I’ll bet you didn’t see this coming when you put your kids on the bus in the fall! Our regular school routines have been upended and we find ourselves adjusting to the new normal of supervising our kids’ education at home. I’ve heard many panicked comments like, “I don’t want my child to fall behind!” or “How am I supposed to accomplish all this while trying to work from home?” and “What resources am I supposed to be using to supplement their distance learning?”
I’m a licensed English teacher in MN for grades 7-12 and I’ve been homeschooling for 4 years. If you have any of these concerns, take it from me – you’re going to be okay. I know it feels crazy right now; I know it feels impossible, and I know you have more questions than answers. I was there too when I first started teaching my kids at home. Listen to me and believe it – you’re going to be okay.
Let’s tackle a few of these concerns head-on and hopefully in a few minutes you’ll breathe a little more deeply.
Concern 1: I don’t want my child to fall behind.
I absolutely hear you. Schools have very specific timelines for hitting milestones. Schooling right now will be more fluid. Also keep in mind we are living through a pandemic. Depending on what’s in the news and what’s happening in your community or even your home, your child’s learning will be affected by it on any given day.
Take heart knowing that every child in this country is experiencing this right along with your children. When next school year begins, all of these kids will likely have some catching up to do. That’s fine. Their teachers know it and are working very hard to provide instruction as best as they are able in order to keep your children moving forward. Just keep presenting your child with learning opportunities and they will grow during this time. A teacher friend of mine recommends, “If you do absolutely nothing else, READ. READ, READ, READ, READ, READ. Read to your child. Read with your child. Let your child read to you. There is no greater predictor of academic achievement. READ.”
I know some of you are raising kids who get a lot of extra support at schools for a variety of learning challenges. I’m sure it’s intimidating right now to think about all the interventions and therapies they may be missing during this time of distance learning. Please know their teachers are wondering and worrying about this too. Keep communicating and working with their teachers and specialists at the school and do your best. Your best might look different from day to day because, as I said before, we are living through a pandemic! If you don’t get every item on the list checked each day, that’s alright. Give yourself grace.
Concern 2: How am I supposed to accomplish all this while I’m trying to work from home?
Uff, this can be super challenging. I have a small work from home job and I struggle to find the time to do even that. I encourage you to set up a loose schedule to guide you. Find a time each day to do school, then stick to it. I’m not talking about a specific time, like “From 9:05-10:40” kind of thing. If it’s too rigid, you might drive yourself crazy trying to keep this schedule with all the variables you’ll encounter each day.
I recommend something more like, “We do school in the morning after breakfast.” Be consistent with a timeframe, not a specific time. This consistency will help your child know what to expect yet allow you the flexibility necessary when doing school (and work!) at home.
Identify which types of activities your child can do alone so you can have some time to work. Maybe your kid is motivated by crossing things off a list, so have a list for them each day of things they need to do. They can choose the order and cross off as they go. Maybe you spend one minute explaining a worksheet to them, then letting them loose while you write a few emails.
In our family it works well to have a collection of independent work items my kids can go to when they have a few extra minutes. These are activities that don’t need explanation or guidance from me. My kids are on the younger side with my oldest being 8, so I have things available for them like puzzles, coloring pages, board games, high-interest library books, Play-Doh, and arts and crafts supplies.
It can be tough at first because children have been used to activity-packed days at school. Take it from me, you don’t have to replicate all the opportunities and activities they would have had at school. You will make yourself crazy. Put the burden of entertainment on them – it is not your job to keep them happy and occupied all day long. Your job is to guide them, provide resources for them, and give feedback.
Concern 3: What resources am I supposed to be using to supplement their distance learning?
Your child’s teachers are spending hours upon hours developing material for their students that keep them moving forward and yet at the same time will put as little on your plate as possible (yes, they are thinking about you too!). Let those materials be your priority. Beyond that, you really don’t need to be buying tons of books and educational games for your kids, or subscribe to a bunch of educational services online. This isn’t the time to try and catapult your child to the head of the class. Instead, use that money to invest in good outdoor gear, then send them outside to explore the world around them rain or shine.
Remember, all of life is learning. Even if you’re just looking out the window, give a few prompts like, “What do you notice about the trees right now?” or “What shape do you see in that shrub? Where would you start if you were drawing it?” In the time you have with your child, talk with them and ask questions, make observations together, and encourage their curiosity.
We are living in a VERY unique time. Lower your expectations, keep a loose grip on the to-do list, and breathe.
You’re going to be okay.