Many parents are now faced with the task of filling the role of teacher and caretaker all at once. It’s a big shift for both parents and children, and here is what one homeschool teacher recommends: Understand that homeschooling is a spectrum, says Chris Wasko, adding, “People fall into their spots gradually as they find what works for their families.” The best approach, she explains, is the one that gives your kids and yourself a break.
We added a resource list onto Wasko’s advice for anyone looking for curriculums, project ideas, virtual field trips, educational games, and other fun activities to do with kids at home.
Navigating Life as a Homeschooling Parent
By Chris Wasko
As we experience the current changes in daily life, one change that is hitting many is the shift to homeschooling. Parents are learning to adjust to their new normal as homeschoolers. One important and neglected aspect is the emotional element that accompanies this lifestyle. Seasoned homeschooling parents experience these nuances after every summer break, school holiday, and throughout the school year. It is a process. As you embark on this journey, let me ease some worries and fears with a few tips I have learned through trial and error over the past seven years as a homeschooling mom.
1. Have a designated area for schoolwork.
Choose a place in your home where your child can sit and focus. If it is away from distractions, like toys and electronics, your child has a better chance of staying on task. When home has been for having fun, relaxing, and eating and it now shifts to work, the designated space is essential.
2. Create a schedule that works for your family.
My ideal day consists of an early wake up so that I can meditate, do some yoga, and sip green juice while I sort through emails and plan out daily work and activities before everyone is awake. In reality, one of my kids (currently my eight-year-old) wakes me up sometime after sunrise asking when breakfast will be ready. Find your normal. My normal is making sure everyone is dressed and fed and that teeth are brushed, beds are made, and books are ready.
3. Develop consistency.
Many schools are utilizing Zoom as the online platform to help keep kids on task. This will help you stay on a schedule. If you have more flexibility with your day, I recommend working on the more difficult subjects first, when kids are more alert. Try to keep your subjects in the same order each day (if possible) because kids will know what is coming. It makes things easier.
4. Breaks are necessary.
Kids do not sit at their desks all day at school. They have snack time, recess, and lunch, and they change between classes or subjects. Allow this time in your day and try not to rush through the work just for the sake of finishing. This does not benefit you or your child. It causes stress. If you notice your child is losing focus, that is okay. Take a break, walk around, go outside, have a snack, or change to a different subject.
5. No phones or social media during class time, for both kids and parents.
This is important because distractions take important time from the school day. Model the behavior you want your child’s teacher to exhibit. If your child acts up in class, and you find out it is because the teacher was too distracted with their phone to focus on teaching, would you blame your child or the teacher? Think of this if you are tempted to scroll through your phone and save it for break time.
6. Have compassion for your child.
We all know that each child is different, and we should understand this adjustment period is difficult on them, too. They will miss their friends, their teachers, and the normalcy of school. If they exhibit behaviors of frustration, show them love and compassion, and listen to them. We often talk to our children, but how often do we actually listen?
7. Parents need self-care, too.
Make sure you create time for yourself. Exercise, call a friend, take a bath, or read a book. Whatever makes you happy, do your best to create the time and space to do it.
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8. Allow yourself and your child some grace.
This is brand-new to many, and it will take time. Try not to think about the end of the week or the next week. Start with today, and then take the next as it comes. Many homeschooling parents always say we have to think about this year because we do not know what the next one will bring. Under the current circumstances, we compound it to days.
9. Sleep is essential.
Getting a good night’s sleep is often overlooked. Why? When you homeschool, your life is centered around your children. Many hours of precious alone time happen at night, and some of us run with this freedom with reckless abandon. When you have limited sleep and are cranky the next day, everyone suffers. A cranky homeschooling parent does no one any good. You know how much sleep you need, so get it.
10. Reach out to others.
We are not in this alone, and it is important to support and love one another through this time. Be a friend and a cheerleader and exchange ideas. There are things that work for some and not others, so it is good to hear different tactics.
This is overwhelming in the beginning. I remember wondering how I would succeed as a homeschool teacher without a teaching degree. It is important to remember that while you may not be an expert in education, you are an expert on your child. Now you can learn more about them as a student. I made it a point to identify my kids’ learning styles, and homeschooling was much easier because of it. For example, my ten-year-old is a visual learner and benefits from more than just reading about a subject. He may need flash cards or a follow-up YouTube video describing a lesson. Whereas his older brother will read something once and it’s locked in. Recognize that each child is different, and explore their strengths as a learner.
Is there a subject you wish your child had more exposure to in school? This is the perfect time to explore it. Teach your child how to budget, code, or write in cursive or teach them what it takes to buy a house or a car and about home economics. Life skills are best taught at home, and now is the perfect opportunity to focus on them.
Chris Wasko is a homeschool teacher to four children from ages six to thirteen and lives in Orange County, California.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR PARENTS AND KIDS
Curriculums (recommended by Wasko):
- Mystery Science, for a starter list of kindergarten through fifth grade science lessons.
- Prodigy, for first through eighth grade math lessons built into an interactive battle-style game.
- Reading Eggs, for a homeschool reading curriculum with online reading lessons.
- ABCmouse.com, for a full, online curriculum for kids between two and eight years old.
- Khan Academy Kids, for free lessons divided by grade levels and subjects.
- Online G3, for classes geared toward accelerated learners.
- Savethechildren.org, for tools and tips specific to COVID-19, plus weekly learning activities organized by age.
- Scholastic Learn at Home, for a twenty-day plan with daily projects during school closures.
- PBS SoCal At-Home Learning, for at-home learning tips and pre-K to twelfth grade programming and activities.
Virtual field trips:
- WebExhibits, for an online interactive museum that covers science, the humanities, and culture.
- The Boston Children’s Museum, the Louvre, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and many other museums, for virtual tours and online kid-friendly activities.
- The Georgia and Monterey Bay Aquariums, the San Diego Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, and the Houston Zoo, for live animal cams.
- Yellowstone National Park and the Great Wall of China, for virtual field trips.
- Arcademics, for free, multiplayer educational games for kindergarten through eighth grade students.
- National Geographic Kids, for online games, science experiments, and quizzes.
- All Kids Network, for free worksheets and printable crafts, activities, and mazes
- Erb’s Palsy, for detailed information about types, causes, risks factors, signs, symptoms and treatment of Erb’s Palsy (or brachial plexus palsy).
- Audible, for hundreds of audiobooks that have now been made free for newborns through eighteen-year-olds (you don’t need to be a member or log in for access)
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