We are living in uncertain times. There’s no questioning that. With jobs shifting to remote work and schools closing with no set re-open dates, families are faced with many obstacles—many they feel completely unprepared for. Suddenly, parents are asked to juggle supporting a household, creating daily routines, and providing an education. It’s overwhelming, and for some, downright scary. But for all the parents navigating online learning right now—please know you’re not alone.
As an educator, tutor, and fellow mama myself, I know that we’re in this crazy mess together. Here are some tips that have helped me, and can hopefully help you in your in-home education journey.
1. Don’t Carry the World on Your Shoulders
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this new normal, it’s that you can’t shoulder the full responsibility. Just because school is out right now doesn’t mean it’s your job, as a mother or father, to educate your child in every single subject. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you should make yourself available 24/7. In this new way of living, it’s impossible to be everything. So please, take it easy on yourself.
Rather than trying to do everything at once, create a list of the most important things you want to do each day or week. Perhaps it’s starting with contacting your child’s teacher(s) and asking for a list of enrichment assignments or looking at the district’s website for supplementary resources. Maybe it’s thumbing through your child’s math notebook to create practice problems. Or maybe it’s taking the time to experiment with an online program or class to see if it could be the right fit for your child.
There’s no wasted time right now.
Even if it feels like the days are flying by, your child(ren) will not be at a detriment with a few days or even weeks off of school. Try not to panic. Your kids will pick up on your energy, so if you’re stressed about them falling behind, they’ll feel that unconscious pressure. Instead, try to encourage your children that this is time to ‘reset’ the brain and become more resilient. And in the meantime, take a deep breath!
2. Create a Loose Schedule to Structure Your Time
Children (even older children!) thrive on routines. The structure, the normalcy, and the dependability of a set schedule will help your child(ren) to feel the order of their regular life, even in these uncertain times. While you don’t have to incorporate an all-day schedule or one that’s fully immersive, a loose plan will help everyone feel more prepared.
Here’s an idea for a daily breakdown:
Note how academic time, although significant, isn’t the entirety of the child’s day. This is especially true for elementary school students who should really only have 2 hours of direct instruction per day. Also, notice how breaks are incorporated to help students with their self-regulation and independent play.
To help you schedule, you may want to invest in a good planner, calendar, or lesson plan book. There are so many options out there, but here are a few of my favorites:
- This old-school planner with a no-fuss cover that gives it a ‘regular book’ appearance. (not pictured)
- These bright and floral-decorated ‘Teacher Planner’ or ‘Prepared to be Schooled’ planning books.
As you plan your days, be sure to add breaks to your schedule. ‘Breaks’ might look like pockets of time during sessions where kids can mentally reset, or it may look like transitions between subjects. You’ll also want to add breaks in the day for independent play (without parent involvement), creative play (off screens), screen time, and outside play or walks.
3. Try to Build a Positive Workspace
The hardest part for parents navigating online learning, in my opinion, is shifting from a home to a ‘school.’ But honestly, our children are more adaptable and flexible than we realize. One of the key components to an *easier* transition is building a positive learning environment.
Sometimes these *good feelings* around school can be made by creating a schedule, so that your child knows what to expect. Sometimes it’s more about the conversations you have leading up to starting. Kids are little sponges; they absorb quite a lot, so it’s really important to keep them in the loop. Blind-sighting your child with homeschool may not be the best approach.
It’s also helpful to remove distraction from the physical workspace, especially if your child struggles with special needs, attention issues, or struggles to stay focused. Before you even begin teaching, get rid of anything in the space that could be distracting. You’ll only need teaching materials, writing utensils, and a water bottle.
4. Tackle the Enrichment First
As a parent-turned-homeschool-teacher, you aren’t expected to be well-versed in your child’s curriculum, especially at the start. Rather than stressing over teaching him/her new material, start with enrichment. Enrichment is content that your child has already learned that you’re implementing as a refresher.
The easiest way to do this is to look back through your child’s homework assignments and projects. If you see a math test, for example, create a worksheet with problems (typed or handwritten) that your child missed. Then you can sit down with him/her and correct them together.
Another idea is to look at a project that your child recently completed. Have him/her pick a different angle on the project and re-create it in a new way or with a new medium. While you may get a little pushback on this one (“But I already did this!), you can use this as an opportunity to teach your child different expectations, perspectives, and the importance of depth-knowledge on a subject to prove understanding.
5. Tap Into Free Online Resources & Supports
There are so many online resources right now! We are all in this together and navigating new territory, so please don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out to people!
Here are a few resources for home learning to help you get started:
- Google Classroom: This is an excellent resource if you want to *legitimize* your homeschool experience. With this platform, you’re able to create different classes and upload resources and materials at your convenience. For working parents, this can be so helpful because your child can have time during the day for independent work that he/she accesses without your help! [Here’s a comprehensive guide for using Google Classroom]
- Zoom: This is a great video platform that can help your child connect to remote family members, friends, and even teachers. It’s simple to set up and navigate. It also allows for screen-sharing and annotating right on the platform itself. [Here are some tips for using Zoom]
- BoClips: This is a video interface that has lessons from teachers of all subjects and grades. Their library also includes video integration ideas, resources for differentiated instruction (for parents teaching multiple kids), and training videos, too!
- SmartLab: This is a comprehensive resource that helps K-12 students gain free access to labs and STEM activities/lessons for 8 weeks. All you have to do is fill out their form when you sign up and you’ll have access to the portal.
- Edulastic: This is an amazing K-12 testing/assessment toolbox that offers pre-made tests and quizzes or the ability to create your own. For parents just starting out, this is a great and comprehensive way to measure your child’s success.
- TeachersPayTeachers: As a licensed teacher, I have a wealth of resources (for very low prices and even free!) online for anyone to access. It’s my passion and goal, especially during this time, to help students and parents learn at home. [You can see all my resources in my TPT store]
These are just a few resources; you can find more on the Education Page. As you navigate your home learning, please don’t hesitate to connect with us.
We’re all in this together.
Featured Image Credit: John Mark Smith