Just because self-distancing and quarantine has caused schools to shut down nation-wide, it doesn’t mean kids can’t continue to learn. In fact, at this point it’s possible that parents will be in charge of helping their children finish the rest of the school year from home. And if you’ve never taught before or don’t know where to start, it can feel overwhelming.
So we’ve asked the experts – the educators who already teach from home every school day – homeschoolers!
1) Use Multiple Learning Styles
Create workbooks and lessons that incorporate different learning styles. Young children in particular need a lot of stimulation, and switching up the learning styles will keep them more engaged for longer.
2) Make it fun
Especially if you’re homeschooling as a temporary measure during these confusing times, make lessons fun and engaging for your kids. While you still want to maintain discipline and a routine, your days don’t have to mimic a regular school day, sitting at a desk.
Organize some activities so the kids can have some fun.
3) Incorporate video
Record your students presenting as news anchors for a world issues, history, or social studies lesson. Create a project that involves them recording a skit, or explaining a book report. The opportunities are endless!
4) Use this time to help give your kids what they might not be getting at school
At home, you can give your kid undivided attention. Where they may get lost, fall behind, or slip through the cracks when studying in large class sizes, you can make sure they’re getting all the attention they need to really master a subject.
Take this time to focus on helping your child excel in a subject they previously struggled with, and/or plan for more time mastering the subjects they already love.
5) Join a homeschool group
Join with other homeschoolers or co-ops in your area to provide support for each other (in small groups, six feet apart, of course). Along with the shared teaching resources, these groups give your children a chance to socialize with others.
If you’re under a full on quarantine you can find online groups as well.
6) Make it yours
You know your children best, and you’re in control of your homeschooling. The lesson plans and daily schedule are yours to curate, but don’t be afraid to use the regular curriculum to guide you. It’s there for a reason.
7) Incorporate home tasks into lessons
Take a break from the workbooks and learn a skill. Help your kids learn to follow a recipe as you cook lunch or dinner together. Talk about the science behind basic foods like the chemical compound for table salt, or what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar.
8) Keep them social
Even if you’re in a full-on quarantine, you want your children to continue developing social skills. Especially if your children are young, or if you have an only child. Arrange with some other parents in your neighbourhood for a set hour per day in which the kids can chat online, play games together electronically, or talk on the phone.
Any kind of peer socializing you can offer your child in these isolated times will be valuable.
9) Cover the hard subjects first
If your child is struggling with certain subjects like math, teach that in the morning when they’re most alert and their mind is still fresh. Save the easier subjects for later in the day when motivation is fading.
10) Stay organized
It’s the best way to stay on track! Keep a daily planner and set goals to achieve each lesson. Make note of everything from chores to school work and breaks throughout the day. To encourage focus, try to keep your school space organized, too.
11) Share information
Teaching from home doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Speak to other homeschool parents for advice whether it be in person or digitally. Online forums are a great place to find and share information.
12) Let the kids feel at home
Younger children might enjoy having dolls or stuffed animals in your learning space. Older kids might like to have some time to study in their rooms.
13) Plan ahead
Take note of your children’s interests, learning styles, and what they might like to be when they grow up. You can channel those key bits of information into tailored lesson plans that they might not otherwise get when at school. Now is a great time to help them capitalize on their strengths.
14) Prepare for college
If your kid(s) are in high school, this preparation time is precious and the schools being closed might feel like a bump on the road towards post-secondary education. But you as a parent can capitalize on this time to make/organize for college visits and help with college applications.
15) Accept and embrace your teaching style
Don’t try to make yourself into someone you are not, or stressing that you are not as talented as other homeschooling parents seem to be. You know your child and will know best how to teach them! If education is not your speciality that’s okay. There are resources to help you get set up for success.
16) Accept and embrace your child’s learning style
Don’t compare your child’s learning style to others or assume one style is best. There are benefits to all of them, and ways to focus on those benefits for the best results to suit your kid. Accept and tailor your teaching to your child’s learning style to help them thrive!
17) Go outside (if you can)
Of course, if you can’t, you can’t. But if you have a backyard, or can safely practice social distancing outdoors, then try to incorporate some sunshine and fresh air into your lessons.
18) Encourage a reading culture for the whole family
Instead of reading alone and in silence, read aloud together often. You as a parent can read to your child, siblings can read to one another, and your child can read to you. You can also consider using audiobooks for some lessons.
19) Switch it up
Look for ways to spice up regular activities.
For example, tell your kids to answer questions in different voices. It’s funny, encourages creativity, and will get them more engaged! Use a different room of the house for one subject, move around, sing songs. Use your creativity to keep lessons interesting.
20) Find a mentor
Especially when starting out, or if you only plan to be homeschooling for a short time, see if there is another homeschooler who is willing to offer their help. As you gain experience, find someone you can mentor in turn.
