Just over 3 percent of school-aged children were homeschooled in America last year, but thanks to COVID-19 that percentage has drastically increased.
With social distancing and schools closing through the end of the academic year, millions of households are scrambling to figure out how to keep up with learning at home while balancing work and family time. If you find yourself struggling with the idea of needing to settle in for another couple months of pandemic-inspired in-home learning, you are not alone. Here are four tips from a seasoned elementary school educator turned homeschooling mom (that’s me) to help.
Create a Routine
Building a routine will set a solid foundation for your in-home learning, creating a sense of predictability, safety, and fun. Make a list of things you want to happen each week, and put those weekly (sometimes daily) rituals on your learning calendar right off the bat.
Set an ‘order of operations’ for the day with goal times for meals, work and play. Allow for flexibility and consider incorporating a morning (or evening) meeting to do a family check-in. This can be as simple as opening with, “How are you doing?” Or, “Is there anything you’d like to share with the family before we start our first lesson?”
Make it Child-Led
Children are more likely to commit to a routine if they have a part in creating it. Together, come up with a plan and allow each child to have a say in what they are learning, and how they learn. Depending on the child, they may prefer to read, listen, work with music or do something hands-on. Figuring out your child’s preferred learning style will be useful in planning learning activities that are highly engaging and impactful.
Choose Topics That Motivate Your Child
Talk to your kids about what they want to learn about, and lean into that, even if it falls outside the scope of traditional schooling standards or the curriculum your school might have sent to support your in-home learning. These lesson plans are meant to guide and support you, not limit you.
Try it!!! Take a deep dive into a topic, any topic, that your child is excited about and turn it into a learning experience.
For example, perhaps your child is interested in flowers. Using this as a jumping point, you could pull in math, science, writing and reading by doing any number of the following activities: measure flowers, compare and contrast flower shapes and sizes, experiment with composting, investigate how flowers grow, call family members and make a chart of their favorite flowers, study artwork on flowers, make flower patterns, compare prices of flower arrangements online, write an argumentative essay on which flower is best, write letters with dried flowers and send them to loved ones, and the list goes on.
When children participate in shaping and planning their learning, they tend to cultivate social, emotional, and cognitive learning skills that meet standards far above their grade level. So as you begin a new lesson plan on math, or reading and writing this week, start by asking your child for input. Their ideas just may surprise you!
Encourage Social and Emotional Skills
In uncertain times like this, the most important thing we can do for our kids is to help them feel safe and connected. So as you plan your school week at home, remember to work in time for social and emotional learning and connection. These seemingly “playtime” type activities like playing cards, building a puzzle or taking a walk together are just as important as standard-based learning.
Consider the activities your family enjoys or perhaps “needs” most, and then set aside time for these activities. Make puzzles, coloring, or streaming music a part of your daily routine. Here are five creative resources to help you bring social and emotional learning to your in-home lesson plans:
- Online Yoga: Join Jaime for a Cosmic Kids yoga adventure.
- Doodle Sessions: Learn to doodle and tell stories with Mo Willems.
- Feelings Bingo: Practice naming and sharing your feelings: happy, sad, calm, and mad.
- Save With Stories: Enjoy children’s stories read by celebrities, and raise funds for kids.
- Free Social-Emotional Learning Tools: Printables, storytime, and videos.
Transitioning to in-home learning for the remainder of the school year may feel like an overwhelming undertaking, but just like your child, you are learning. Embracing this “new norm” will take time for everyone. Do your best to enjoy the process, and remember, this isn’t about creating a perfect in-home learning environment, but rather, a present one. You are enough, and every attempt you make to connect with your children and to help them feel safe is the greatest teaching of all.