In the fall of 2020, everyone who is going into their first home-bound “Back to School” experience may feel a bit overwhelmed by long months ahead. Homeschooling isn’t easy, especially for working parents. Even with a few months of experience behind us, there is still a lot to adjust to the “new normal”. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make your homeschooling experience more manageable.
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20. Make Learning Fun
For some parents, this point might seem obvious. But it can never be overstated that learning needs to be fun. While teaching kids from home, they are probably thinking more about their video games in the next room than the lesson in front of them. With so many distractions, it’s absolutely necessary to grab their attention by making learning fun. Information that children learn when they’re having fun is bound to stick in their minds more so than others. If you’re not sure how to make a lesson more fun, do a quick search on Facebook groups and Pinterest.
19. Give Your Child a Space of Their Own
When your child goes to school, they have their own desk, locker, or cubby to store their belongings. Even in High School and college, most kids tend to gravitate to the desk they have claimed as their own. Having this consistent, reliable work space is crucial for getting comfortable and concentrating on school. Depending on your living situation, it might not be possible to give your children an entire room as a homeschooling space. However, the internet is filled with images of parents sharing their creative solutions to giving their children a place of their own to work. For example, many parents have purchased desks and set them up in their child’s bedroom. Others have transformed their living room into a co-working office space where the desks are arranged in every corner.
18. Ask Your Kids What Would Make Learning Easier
As adults, we try to keep everything together. But in this strange time, no one really knows what to expect, especially if you have no experience teaching. Instead of telling your kids what they “should” be doing to learn, take a moment to ask them if there’s anything that would help. Everyone has a different learning style; visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. (If you’re unfamiliar with learning styles, take a minute to read this article.) For example, my younger brother was a computer science major in college. He felt that it was a lot easier to work out mathematical equations on a dry erase board. It helped him so much that he would reserve spots in library conference rooms and empty classrooms. Eventually, I bought a large dry erase board as a gift to help him study. This wasn’t too expensive, and it helped him get straight A’s. Now, he even works as a part-time professor. (Go figure).
17. Embrace Their Interests
Some of the most exclusive prep schools in the world have programs where children are encouraged to focus on their natural talents. For the first time in their young lives, your children might actually be able to focus on the topics that interest them the most, rather than worrying too much about what their peers or teachers are telling them. While it’s still important to get good grades in every single subject, try to pay attention to the places where your kids really flourish. Their natural curiosity and talent in a certain subject should give you a good idea of what they would like to do in the future. The earlier you can pick up on these traits, and help encourage them to follow their dreams, the more successful they will be.
16. Stick to a Schedule
Many students are required to take roll for their online learning, but there are some homeschooling programs that are more flexible with scheduling. If you happen to be in the latter category, I strongly suggest that you still stick to a schedule. Teaching your kids to wake up on time and show up to class is giving them structure that will help give them a sense of security and predictability. It also helps them to become responsible adults when they are old enough to go to a real job. As tempting as it may seem to sleep in late and let your kids have the freedom to work when they want, having a schedule really does make a huge difference in productivity.
15. Keep in Touch With The Teacher
If your children are doing an online program that is affiliated with your local school system, it’s still possible for you to speak with their teachers. Only now, instead of going to parent-teacher conferences, you’re going to send an email or give them a phone call. If your children are struggling with anything, don’t hesitate to communicate with their teacher. They are still going through the motions of figuring out how to teach online, and may not be aware of any potential issues. Work together with the teachers to find solutions to helping your child succeed.
14. Teach Life Skills
One of the biggest criticisms that Millennials received in the past is the fact that a lot of us grew up without many “adulting” skills. This was probably because we were raised in a society that taught us that academics were the most important thing in life, and we could always hire someone else to do things for us once we had a college degree and a great job. However, there are plenty of valuable life skills like cooking, cleaning, and repairing that our previous generations took for granted. Focus on the life skills you are particularly great at, and help pass down your best qualities to your kids.
13. If Necessary, Hire a Tutor
One of the major downsides to homeschooling is that it can be difficult to teach your kids everything they need to know. For many of us, it has been years since we graduated High School or college. So the idea of being asked to answer your kid’s questions about complex mathematical equations is a nightmare. We already mentioned keeping in touch with the teacher. But with 30 kids in the average classroom, they probably can’t help everyone on a daily basis. If your child is struggling, consider hiring an online tutor.
12. Celebrate the Milestones
However, just because time is slipping away doesn’t mean you should let the important dates pass you by. Make sure you celebrate the first day of school, start of spring break, graduation and more. Time is going by very quickly during the pandemic, and many of us tend to forget the day of the week.
