel like you have to go from 9 – 3:30 and schedule everything,” she says. “Let your kids pick the order of what they do so they feel like they have a little bit of say in the matter.”
HELP KIDS FIND THEIR GROOVE
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that your kids can do the work when it is convenient. Some may learn best first thing in the morning, while others need some time to wake up and get their day started.
“Give yourself grace,” Harper adds. “This isn’t something you’ve necessarily chosen; it’s been chosen for you. Days will not go as planned, and it’s OK,” she says.
CREATE A BASIC DAILY ROUTINE
After finding a “class” time that works for each child’s schedule (and yours), try to establish a very basic routine. Work, snack, work, mental break, work, physical break (get moving!), work. You can break up work by subject, or simply put a timer on and work for a set amount of time.
Predictability is a helpful tool and being rewarded with a break or snack can be a big motivator. Another tool that can be useful along with a daily routine is a visual reminder checklist. Kids can check items off as they complete them. As your group puts their things away each day, it can help signify the end of the school day — it is incredibly rewarding to pack up and say, “I am done for the day!”
BE POSITIVE AND HONEST
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some schoolwork may be easier for your child versus others, depending on their natural abilities. Remind your children that no one is good at everything, and that both hard work and practice pays off! Focus on the positives and praise each child’s strengths.
Beech Acres Parenting Center suggests reminding children how well they are persevering through this unusual time. Be vulnerable and transparent with your children about your feelings because this is such an unusual time. It is OK to admit that you are having a hard day or that you don’t “get” something they are working on but that you can research it together.
Also, have a discussion about things you miss, people you wish you could see, places you would like to visit, etc. Redirect the conversation to discuss things you are grateful for, activities you can do at home and plans to look forward to.
ASK FOR HELP
If you feel like your child is barely treading water when it comes to his schoolwork or if you feel like his workload is too heavy or too light, don’t be afraid to reach out. Teachers and school administration want to be a major resource for you! It is important to ask questions and create a positive, meaningful dialogue with your kids’ teachers.
Remember: this is new for everyone, we are all learning! Teachers can clarify academic questions, provide tips on getting the work done in a timely manner and just chat with your kids to help motivate and encourage them.
Many school guidance counselors are more available than ever before through online video chats or e-mails to kids who may be struggling.
Another resource children can utilize when it comes to school work is their peers. Many classes are engaging in virtual chat rooms through apps such as Teams. Ask your child’s teacher if they are OK with your child working with another student. Not only is this a way for your child to bounce ideas off of their classmates, it is also an excellent way for kids to feel connected and bonded with school buddies.
FOCUS ON SELF-CARE
It is impossible to fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty. To be the best parent, teacher, worker, etc., it is important to get good rest, proper nutrition, hydration and exercise.
Beech Acres Parenting Center suggests that you prioritize self-care, so you are in a much better position to give of yourself to your children. Remember to be mindful of both you and your child’s mental and physical health during this time.
TEACH KIDS TO LOVE LEARNING
It is important for children to get their schoolwork done, but they are also still kids! Make life itself a teacher. By now you are probably loaded with educational resources that interest your child, but use your imagination to expand on subjects. Use the internet, use virtual cameras, use everything. Focus on what you and your children are passionate about! Explore what you enjoy and dig into researching. Remember that experience is the best teacher so try lots of new things. Teach your kids how to follow a recipe; teach them how to do laundry, how to make a grocery list or even something silly like how to do the Cupid Shuffle. Have fun getting to know your kids and teach them how to navigate the world.
Today’s kids are learning how to manage stress, cope with their emotions, balance “work” and play, the importance of family and so much more. At the end of the day, your kids also learn by watching you. They see how you react to stress, how you manage your time and even how we all ultimately need each other.
Remember that watching movies can be a teaching experience and certainly just talking together about a subject. Beyond schoolwork and this moment in time unlike all others, we still need to model patience and kindness. We will all get through this, a little bit smarter, and together.