I’ve been avoiding publishing my writing for quite a while now, but I realize now that it’s time to break the silence. At some point, I will share the reason for my long absence, but now is not the time. I have something far more important to share today.
I have been staying off social media for the most part, but recent events have brought me back to browsing it daily. Now is the time to check on friends and family from afar, after all. The memes are hilarious, but the struggle is real. Many parents have no choice but to stay home and spend time with their kids who are now out of school. Many areas are requiring online learning until we no longer have to practice social distancing to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Fellow parents, welcome to my world!
I have been homeschooling my son for a little over three years. Technically, it’s online learning and not considered homeschool, but the concept is the same. My son is enrolled at an online public charter school. He has teachers that instruct him, but I am his learning coach. Every day, I take on the role of a teacher, administrator, lunch lady… You get the idea.
Just like many of you, we started online learning in the midst of a disaster. Soon after my son was enrolled in his new school, we were hit by a hurricane. His school materials were out for delivery when the evacuation order came down. The delivery truck had to turn around and we were stuck without some necessary materials. Power and internet concerns didn’t help matters. We started out a week behind and had to play catch up. I’ll be honest. I was really stressed out. Thankfully, the teachers worked with us, and we did get caught up.
My goal today is to give a few tips and tricks to get through the new reality for parents that have found themselves struggling in their new roles as teachers and learning coaches themselves.
- Create a work space. The wonderful thing about doing school at home is that your child doesn’t have to be stuck at a desk all day. It’s okay to do homework on the bed, on the patio, or at the kitchen table. But, having a quiet space dedicated to school work is important sometimes, too. For instance, studying in their room might have a lot of distractions that aren’t conducive to focusing on their work.
- It’s okay to take a break. Too much stress can have a negative effect on learning. It’s like a wall gets put up and new information just can’t get through. If your child gets frustrated, move on to another subject. Better yet, move on to gym class. Physical Education time must be documented with my son’s school. Any organized physical activity together counts. Take a walk together. Play a game of catch. Do anything that is fun and gives them a little exercise and takes their mind off of school for a while. When they come back to the activity that was frustrating them with fresh eyes, they can usually resolve the trouble they were having a little easier.
- Have patience, and remember that it’s okay for parents to take a break, too. If you’re stressed, your child will see and feel that. That’s a really good reason for you to take that gym class break with your kids.
- Teach them real world lessons. Don’t just stick solely to the curriculum your school provides. This is a valuable opportunity to teach your kids real world skills. Get those old grocery store receipts out of the trash. They are a good lesson in addition, subtraction (coupons and sales), multiplication (multiple items), and percentages (tax).
- More real world lessons and skills. Bring your kids in the kitchen with you. Pick out a recipe and make it. This is a lesson in both science and math. For instance, baking involves chemistry, and measuring cups and spoons are a huge help in understanding fractions.
- Did I mention real world lessons? How about teaching them to sew a button or plant a garden? Now is a great time to teach them how to do laundry or sweep the floor. At this point, it’s a really good idea to teach them how to clean properly anyway, don’t you think?
- Keep a schedule. I know it doesn’t seem fair that we suddenly have to play teacher or even cruise director, but the situation is what it is. Your kids are accustomed to having a regimented and organized schedule five days a week. Now, they’re stuck at home in a very chaotic and scary time. Keeping to a schedule helps. I’m not saying you always have to stick to a schedule for every moment of the day. See numbers 2 and 3. I’m just saying that your kids just might need some added stability to help them get through this with you.
- Read. Whether they are reading on their own, or you are reading to them, never underestimate the power of quiet reading time. Amazon has a huge selection of ebooks available on Kindle, which is a free download on your computer or tablet. You don’t need to purchase a special ebook reader. Their ebooks are searchable by age range. You can also do a Google search for recommended reading by grade level. Many ebooks are free with Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited and only 99 cents without buying a membership or subscription. There are also many online libraries such as Project Gutenburg at your disposal. A Google search can help you find those as well.
- Don’t forget about the “fun” subjects. Art and music are important, too. My son found a love for “vintage” music when I told him a lot of his favorite songs are covers for older, classic songs. He also tries to identify songs he hears on TV commercials and movies. You don’t have to have access to instruments or be able to carry a tune in order to teach music.
- Speaking of movies, you don’t have to resist the temptation to just sit them in front of a TV to occupy them. Documentaries and movies based on true stories or literary books are a good resource, too. For instance, what are they studying in history right now? I guarantee there is a film available for streaming or on demand that can supplement their learning on the topic. Once, my son was assigned to write a research paper based on anything he had learned so far in his history lessons during the current school year. He struggled, and I just couldn’t get him to write. We couldn’t even get started. So, we picked an area of interest and found a documentary on the subject. I think that was the easiest paper he’s ever written. The best part was that his research proved that something he learned from his teacher and history book was completely wrong. My son was downright gleeful at that prospect. I’m proud to say he got an A on that paper. I was nervous about that one…
- Utilize your resources. Look, I’m pretty good with math. However, I had to learn it all over again to be able to help my son with the new math they’re teaching the kids these days. Much to my dismay, the new math my son learned in elementary grades is worthless once they get into middle school. That was frustrating on so many levels, but it is what it is. They still have to learn the new math anyway. Google was a life saver, but YouTube was probably my most valuable resource. Khan Academy was extremely helpful. They don’t just teach math, either. Tecmath was a fun resource for me as well. You can teach your kids some really cool math shortcuts that aren’t usually taught in schools.
I threw this post together rather quickly, so I’m sure I probably missed a few key tips. If you would like me to expand on any of the tips above or have a question about online learning and homeschool you would like to see answered in a future blog post, feel free to use the contact form or comment below and let me know what you would like to see. You can also contact me through Facebook. I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.