MountainStar Health - March 20, 2020
by Jessica Poe

With our public education facilities closed due to COVID-19, many parents find themselves in a new role – classroom manager. Though the responsibility may feel overwhelming, there’s great news. You’re perfect for the job! You love your kids, you know them better than anyone else, and you’re fully invested in their success.

Transitioning to a school-at-home mindset and schedule will take some adjustments, so be patient with yourself while treading into this new territory. Changes take time, practice and come with a learning curve. That said, schooling from home can be incredibly rewarding.

Tips for creating a homeschool program during the coronavirus

Create a schedule

Establish a normal wake up time and homeschool routine for the weekdays. Include energizing fuel for the body and brain, there’s a reason breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Implementing a schedule for schooling in the home is important to keep a sense of normalcy in the school day. However, it will most likely be different than a traditional classroom schedule, and that’s okay. Every family is different, so our schedules and styles will be different too.

Start with an engaging subject

The first topic sets the tone for the day, which is why it’s important to choose something your children enjoy learning about while still being challenging enough to jumpstart their brain. Try starting with something that is interactive and save individual reading time for when children (and parents) need a break.

Communicate clear expectations

We’re all happier when we know what to expect and our children are no different. For each subject, let your children know long the activity will last and exactly what they are expected to complete. Then, do your best to stick to that schedule, while still leaving a little wiggle room for changes if your child needs modifications. Timers can be a great tool to stay on track. If the assignment isn’t finished when time is up, it can always become “homework” or be saved for the next day. Whatever works best for you and your children.

Include variety

When forming a schedule, ensure to add variety so that children can alternate between a computer screen, hands-on activities, restful reading, physical fitness and creative exploration time. This helps break up the day and avoids your children getting restless from only engaging in one style of learning. You can also vary the location of learning – switch rooms for different subjects, head in the backyard for fresh air, or build a cozy fort out of blankets for reading time.

Don’t forget breaks!

We all need breaks, fresh air and time to move our bodies. Be sure to schedule regular breaks throughout the day, including one larger break for recess. This sets your children up for greater success and allows them the downtime they need to rejuvenate.

Emphasize learning, not topics

Regardless of the subject, remember that education isn’t about memorizing facts or formulas—it’s about learning to think critically and ask questions. So, find out what your children want to discover more about and start there. Encourage your children to ask questions, explore and have fun! Remember, our attitudes and enthusiasm levels significantly influence our children. If you present learning as obligatory versus exploratory, they will feel that way about the work as well.

Give yourself grace

Homeschooling is new for a lot of parents, which means it’s only normal that it will take time to find what works for you and your family. Try not to get too stressed and remember that it’s okay if you don’t figure things out right away.

Have an after-school routine

When academic time ends, create a plan for what’s next. This doesn’t mean that every minute of the day needs to be scheduled, however, with limits on leaving the house, it’s good to have options planned. Encourage free play, enlist help with household chores and continue to enforce house rules after school, just like you normally would.

Remember, it’s okay if your family’s homeschooling schedule looks different. At the end of the day, it needs to be something that works for you and your children. You may even find that your day needs to be switched up every now and then, or that it takes you a while to find the right balance. Be patient with yourself. Most of us are new at this and we have to remember that these things don’t happen overnight.

The perks of homeschooling

Although homeschooling for the first time may bring about its own challenges, it also comes with many new and exciting perks, including:

Custom-made, engaging learning opportunities

When kids learn at home, they can be a part of the decision making process. If your child loves insects, find a way to incorporate them into lesson. They can write about them, draw them, or even look for them on a nature walk! Use this time to find out what interests your children and tailor the lessons to their interests to keep them engaged.

An intellectual and emotional focus

The additional stress of big, recent life changes can add up quickly for little ones. They may feel excited about being out of school, sad about not seeing friends and nervous about what’s happening in the world—all at the same time. Parents can take this time to focus on emotional coping skills that will help kids work through their thoughts and feelings. This is especially important with all of the additional environmental stress. Consider your children’s personalities and needs, and dedicate time to exploring anger management, self-esteem building, empathy, the ability to decompress, or whatever skills can boost your kids’ sense of well-being.

Teaching values

Family values and beliefs play a central role in social, academic and emotional development. With more time at home, parents can talk about, exemplify and teach empathy and understanding. Learning hard work, responsibility, respect, polite behavior, caring for younger siblings, teamwork with older siblings, etc. are lessons that flourish in a home environment and can dramatically improve the world outside our homes.

Flexibility and comfort

Education at home can happen any time – morning, noon or night – and even in the comfort of pajamas! So, go ahead and enjoy schooling in a fort under the trampoline or in dress up clothes to lighten the mood. We can find joy in the flexibility and comfort in our homey surroundings.

There are so many situations adding stress and anxiety due by the coronavirus, but homeschooling should not be one of them. Finding ways to structure your day and focusing on the perks of schooling at home can reframe the way we view this situation. Since we’re all at home anyways, we might as well enjoy this time that we have with our children.