When schools closed their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents across the country took on the additional role of educator almost overnight. If you feel overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, or worried, you are not alone. This is new to everyone, including your children’s teachers. And if there’s one thing we’ve all learned from this experience, it’s that teachers are superheroes. (OK, we already knew that!)
It is impossible to fully replicate a school environment at home. But the good news is you don’t have to. You can still meet your children’s needs if you take the right approach. We did a bit of digging and talked to Cheri Burnett, a teacher at Columbus City Schools, to find these steps you can take to make your home a successful place to study.
Each classroom has set study periods and a set of rules by which students are held accountable for their actions. You can do the same with your children at home. Explain the behaviors you expect them to behave during this time and stick to your standards as their teachers would.
Start with the routines, procedures, and expectations your children’s teachers have in their classrooms. If you don’t know these, call your children’s teachers or ask the school administration for instructions. Your kids can still test their limits just because you are the parents, but it should help stick to exactly what they are comfortable with.
It can also be helpful to establish a teaching mission, monthly vision, and daily expectations (today we will …). You can emulate what your children’s teachers have already set up, or you can develop your own as a family.
Remember to be flexible and realistic with your expectations. Burnett says your children shouldn’t work more than 30 minutes at a time, especially if they are young. Breaks are important. You can also include rewards for a job well done. For example, set the expectation that if your children stay focused and get things done, they will have extra free time. Set a timer and let them take a break to do something they enjoy. The teachers do the same. They alone may offer 15 minutes of extra break or time to talk to friends.
Keep a routine
Everyone benefits from a healthy routine, especially children. You can start by asking your teacher for a sample schedule for the day. However, don’t worry if you struggle to mirror him while fulfilling the demands of your own job. You may even have trouble sharing the time on the computers in your home. It’s okay. This is not a normal time. Just try to establish a routine whatever that may be for your family. It gives structure to your days and helps keep everyone in your family organized and on track.
When creating your schedule, don’t forget about breaks and downtime. Children need time to be children. And rest time is important to you too! Remember, your kids don’t spend 100% of their day studying in school either. You can go to physical education class, play during break, spend time in meetings, and socialize in the halls between classes.
As a family, take a stretch break every hour or practice mindfulness activities twice a day. Burnett says she likes to use GoNoodle In their classroom, a website with videos on exercise and mindfulness made by child development experts.
And make it clear when school will be ready for that day so your kids can look forward to something. Remember that they will continue to learn through activities around the home that are not part of a formal curriculum. Assign them new roles to help with household chores, teach them new dinner recipes, include them in your gardening, or just to talk. Most importantly, let them play! We have some new ideas to add to your family’s entertainment toolbox.
Provide space for schoolwork
Your children are used to studying in an away-from-home environment without the distraction of television, video games, and other forms of entertainment. You can help your kids keep their focus by designating a room in your home that is dedicated to schoolwork. Maybe it’s the kitchen table or a desk in your family room. This space helps your children to distinguish their school life from their private life.
Include your children in this decision too. Ask them what they are used to seeing in their classrooms and what things would help make their space feel more like a school.
Stay in touch with teachers
Your children’s teachers will remain a huge part of their daily lives as they assign schoolwork and guide them through the class. They are your children’s lifeline for the teaching culture, which will never be identical to your home culture.
Teachers are a resource for you too. Make sure you provide your children’s teachers with the most up-to-date phone numbers and emails so they can keep in touch and reach out to us if you need help. Just remember that this is new to teachers too. Be flexible with them as they learn new technologies and different teaching methods.
Keep in touch with other students
The school has a point of sale for children that is not available at home. They have the opportunity to socialize and spend time with their friends, learning and developing by expressing their feelings and building relationships. Help your children keep in touch virtually with their friends and other students. There are plenty of free video chat apps out there that make it easy.
Tap Online Resources
There are numerous free online resources to encourage learning. Here you’ll find reading activities, self-guided lessons, quizzes, games on various school subjects, and even craft kids for kids to have fun with during breaks or at lunch. Pinterest and Youtube offer lots of great ideas. Be sure to watch videos in front of or with your child to ensure the quality.
The Ohio Department of Education also provides resources for parents your website. You can find the state’s curriculum guidelines and goals from preschool to high school, practice tests and assessments, and tips on how to participate in your children’s education. You may find it valuable to spend some time on this website learning more about what your children are likely to know next year so you can start preparing them.
If you are having trouble teaching your children certain concepts, check this out Khan Academy for a refresher. This nonprofit offers free practice assignments, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard to empower learners of all ages. Students and parents can access courses in anything from math and reading to computer programming. They also work with NASA, the Museum of Modern Art, the California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer special content.
One of Burnett’s personal favorites is Teachers pay teachers, which provides 3+ million worksheets, activities, and printable resources by grade and subject. Many of them are free, and you can filter search results to see only what you see.
Finally, check to see if your children’s schools or teachers are sharing information on their website or social accounts. This is a great way to stay up to date and find unique content that is specific to your children’s regular learning environment.
Don’t be afraid to get creative
Just because you don’t have an apprenticeship certificate doesn’t mean you can’t teach your children valuable lessons. Set up a weekly art class, come up with songs to remember math or vocabulary, and do science experiments together. You could even plan to do a virtual excursion every week! Discovery Education, Scholastic, Zoos, aquariums, Museums and national parks all offer unique experiences. Check out this list 40 that we think are pretty cool!
The most important thing you can do now is be available to your children. Consider this time together as a gift – a time to strengthen family bonds. You will experience a part of your children’s life that you would not otherwise have experienced.
Be forgiving and flexible
Together you navigate new territory. Give your children, their teachers, and yourself some leeway. It will take time and experimentation to find out how best your children learn at home and you may make some mistakes or hit road blocks along the way. Be patient and postpone your course if necessary. You become Get the hang of it!
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