Families all across the United States, and many other countries have been thrown into "homeschooling" as a result of our response to the Covid-19 virus. Homeschooling, School at Home, Distance Learning... the goals remain the same. Provide children with quality educational materials so they continue to have the opportunity to learn. Parents are called upon to partner with teachers more than ever to educate their own children.
Whatever you call it, we are all now homeschooling in one way shape or form.
No wrong way to homeschool
Now that the dust is settling a bit, as a retired classroom teacher, and a full time homeschool consultant, let me assure both teachers and parents, you're doing a splendid job! There is no wrong way to homeschool, and everything is leaning! These 2 truths have guided my entire career.
I have received many calls, text messages, and emails asking for my advice about the best way to handle the new homeschooling situation. The questions are a refreshing break from my normal! Parents want activities for their kids. Teachers wonder if they are doing enough.
My answer is the same regardless of who is asking. You are enough!
Advice for Parents
Do what feels right! If your child's school sent work home, and you WANT to work on it, I encourage you to work together. Choose a special place to work, even if it's on the living room floor! It's the time you spend more than what you spend it on that matters.
Play games, make meals, complete household chores and gardening activities. Play a board game, watch a movie, hold family reading time, paint, draw, or take a walk.
You can also do a combination of both, work a little and play a little! Ask your children what they want to do, and let them go for it! Even some video game time won’t hurt. Just talk about it afterward, or ask to see what they built in their Minecraft world.
Take time to reach out to the teachers who are missing their students. They are hurting over losing time with students. If they are working on distance learning, that's incredibly above and beyond the scope of expectation! If your school isn't providing materials, don't blame the teacher. Their hands are tied. Reach out anyway.
Learning isn't always on the lesson plans, learning happens in the moment. Learning IS getting the laundry done, lunch made and horsing around with your siblings!
A routine can help. Go ahead and sleep in, because you're not driving to school and work...but starting your day at the same time every day brings comfort. Now that you've been home together awhile, work on your routine. Decide together what times events will be. Begin with breakfast. May I suggest Wonderful Waffles on Wednesday?! (Use it to introduce alliteration, the same sound at the beginning of words.) Go all out and add whipped cream and sprinkles!
One element I incorporated into my routine each day as a homeschool family was quiet time / free choice learning time. This was "leave momma alone for 1.5 hours a day time" It’s ok to send them off to their room to read, color, draw or work in a workbook for 1.5 hours so you can keep your sanity. The ages of your children doesn't matter here, everyone qualifies for quiet time. Just establish it as part of the routine and don’t make it a punishment. Make it part of everyday life. If you have kids that share a room, send one of them to your room. Rotate that to make it special. Everyone should go to their own space. In my home this is a no TV or video game time. What it looks like in your home is up to you.
Ultimately homeschooling is a fully customizable curriculum for each learner. As a parent with a small number of "students" you are able to customize the learning for your children.
Advice for Teachers
You’re not lesson planning for the classroom any longer, Give yourself time to adjust to that reality. Remember everything is learning, and there is no wrong way to homeschool. You are giving parents the tools to engage with their children. The concept of homeschooling is not to keep kids busy, it’s really not that different from traditional teaching. The secret to homeschooling is we are continuously using the teachable moment.
Focus on providing experiences woven into traditional lessons.
I did not follow my lesson plans on September 11, 2001. I taught in the moment. We experienced the unfortunate circumstances of the day together. The next few days we explored geography, art and writing related to what happened, then slowly we got back into our lessons. I took the standards I was required to teach and I tweaked them to fit the moment.
When a fourth grader came to class in 2013 crying because her pet frog had died, we planned a funeral. A lot goes into “event planning” even a budget was needed so we were not abandoning our Math. Moments matter.
I have plenty of examples of the "Teachable Moment", and I'm sure you do too.
See if you can provide your students with one "homeschool" idea / teachable moment each day. Weave it into topics you are required to teach, and activities you already have. You know your demographics best but here are some ideas:
Challenge your students, regardless of grade level to :
Put inspirational signs in their windows for people to see on their walks. Change them each week.
Paint rocks and leave them for others to find.
Complete a jigsaw puzzle as a family and submit a selfie.
Go on Nature Scavenger hunts
Go on indoor Scavenger hunts
Re-read your favorite book. (we always assign NEW books, or books that are NOT movies - how about assigning a book that IS a movie! - compare the book and the movie!)
Design a product you can sell, real or virtual. Some students I know have started little businesses already. This is very common with homeschoolers.
Keep a daily/weekly journal- record X-number of things you do each day, include a picture. This could even be a blog for High School students.
Send traditional mail to families you can't visit.
Visit local fun spots virtually and plan next year's field trips.
Plan to play a board game via Skype, Hangouts or Zoom - one player controls the game board by moving the pieces, but everyone could roll their own dice.
And don't forget to browse the online shelves of the Amped Up Learning website where plenty of talented teachers have put together quality curriculum that is suitable for ANY learning environment: homeschooling, classroom use, distance learning or any combination necessary! You are sure to find plenty you can use to inspire those moments during our time as "homeschoolers" and for when school resumes in the future.
May your educational journey be blessed,
- Christy Gandara
Because there is always something to celebrate!