8 Practical Homeschooling Tips From Other Parents Staring Down Week I-Don't-Even-Know
I know we're in week seven or eight of virtual learning, but it truly feels like I've begged my kids to sit down and do their school work for eons. Eons! However, there are silver linings. One very notable silver lining is that by now plenty of parents have homeschooling tips to share because they're right in the thick of it with me and you.
Romper teamed up with the Clinton Foundation's early childhood initiative Too Small To Fail to ask 2000 moms how they're doing in quarantine, and more specifically, how schooling at home is working out for them. In our survey, Motherhood in the Age of COVID-19, moms around the country shared the strategies they've discovered through trial and error, in case they are helpful to the rest of us.
Whether you call what your child is doing distance learning, virtual classes, homeschooling, or "Mom's Home Learning Academy," it takes a lot of work on the part of parents. Thirty percent of moms told us they are spending 1-2 more hours each day planning activities for their kid(s). Twenty-six percent said they're spending more than two hours daily. So don't feel bad if you're already envisioning the happy dance you'll do when it's time to send your kiddos back to a real classroom outside of your house where they can learn alongside their peers and be taught by a trained professional. (Hi, hello. That'll be me doing the happy dance.) In the meantime, these tips from other moms can help get you through the rest of makeshift school, however long it lasts:
1. "We do our academic stuff when we first wake up before the day gets too hectic and then the rest of the day, whatever happens is OK."
I love the idea of getting school work out of the way over a bowl of cereal before my kids get sidetracked by their video games, the dog, riding their bikes, or inhaling a mountain of snacks. It may not always go down this way, but if I set the intention to get homeschooling done early on, at least some of it typically gets completed.
2. "It’s hard because I have a little one to keep busy while doing housework; whereas before he was in school when I did the work. Now I’m really proactive to get him to help sweep, make beds, and put away laundry."
When all else fails, housework doubles as a life skills class. I bet most teachers would be thrilled to hear that their students are using their time at home not only to continue learning through their school work, but to learn how to do things like laundry and dishes. One day, this generation will become a group of competent adults who can cook, clean, and do all of their work remotely because we taught them well during this time. (They'll also be weirdly addicted to Netflix, but whatever.)
3. "Don’t feel ashamed to ask your child’s educator(s) for help. They are there to help and guide you through this. This is new for everyone."
This is absolutely uncharted territory for both parents and teachers alike. My youngest son's teacher is a master at troubleshooting online educational programs, but my older son's teacher isn't as familiar. I've watched these teachers help one another figure it out, no matter what questions we ask or what wrench we throw in their plans. That's just what teachers do — they figure it out and get it done. So don't be afraid to speak up if you or your child needs guidance or reassurance.
4. "Scholastic is awesome. YouTube has tons of stuff. The Mr. Darby Art Channel is awesome for kids who want to learn to draw fun characters."
If you haven't already given in and allowed extra screen time for your child, now is the time to get on board. After your child's distance learning lessons are completed, they can learn new skills while they watch YouTube videos, read a book online, or draw alongside real artists while you do the things you need to do. No one wants kids on screens all day, but the resources available right now are actually really good. You can be fairly sure that your kid is getting something out of their time in front of a computer or tablet.
5. "Write everything down. You will feel more accomplished once you see yourself getting things checked off the list."
This is some of the most underrated advice for life in general. List-making helps in major ways, but is especially essential when you're trying to balance school work with your work, your family's health, and your general sanity. In fact, former middle school teacher (and husband to former presidential hopeful "Mayor Pete") Chasten Buttigieg's Twitter thread on homeschooling advised parents to list daily goals and an agenda on a white board for their kids to see every morning. It just really does help smooth out the entire day's plan.
6. "I have my children read every day independently for 30 minutes before doing something of their choosing."
I do this with my boys, and I have to say it works like a charm. They know that the reward for half an hour of reading pays off in the form of screen time, so they read rather willingly. Even if your kids aren't yet old enough to read actual words on their own, toddlers and preschoolers can still thumb through a book and look at pictures, play with a busy book, or just toss their book collection around their room and spend time cleaning it all up afterward. Whatever works, right?
7. "Zoom meetings with teachers help.”
My kindergartener's first Zoom meeting with his teacher and classmates was an absolute riot. I could see the joy in the faces of his friends as they each took a turn sharing what they had been up to for the first few weeks of learning at home. When we got off the call, my son said the best part of the meeting was seeing his teacher, and he asked to do more assignments to make her happy. Since then, we've seen her several more times via Zoom, and every time he jumps off of the call reinvigorated and ready to complete more school work. It's truly such a great motivator.
8. "After the kids are in bed, I take at least an hour for myself."
After answering to other people from sun up to sundown is essential, you need time alone. It's essential, unlike a surprising number of things on your to-do list. Dirty dishes? They can wait. Laundry? Let it pile up for a couple of days. You educated your kids, entertained them, fed them, bathed them, and put them in bed. Now, take some time to relax before you have to do it all over again in eight hours.
Click through to see the full results of our survey, Motherhood in the Age of COVID-19.