Without warning or time to prepare, millions of parents are now homeschooling their children for the first time thanks to the novel coronavirus. While the COVID-19 situation is unprecedented, there’s nothing inherently new about school at home. Thousands of families do it every day, but for those parents who find themselves in the difficult position of suddenly having to transition from their kids going to school each day to not being able to leave the house, these tips can help.
1. Expect a lot of emotions. It’s okay to be angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, excited, nervous, and more while homeschooling. Because we didn’t choose this current situation, parents may feel unprepared and overwhelmed. Some may feel they’ve already blown it. Take a deep breath. You won’t ruin your children. Accept that chaotic, stressful moments will happen, but embrace them — they’ll make for great stories later.
2. Recognize you are enough. The most important qualification for succeeding at homeschooling is your willingness to do it, and loving your kids enough that you’re willing to do it. Don’t worry if you feel rusty in algebra or you don’t speak a second language. There are countless online resources — many even free or easier to access during this crisis — that can fill in any gaps. And enjoy the chance to learn alongside your kids. When they see your sense of wonder when you finally grasp that geometry concept, it will be way more contagious than an expertly delivered lesson. Let them see you search for answers and they will model you.
3. Own the experience. No matter how long this homeschooling experience lasts, families can make it fun by personalizing it. Perhaps you can name your family school, create a mascot and even choose school colors. Set a few rules that will help your school run effectively. Other families write down their vision, answering the question “What do we want to accomplish while the kids are at home?”
4. Find a rhythm. Some kids may like knowing that math happens at 8:30am sharp, while others may work better just knowing that after breakfast they read three short books, then do a few worksheets, followed by recess and lunch without specific times attached. If you’ve trying to manage schedules for several children at different stages, and maybe only one computer, try working on things where everyone can contribute, but on their own level. For example, try reading a science book and ask kindergarten-level questions and fifth-grade questions. Working on math? Get out a Lego set and let the toddler count the blocks while the elementary-age kids do their multiplication worksheets.
5. If you are also working from home, make a schedule. A daily calendar with color-coded times can signal to kids when you’re available to help and when they need to work independently. At the end of each day, talk about the highs and lows and adjust as needed. No matter your type of schedule, plan in daily brain and activity breaks, as well as things to look forward to each day and at the end of the week.
6. Be flexible. If you have more than one child, try not to compare siblings to each other, even if they are similar in age. Some kids like being timed to see how fast they can complete assignments, while others bristle at feeling rushed. Some kids are intensely self-motivated, while others may need consistent monitoring and ongoing encouragement. Remember to meet individual needs.
7. It’s about the relationship. Homeschooling is more of a parenting issue than an education issue; the relationships come first, and assignments second. Especially now, when things are uncertain and kids may feel anxious, becoming a drill sergeant about homework and rigidly enforcing rules can make kids despise their own education and may even strain family relationships. When your kids go back to school, you want the relationships to have changed for the better.
8. Help your kids find their passions. During your parent/child time, ask your child what excites and delights them? What would they like to know more about? Although this pandemic situation is stressful and difficult, it’s a unique opportunity where kids have large blocks of time to explore and learn, and parents can help spark a love of learning for learning’s sake — not just a grade. Does your child love animals? Look up documentaries on lions or pandas, read books about penguins and then ask them to do a presentation to the family. If they’re younger, have them draw pictures and tell a story, while older kids can write a paper or design a PowerPoint presentation — all important educational skills.
9. Hire some help. Boston Tutoring Services has tutors who can work with you remotely to assess your child’s needs, develop curriculum, gather materials, and provide structure. We work with students in grades K-12, as well as college students, and students within this grade spectrum will have very different needs. Young children need hands-on, versatile activities, and guidance on the appropriate order in which to introduce them. Older students need content knowledge, resources, and structure. Our tutors can meet with you online and discuss your child’s individual needs. It can be overwhelming for you to try to provide guidelines and structure, and to know which materials your child could be using and which activities you could do. We can help you develop a long-term curriculum to continue out the rest of the school year, and everything we do is personalized. Our tutors are classroom teachers who are here to help.
Above all else, we want parents to see joy in their kids. They can still be self-motivated kids who want to grow, learn, research, and explore the world, even during these tough times.
Boston Tutoring Services