As many parents around the globe transition into a phase of homeschooling or distance learning from home, we asked some new homeschooling parents how they have coped with the change from traditional schooling and what tips they would give to new homeschooling parents.
For many parents, it’s not a position they imagined themselves to be in. However, we hope following these simple steps will help ease the transition for you and your children to a new learning environment.
Please note there is a distinct difference between intentionally moving to a homeschool model for your family, and distance / virtual schooling at a time of need. These steps will help you with both, but remember traditional homeschooling you will have a lot more control over the progression and tasks set each week.
1. Establish a daily routine early on
As tempting as it is to enjoy a long lie-in and stay in your PJ’s until noon, keeping up many of the routine aspects of a regular school day will help you all with keeping to plan.
- DO set an alarm if need be to start your day and take care of breakfast and essential chores before settling down to work.
- DO establish a calendar for the week upfront with lessons that should be covered each day and apportion time slots for each.
- DO help younger children especially prioritise tasks for the day.
- DO adjust for each child’s needs. Your older kids will need more formal and structured hours a day of learning than your younger ones – but likely fewer hours in total than a normal school day.
- DO formally close out the school day, a time when worksheets and computers can be put away.
- DON’T put too much pressure on you or the kids to make things perfect. It can take time to establish each child’s learning style, just remember, any learning is better than no learning. A patient and understanding parent or guardian is the most important thing your child could ask for at this time.
2. Set the scene
It is much easier for all of you to be distracted at home than it is in the normal classroom setting. Set up space in your home where your child (or children) can concentrate with limited distractions.
If online learning is expected, arrange access to a computer or tablet where lessons can be easily accessed, familiarising children with the devices and programs if they’ve not used them before (though most likely it will be them teaching you!).
If you have children working on different projects, make sure they each have the space they need, be it one child with headphones on or providing each with their own room that you can easily transition between.
Make sure you also have basic stationery supplies at home. Workbooks, printing paper (check those printer ink levels!), colouring pencils, scissors, crafting glue.
3. Get involved
Even if you are not familiar with the class curriculum, take the time to understand the task that has been set and expected outcomes. While you are in the establishment phase may not be the best time to multitask with your own work and household chores.
You don’t need to stand over their shoulder constantly, but do make sure you have the mental space available to help too. Make the time available to help with marking and corrections, or where to seek further resources.
If you are still distance learning with your school, take the time to read all communications that are sent home and understand what are priority tasks and expectations vs nice to have.
4. Work in regular breaks
Teachers in a typical classroom setting certainly don’t expect kids to work through a full morning without a break and your homeschooling environment would be no different.
If possible allow for a snack or meal at least every 90 mins, accompanied by fresh air, if possible.
If you are working between your own job too, then it may work best to have a morning and afternoon session separately, or ideally split tasks with another parent. You will work out your own family’s rhythm.
5. Build learning opportunities into every day
Whilst curriculum work may continue to be set by your school during a temporary closure, there’s no harm in finding excuses for every day learning around the home. Many children thrive in an active, hands-on learning environment rather than book work.
- The kitchen is always a great place to start, involve the children in the weekly menu planning and small tasks.
- Many family board games also have valuable learning opportunities too. There’s family-favourite strategy game Monopoly, ideal for your 8+ kids or younger ones can start with classics like Candyland or Connect 4. Scrabble and Upwords are great word challenges for expanding the vocabulary too.
6. Give yourself a break too
And by this, we mean a mental break. Most of us are not trained teachers, and likely never expected to find ourselves in this position. Your presences, involvement and positive attitude are what count.
World events have no doubt already taken an emotional toll on us, and keeping things together is what will count in the long run.
Whilst an immediate spa day with the girls might be out of the question, do find a way to fit into that daily routine the opportunity for you to switch off too. This could be meditation, an online workout video or simply finding yourself 20 minutes with a cuppa in a quiet corner – in addition to time you need for your own work and household chores this “me time” is more essential than ever.
Have you found yourself unexpectedly in a homeschooling situation? Or are you consciously looking to make the full-time switch and current quarantine periods have been a great trial for you? We’d love to know what you think in the comments below