11. Plan Your Own Educational Field Trips
In elementary school, children typically get to go on at least one field trip every year. They might miss out on the experience of going somewhere with their friends, but you can still find educational field trips of your own. Homeschooling parents have been doing their own field trips for years. Museums and historic landmarks are most likely closed when cases are high in your local area but there are plenty of museums that are offering free online tours. Some museums will also allow you to go as long as you book your spots in advance. You might also be able to visit the zoo with a picnic lunch, or find another outdoor educational activity in your local area.
10. Check Out Free Online Programs and Youtube Channels
There is never a good time to schedule a global pandemic, but we are actually incredibly lucky that it happened when we have the internet. YouTube has an abundance of educational channels like Scishow, Biographics, TodayIFoundOut, and Puppet History. There are also popular websites like Khan Academy, which teaches kids how to code for free. Then, of course, there are paid programs like Rosetta Stone and Master Class. Look online for some options, and you’ll be shocked to see how much free content is truly out there.
9. Forgive Yourself (And Your Kids) For Needing Time to Adjust
If you have a type 1 personality, you are probably harsh on both yourself and your kids. However, trying to be perfect is exhausting. I know from personal experience what it feels like to beat myself up over not being “productive enough”, even though we’re going through a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. Whenever your kids are struggling with school, remind yourself that this too shall pass. Try your best to approach every situation with patience, kindness, and understanding.
8. Keep in Touch With Friends
One of the greatest benefits of sending your kids to school is the fact that they socialize with other children their age. It’s an amazing way to create friendships that may last a lifetime. During this difficult time, the only options a lot of kids have for socialization is with their own siblings or cousins. Some parents try out homeschooling in a bubble, but it’s rare for this to actually work out. Eventually, your kids will have to go back to interacting with kids outside of their family bubble. So make sure they get some time to communicate with their friends either through Facetime, texting, or even playing games online together.
7. Meal Prep
Being a parent was hard enough already before the pandemic began. Adding homeschooling to the mix only makes it exponentially more difficult. This is why it would be in your best interest to get into the habit of meal prepping. Invest in some high quality glass meal prep sets, and cook a meal ahead of time. Kids can even enjoy packing their lunch boxes, even if they’re just sitting on the back porch with a sandwich.
For low-income families, sending their kids to public school meant that they were able to take part in free breakfast and lunch programs. If you happen to be struggling putting food on the table, please consider checking out local meal service options. Many churches and state-run groups are receiving donations and working with volunteers to help bring meals to families in need.
6. Keep an Eye on School Supplies
Since many teachers provide free school supplies to children, parents often have no idea just how many things their kids need to learn. Sometimes, this can be expensive, especially if you have more than one child. Thankfully, there is a huge school supply section at Dollar Tree. Also check out their website to find items that might not be in your local area, and everything’s just $1.
5. Schedule a Recess
In elementary school, kids are given a break from academic work during recess. This helps children get their excess energy out, and it also keeps them healthy. Studies into covid-19 have shown that there is a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and people who have gotten sick. The easiest way to get vitamin D is by going outside and enjoying the sunshine for at least 20 minutes. So it’s in the best interest of both your kids and yourself to give everyone some time outdoors in the middle of the day.
4. Encourage Older Kids to Focus on College and Career Planning
During the pandemic, we have a totally new understanding of what it means to be an essential worker, and which jobs are considered valuable. If you have kids in high school or college, it’s very important to make sure your kids are still following their dreams, but they also need stable income. Try to give your kids time to study for the SATs, research colleges online, and put some serious thought into their futures. When I went to high school, I had an entire class dedicated to college prep. At the time, I took this for granted. The older I got, the more I understood that this was a huge privilege, and it made a massive difference in my success. It’s totally possible for you to replicate this experience with your kids, and help give them a leg up in life.
3. Reach Out to Parent Support Groups
Homeschooling can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. There are a lot of Facebook groups out there dedicated to helping moms and dads get through their homeschooling journey during the pandemic. If your local school doesn’t already have a group of its own, consider making one, and invite parents in your school district. On the other hand, you can also join a group you find through Facebook that’s full of strangers. The benefit of doing this is that you can feel free to vent frustrations or get honest advice without potentially upsetting people in your local area.
2. Utilize Your Library’s Online Resources
Slowly but surely, libraries are beginning to open again. We might not be allowed to sit inside and read a book, but there are still plenty of options for how we can take advantage of their free resources. Check out your local library’s policies. For example, my library allows you to reserve a book or DVD online or over the phone. A librarian will find it for you, and you pick it up at the front desk. Also check out their online e-book and audiobook options.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside of the Box
If your local public school is offering an educational program online, many parents might decide to stick with what has been given to them. However, if you think of a great idea that could help your kid excel in their education, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Check out Pinterest for fun games and activities that other parents are implementing during homeschool. There are also a lot of DIY homeschooling programs out there, if you want to give your kids an entirely different curriculum than what is offered at your public school.