How to Take on Being a Parent and Home Educator
Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen countless memes and S.O.S. posts flooding social media about homeschooling. I have also had several parents reach out to me asking for advice on what to do.
All at once parents across the country have become child-care providers, teachers, and work-from-home employees; they are feeling overwhelmed. I am here to say, "you are completely right to be overwhelmed." I'm also here to say, "I can help!"
First, always remember that you are not alone. Try to model patience, empathy, and kindness. We should always model for our children how we want them to handle situations. Change is hard for everyone, but it is important to show your children how you can be resilient and kind to yourself. It's okay to admit that it's hard and everyone gets emotional at times.
Here's some tips on how to tackle homeschooling, virtual school, e-schooling, and our new normal:
Set a schedule
Children need routine and structure; they thrive on it. In a society that is changing daily we don't always know what to expect, this can be challenging for children to cope with. We can provide felt safety to them by making this new routine predictable. Print it out, have it available, and keep it consistent.
Some parents have stated "we have a schedule. We wake up at 7:30 just like before and we do schoolwork until 2:00 and it's not working." Yes, this is what parents are used to, but we did not witness everything that went into a child's school day:
Peer interactions, P.E. music, art, science experiments, quiet time, snack, lunch, recess, walking in between classes, saying the pledge, listening to morning announcements, etc. Your child has never done schoolwork for 7-8 hours straight, and we cannot expect them to start now.
How long a child can sit still and work continuously on school depends on their age, but even more so, each individual child's needs.
Be consistent but not rigid
You know that schedule that you just worked so hard on? It's not always going to go as planned. Avoid frustration by going into this with the mindset of "we may have to change this, and that's okay."
I am famous for setting high expectations, visualizing exactly how it's going to go, and then getting super frustrated when one thing goes "wrong." Was it actually wrong or was it just different than what I had planned?
This is the new normal for all of us. There will be tech issues; there will be miscommunications; there will be flaws in your schedule; there will be children who didn't think that "super cool experiment" you stayed up all night researching, was that awesome after all. This is a learning experience and we can modify as we go.
Include many breaks!
This does not mean unstructured breaks or free-for-alls. Allowing for too much unstructured time will make it difficult to reign the kids back in when it's time to do work.
Some of you are also working full time jobs from home. In order for you to get work done, keep things smooth sailing, and stick to a schedule, breaks need to be planned.
Give kids a routine, but also provide an outlet for energy, both physical and emotional.
Breaks should include:
Meals- hungry kids are not happy kids
Rest- sleepy kids are REALLY unhappy kids
MOVEMENT- movement helps with memory, attention span, decision making, and regulation
Free play- with toys and NOT electronics! A child's natural form of communication is playing. With all the changes recently and separation from peers and family members, emotions are running high. Allow your child to work out their emotions through play, no matter what the emotion may be.
Family time- take advantage of your children being at home with you and try to make it positive. You may think "we are stuck at home together all day every day; they get time," but try to make it intentional, quality time.
Just because they are scheduled breaks does not mean you have to choose activities that require your full attention. This can also be a break for you, find some activities that children can do independently.
Provide your child with a space, like their classroom, where they can get in the correct mindset to do work. If they are used to always having their room for playing and their room is full of toys and distractions, this likely will not be a beneficial work environment.
Help to create a special space for them and include all the supplies they will need for learning. Allow their input for this space as well, this will help them to become excited to work.
Eliminate as many distractions as possible.
At school our children are used to getting help. If they have a question, they raise their hand and a teacher is there to assist them. You are now that person. It can become overwhelming because most of you are also working from home, but it is SO important for our children to know they are not alone and that we will set aside time to help them. Do not leave them helpless. Have patience. Yes, they are interrupting your work, and it may mean it will take longer for you to get your work done, but to avoid behavioral issues we must address our children's needs. There will be times you just cannot be available- conference calls, meetings, deadlines, etc.- this is when we schedule breaks, tag team with our partner, shift schedules so education is after work hours/work hours are now in the evening, or establish a system with our child so they can move on and get our help on that assignment later.
Don't be afraid to listen to your child's body and be aware of what they are verbally and non-verbally telling you.
We don't want children to manipulate their way out of work, but we also don't want to set unobtainable expectations.
We've already established that a child is not going to sit still for 7 hours. Watch their body, be aware of when you need a scheduled break.
Listen to their words. "This is stupid" "I hate this" "I'm not doing it" "You can't make me."
What are they really saying? Is it too difficult? Do they need help? Do they miss their friends and teacher? Are they hungry? How'd they sleep last night? Is it time for a scheduled break?
As long as your child gets done what needs to get done, does it really matter how they get there? This does NOT mean start bribing but support your child's needs.
Don't Confine Learning
Teachers have worked so hard to produce an online curriculum for our children and there are specific assignments that must be completed, but do not be afraid to modify when you are able to.
Go outside, do experiments, work on art projects, read a book of choice, research new topics, cook. Let the child plan a lesson to teach siblings or parents
Embrace creativity, target the specific child's interests, and EMPOWER them. Give them back some of the control; we all feel so powerless right now.
Modify to meet the child's needs
Not all children learn the same way. This is true in the classroom and at home. Teachers work very hard in the classroom to meet each child's needs and provide multiple ways to learn. This is more difficult for a teacher to do when supplying online learning material for all students. Not to mention virtual learning in general may not be the best technique for your child.
Talk to your child and include them in deciding what works best for them.
Watch them. When they're playing how do they teach others? Our natural way of teaching is also our natural way of learning. If they need to do a cartwheel after every math problem, let them. If they need to use goldfish snacks to help them count or add, go for it!
Ways to modify:
Print off the work and have them complete it on paper and then enter in the answers for them or upload their work (many kids aren't used to working virtually, plus it will reduce screen time!)
Record you reading the material the night before so they can listen to it the next day (auditory learners)
Go outside and use sidewalk chalk
Invest in a dry erase board
Have them teach a younger sibling
Create a classroom of toys for them to instruct
Make a dance or cheer
Create a song or rhyme
Make real life examples or movie references they can relate to
Give them something to chew on or fidget with
Many of you are faced with the additional struggle of having multiple children in different grades with different curriculum. The good news is you can keep everyone on the same skeletal schedule. Keep the bones but modify the content. The older the child is, the more independent they will be, and they can determine what they need.
Don't set yourself or your children up for failure; be realistic in your expectations and goals.
Be forgiving. Forgive yourself, forgive your children, forgive the teachers, and forgive these new rules. This is a learning process, new normal's are never easy.
You can only control what is in your control.
Do what works best for you and your family.