21) Develop good habits from the get go
Forming good habits is incredibly important! Time management, chores, personal hygiene, exercise, healthy choices, and work ethic for example, are all important to keep up while learning at home.
Just because school is put on hold or you’re trapped inside, doesn’t mean you should let good habits fall by the way side.
22) Get dressed
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s easy to slip into the habit of staying in your pyjamas all day. In order for your children to feel like they’re having a regular school day, and not having a sick day, or a long weekend, it’s important to make sure they get up and get dressed for school like they would on any other day.
It’s just another great way to keep them in the educational routine, which will keep them more alert during lessons, and make it easier when they go back to school.
Also, side note, can we talk about how this 6 year old girl has a nicer closet than anyone I know? The dream.
23) Include some alone time during the day
Whether it be a half hour quiet reading period, or some time to complete a math worksheet, give your kids some time to work on their own.
24) Research supportive resources
If your child is learning Spanish and you can barely muster an “hola como estas”, you may (okay, definitely) struggle to help them with these lessons.
Look to Duolingo to help with their language podcasts and gaming app. Find online courses or an e-learning tutor to help your child keep up their language practice. You don’t have to be fluent to help them!
25) Follow the curriculum
It’s there to help you! But it’s not the bible – use it as a guide instead of a master.
26) Provide well-rounded education
We should foster our children’s passions and interests, but they should also be introduced to areas that may not be their first choice to ensure they get a well-rounded education. We all hate math, but we need it to function and succeed.
You aren’t expected to do all of this on your own! Outsourcing includes online classes, correspondence, tutors/teachers, and other avenues. You will almost certainly need to find other resources to fill a need.
If your homeschooling is only during this period of social distancing, you may hire an online tutor to help get you through a short period of time, and find that their help is so valuable that you want to keep them on one night a week once school resumes as normal. They can be extremely helpful and you’re helping someone find work during uncertain times.
28) Why not incorporate some snacks
Snacks are delicious, using them to teach is engaging, and you all deserve a treat. Use some chocolate or whatever your snack of choice is, and help use it to get your kids into math. You can keep your own little stash under the table.
29) Talk to your kids about the plan
Explain that you’re all navigating through this ‘new normal”. Communicate and let them know that while they may be at home, assignments still have to be completed on time, quizzes will happen, and your expectations are the same.
30) Take breaks
There will be times when both you and the kids get frustrated or overwhelmed. Don’t let it discourage you! It’s as simple as taking a break. If you organize set breaks throughout the day it makes it easy to avoid the levels of frustration building. You don’t want to only take breaks when it becomes too difficult.
31) Focus on relationships
Focus on using this time to nurture relationships; your relationship with your spouse/co-teacher, each child, and the relationships between siblings.
32) Wake up on time
If you want to extend your children some luxuries during the school closure that’s fine. Instead of waking up at 7am for school, maybe you’d like to let them sleep in until 8am as a short term novelty until school resumes.
That’s fine, but make sure it’s consistent. Having some structure with your daily routine is necessary to keep focus and the work ethic strong.
33) Not sure where to find resources?
If all else fails, try Pinterest. There are so many DIY, how-to, and personal blog links that you’ll have an endless supply of tips from experienced homeschoolers, who can in turn provide some of their own resources that helped them succeed.
34) Teach what you think is important
Take this time to teach your kids some important subjects that you think may be lacking in schools. If you still think cursive writing is important, you can teach them on your own. For some reason, the education system doesn’t teach our children about important life skills like how to do your taxes, invest or save money, how health insurance works, how to interview for a job, and the list goes on.
These are just some examples of skills you can teach your children from home! It will be a huge benefit to them when they’re off on their own. (Obviously if your child is 10 it miiiiiight be a little early to start on these topics, but you get the idea.)
35) Actively monitor possible behavioral issues
You may find that your child’s behavior changes when being educated at home. It’s an unusual environment compared to what they’re used to and they may try to push the boundaries to see what they can get away with at home that they might not have done at school.
36) Use sensory activities
Tailor sensory activities to the needs of your child. A student who is oversensitive to sound might be helped with soothing music. A child with an under-developed sense of touch should be encouraged to use tactile sensations by touching items that are soft, rough, slimy, wet, etc.
37) Teach half-days
Especially if you’re teaching during self-distancing or quarantine, you know (or at least, we hope!) your children will be back at school shortly. You can still help homeschool them while school is out, but it doesn’t need to become your full time job. You can take notes from our friends in Norway who have implemented 4 day weeks, or just dedicate half your day to keeping up with your children’s education.
The entire system across the country has been affected by this suspension of classes, so it will inevitably have to take some measures to catch everyone up when they resume.
38) Take turns with your partner
The way you choose to manage homeschooling will depend entirely on a number of factors including your job situation, experience, and even relationship status.
So obviously the way you manage teaching is up to you, but in order to teach your child about healthy balance and sharing relationship responsibilities, you can split teaching days or subjects with your partner. If your partner works in finance… maybe let them handle the math classes!