What does school look like in the wake of a pandemic? This is a question I’ve been asking myself (since March) as I’ve transitioned from being a mother figure to full-time homeschool teacher, to part-time teacher during remote summer school, to stressing about what’s to come as August rolls around.
This is the ongoing fear of all parents right now—what if homeschool is the new normal?
The scary part is, no one knows.
But as a teacher and determined mama, I’m not going to let my son struggle—regardless of whether he’s learning on campus or at home. (And I know many of you are with me on that one!) The good thing is, there are so many incredible resources out there to make homeschool and summer school a little less overwhelming.
Here are some tricks and handy templates to take a little of the stress away:
1. Start with a schedule
One of the hardest things about homeschooling is figuring out a routine. What do we do first? How do we keep track of time? When do we take breaks? These were the questions that flooded my mind when I first started remote learning with my son. And I have to be honest—it was super overwhelming until I created a schedule for us and our days.
Whether you use one of the amazing Canva templates to help organize your time or you write things down on a makeshift whiteboard or corner of your refrigerator, having something that helps to coordinate when you’ll work, when you’ll have a ‘brain break,’ when you’ll eat, and when you’ll play with friends will help your child(ren) to feel accountable, productive, and positive about their homeschool experience.
2. Be mindful of your child’s needs
I can’t say this enough—every single child is different. You can’t expect your child’s learning to be the same as his or her peers’. You also can’t have expectations for what will get done each day because everyone works at a different pace. Remote learning is challenging because it’s largely student-led, or one-on-one. While this can, and should, offer opportunities for your child to get more in-depth learning, it can also be overstimulating.
Be sure to balance your child’s learning with breaks and have conversations about expectations. Also, try to read your child’s emotions. Sometimes he or she will be ‘on’ and blow through assignments… and sometimes he or she will have ‘off’ days. And that’s okay. The most important thing is that you’re putting your child’s needs first and getting comfortable with setting your own boundaries, rules, and expectations for what will be achieved each day/week.
3. Make the learning fun
Learning doesn’t have to be repetitive assignments that feel exhausting and dry! Especially if you’re trying to balance learning at home, try, as much as you can, to add constructive games and activities that support learning (but don’t feel like work).
For example, you can practice multiplication and division facts with This Pokemon Game Set for both matching and memory. You can also use items like dice or coins to craft problems and real-life situations.
You can see a variety of pre-made activities, worksheets, and plans in my teaching shop.
Here’s an idea for a Math Dice Game:
4. Carve out time for breaks
Once you’ve set a routine for your school days, it’s even easier to carve out time for breaks. If you’re relying more heavily on technology, you’ll also want to give your child breaks off the screen, too, in order to reset and help his or her eye from fatiguing.
As you think about breaks, consult with your child and be open to compromises. If, for example, he or she wants to play video games, have that be a break that’s broken up into segments or at the end of the day for a final reward. Try to balance screen activities with walks, playdates, or outside/active play.
You can also add in simple breaks, for example, stretches or chores, to refocus attention and help reset before starting a new activity.
5. Seek support and use accommodations
If you’re teaching a child with learning disabilities, one of my first suggestions would be to solicit help from your community. Use your friends and other parents of students with disabilities to help you in your learning process. Talk to teachers (present and past) to gain insight about what works and what doesn’t. Seek help from a specialist or connect with experts to learn more about how you can support your child’s learning systems (ex: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.)
Remember: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for learning. And sometimes you’ll have a trial-and-error until you figure it all out. Be patient with yourself and your child. If something doesn’t seem like it’s working, try another approach. If your child struggles to read independently, find ways where he/she can read at his/her level, but be challenged to listen to other parts of the assignment being read aloud.
Also, use accommodations! These are tools and resources that make learning easier, for example, text-to-speech on the computer, a ‘fidget’ toy for children with ADHD to help focus, or even a comfortable chair to help stimulate good posture during the learning. These accommodations will help your child attend better and feel more confident.
6. Encourage reading for fun
Homeschool reading curriculum can (and should) be fun. If you’re basing your programs off of a school district, try to find ways to engage your child in preferred books or activities. One way to do this is to have your child do a book report on a story he or she finds interesting. This can be a supplement to a curriculum or even something that you can do together.
The point is to get your child excited—not only about learning and absorbing new material—but sharing with others and overcoming communication, speech, or even language barriers that he or she may face in learning.
Here is a templates to help you get started:
7. Keep records and track progress
No one knows what the future holds, especially with distance learning becoming more of the norm in schools around the country. If you’re worried about your child’s success (or even if you’re not!) something that’s helpful is keeping track of records and reports to show learning progress.
If your child has an IEP and goals, keeping records will be infinitely helpful for collaborating with his or her next teachers. It will also help you, as the homeschool teacher, to stay on track with what your child should be learning, as well as take some of the pressure off to ‘figure it all out.’ Records will also help you remember what you’ve covered and see both areas of strength and weakness to know what skills to revisit in the future.
Above all, remember this — homeschooling is hard — but you’re doing a great job! Showing up for your child, being an active participant in his or her learning, and continuing to grow together will make all the difference in his/her education (regardless of whether you’re on campus or at home)!
For more tips and parenting advice, head to our blog page.