Homeschool Teacher is a role many parents never thought they would play, but COVID-related school closures have many parents struggling to find the right path to educate their children at home. With countless apps, Pinterest, and schools providing a sea of choices, it can be easy for parents to feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start.
Here are a few guidelines to help you find a homeschooling path that’s right for your family.
It takes a village.
If your child is in school, including Pre-K, stay in touch with the teacher. Understand what the home learning expectations are, and use the teacher as a resource for activities you can do at home. Parents of other children in the class can also be a good source of information and moral support. If you haven’t already, trade contact information with other moms – you’ll appreciate having someone to lean on who is in the same boat with you.
Young children will have good days and bad days, just like the rest of us. Is your son or daughter having a meltdown over schoolwork? Put it aside and do something else. Even if your child is cooperative and studious about schoolwork, watch for signs of burnout. Have some fun or relaxing activities at the ready in case you need to switch gears. If a bad hour becomes a bad day, it’s okay to take the day off from schoolwork and start fresh the next day.
Focus on fundamentals.
Working on reading and math foundation skills is always a good idea, and they’re easy to practice at home. Flash cards are great for letter and number recognition, and for learning sight words (you can even practice with flash cards when your child is in the bathtub – you have a captive audience and there aren’t many distractions).
Remember that any moment can be a teachable moment. The kitchen is full of math practice opportunities (recipes, measurement, counting ingredients), and if you find any chance to read – take it! Read to your child, ask your child to read to you, read, read, read!
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Mix it up.
A commonly-used formula to determine a child’s attention span is to add two to their age (7 years old + 2 = 9 minutes). The younger a child is, the more variety they’ll need to hold their attention and continue learning. Keep this in mind when determining the age-appropriateness of what you’re asking your child to do. Expecting a six-year-old to sit at a computer for a half hour or more is unrealistic – you’ll both end up frustrated. Build in breaks, and make sure you have a mix of hands-on, online, and physical activities to keep her engaged.
Embrace the great outdoors.
If you have access to outdoor space, use it as much as you reasonably can. It’s important for kids to have time to explore, burn off energy, and take a break from formal instruction. What’s that bug? What can I pick from the garden? How far can I throw the ball? What shapes do I see in the clouds? It’s also okay to be outside and be bored. Boredom can be a great spark for creative thinking and exploration – excellent qualities for any critical thinker.
With some patience and flexibility, you can keep your children learning during these challenging times. Reach out when you need resources or support, and remember that you’re not alone.
Emily Levitt is the vice president of education at Sylvan Learning, where she supports the highest quality in instruction so all students can achieve their potential. Emily has been an educator for 25 years, starting as a middle school English teacher in Howard County, Maryland. She has worked in the education technology realm as an advocate for students and teachers to ensure that technology fulfills its educational promise.