We are in a very unusual time right now, all over the world. Schools everywhere are being closed down to slow the spread of COVID-19, and millions of parents are thinking “Now what?” Depending on the state, school district, or socio-economic area you live in, the answers to that will be very different. Some parents will have a lot of help from the schools and it will feel more like distance learning, and others may end up having to do a lot of the teaching on their own like in traditional homeschooling. I’m going to provide some tips and suggestions that will help in transitioning kids to homeschooling or distance learning. It’s my hope that this will help alleviate some pressure on both you and your kids during such a difficult time.
Make sure you check out our teacher resources section while you are here – thousands of free worksheets!
You aren’t the only one struggling
It’s so rare to have one thing that affects every person in the world, and we’re all in this together. Parents aren’t quite sure what to do, and quite frankly neither do most of the teachers. I’ve even noticed that each of the teachers my children have are all handling this differently, from being very helpful on one end to barely communicating on the other. A lot of teachers right now are in the position where they are just figuring out what can be done to keep students learning at home, and are trying their best under very trying circumstances. As parents, we are not only having to change to working from home or working in essential industries which are very stressful right now, but also figuring out what we’re supposed to be doing to teach our kids.
As someone who has parented multiple children in traditional homeschool, distance learning through public education, and standard brick and mortar education, as well as taught in early childhood education, I know how hard it can be to suddenly have a major change forced upon you. You aren’t alone. There are parents in America, Italy, China, South Korea, and over 150 other countries who have had their schools suddenly close.
1. Take a Deep Breath
It’s going to be okay. I promise. This isn’t as overwhelming as it seems, and you can do it. Yes, even if you have multiple kids and are working full time at home or even out of the house. Make sure to give yourself, your kids, and their teachers a lot of grace and understand that adjustments take time. It’s going to take several weeks to adjust to a new routine and figure out what works best for everyone. Your mental health and your kids mental health is going to be affected by this, and your kids will feed off the attitude you put out. Stay calm, stay relaxed. Take time to do yoga, exercise, adult coloring, meditation, or other things you enjoy. Help your kids with the anxiety they’re going to feel by allowing them to share their emotions, teach them breathing techniques, limiting the news they see, and make sure they get some time to just hang out in their rooms or call their friends. Remember that transitioning kids to homeschooling or distance learning is temporary, and that kids adjust faster than adults to new circumstances.
2. Stop Looking at Pinterest
I love Pinterest as much as you do, and it’s a great resource for finding lesson plans, recipes, and crafts. However, you are not going to have the perfect homeschool room. If you have a dining room table or a floor with a few comfy pillows, that will work just fine. You also probably aren’t going to be doing detailed science experiments with 40 different ingredients with your 10 year old or turning your entire house into a replica of a historical time period to teach history to your 15 year old. If you have kids in matching outfits while you’re perfectly styled with a spotless house and a scheduled broken down into 15 minute increments… you’re either an alien or you’re completely new to this homeschooling thing and will have a breakdown trying to do all that within the first week. Let your kids study where they’re comfortable. Let them take breaks. If school doesn’t start until 10 am and the kids are finishing up assignments while munching a snack at 8 pm because you decided to watch a movie in the middle of the day, then that’s what happens. You need to be flexible, and you need to understand that progress is the goal, not perfection.
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3. Adjust Teaching by Grade and Capability
I have 4 kids at very different stages. A highly gifted 5th grader who can check her own email to get assignments from her teachers and is responsible enough to complete all her assignments without help. A 4th grader who is both gifted and ADHD, so he needs quite a bit of direction to keep on track, especially with writing assignments. A second grader who is great at doing assignments but needs help finding her work and supplies. And a 4 year old who is in occupational, physical, and speech therapy (which is also currently closed) and will be starting kindergarten next year so he needs quite a bit of hands on attention.
I can’t handle them the same way. I’ll be doing a more detailed post on this next month, but the point is that you need to take advantage of your kids strengths. Know which ones you can trust to be responsible for their own work, and which ones will need you to be right next to them.
4. Take Days Off
Teachers aren’t going to give kids assignments on weekends, and neither are you. If your kids are bored and want to work on educational games, or do a research project (my 5th grader is very much a giant geek, and we love her for it) then let them! However, don’t feel like you need to make everything an educational experience or your kids are going to fall far behind. Focus on keeping them at or above grade level with reading, writing, and math. If you can do that, they’ll do just fine when the schools open up again. Basic lessons only take 3-4 hours a day when they’re done at home. Let them play and be silly and learn new Tik Tok dances and they’ll be much more willing to buckle down and focus when it’s school time.
5. Ask for Help
I know you feel stuck in your house and alone, but we’re so lucky to be going through this during a time in history where we have access to the internet. Email your children’s teachers for help. In fact, one of my daughter’s middle school teachers said “Don’t bother your parents, email me if you’re having trouble with anything.” Do you have family or friends who have expertise in something? Is Grandpa a retired engineer or is your old college roommate a journalist? Is Grandma a talented baker or your cousin fluent in French? Ask friends or family who are talented or educated in something to help your kid with something over FaceTime or a Zoom call. And then help them by teaching something to their kids.
We’re Here to Help
Transitioning kids to homeschooling or distance learning can be difficult, so over the next month I’m going to be writing several posts on ways to help make distance learning easier on you and your kids. I’m going to be covering topics like how to create a routine and my favorite resources for teaching my kids. (Hint: one of them is Google!) Also, Woo Jr. is full of printables, crafts, and lesson plans to help you teach your kids at home and keep them busy!