by Karen Matamoros
Ok, stop… pinch yourself…. Throw some water on your face ….and don’t forget to wash your hands. Yes this is real and it is happening to the nation and the world. The Covid-19 virus is spreading rapidly and has caused not only many large events to be cancelled but also schools to be shut down. This can bring up a lot of emotions and fears that are important to deal with first (check out that blog). But then it’s time to create a game plan for your child’s education, find some resources and educate yourself on the many options available.
You might’ve never thought you would homeschool, maybe you were always the first to say “homeschool? I could never do that!”, or maybe you have always wanted to try it but were too scared or had reservations about it. In a moment in which it appears that the choice of sending our kids to school has been taken away, even if just temporarily, it is important to know that parents have many resources available to help with the transition. As a homeschool mom, I know the first week is scary but it certainly doesn’t have to be. There are homeschool parents ready to share their knowledge and lend a hand.
If this is your first time reading my posts, I’ll share a quick background. My daughters, 11 and 13, went to school until 1st and 3rd grade respectively. I am not against the educational system per say, I took them out of school because I considered it to be what was best for them as people and for our family. My aim was to provide them with a balance between their mental and physical health as they learned things that interested them. I felt like the only way I could accomplish this was if they had more time available in their day for non academic learning to take place.
The most difficult part of “forced” homeschooling is that not everyone has the flexibility to stay home with their child or an available sitter. If you have been given the opportunity to work remotely during these intense times or are a stay at home mom, here are some easy few steps that can get you started for a successful homeschooling experience.
Talk to your children: it’s important, after you have discussed the emotional aspect of the situation, to talk to your child about what life will be like while school is closed or in case of a quarantine. Most likely your child has been prepped in school about what will be expected of them as far as the type of work they’ll have to keep up with, but it is important that you work out a schedule that will work for both of you. (check out some schedule info)
Homeschooling is not school: Kids will most likely not be able to sit at a desk all day, or be as diligent or attentive as if they were sitting in their classroom. SO save yourself the headache and don’t treat it as such. You can pick areas around the home that have the least distraction, but don’t limit yourself to a desk. Anywhere a kid is comfortable can be a great space to get their work done.
Set parameters: You can do this by being very clear on what you expect from your children throughout the day. Creating a schedule, a checklist or allotted time slots can be very helpful to get you both on the same page. If you are working from home while homeschooling make sure your children understand what you will need from them and how they can assist. Pair up things like quiet reading time or relaxing/screen time for them with your focused work sessions. When your children understand what you expect from them, they are more likely to accomplish the tasks that are required. Keep in mind that every child is different, so either have them help you format a game plan if they are old enough or readjust the plan if it doesn’t seem to be working. (click here for sample checklists)
Get them excited: Embrace the perks of being at home! Let them wear their PJs or costumes or whatever they are comfortable in. Allow them to take breaks every 40 minutes or so to do things they wouldn’t get to do in school. Maybe have special snacks available for their breaks. Celebrate (in your own way) when they finish a task and let them check it off the list/schedule.
Take breaks often: It’s hard for kids to retain their concentration for long periods of time, so breaks are very important. Moving their bodies, getting a snack, or being able to do an activity of their choosing can help them reset for the next set of tasks, and can be used as a reward for accomplishing part of their “to do” list.
Shorter hours: Homeschooling doesn’t have set hours. Some online programs do, but if you were assigned book work, there shouldn’t be a need to make your child work on them for 8 hours a day. With my kids I assign them a certain number of pages each day to accomplish, some days they zoom through them to move on to things they enjoy more and sometimes they spend all day on them and take many breaks. Give them the flexibility to decide, while talking them through the transition they are themselves experiencing. It will most likely be necessary to remind them that the work still has to get done, but they can play after.
Mix in other activities: I don’t mean Martha Stewart’s type of crafts, although if that’s what you are into go for it, I’m talking about any activity that they are drawn to do. Everything can be educational, even tik tok or youtube. Set parameters on how to use these platforms and let them explore. They can cook, or draw or create videos on a book they read or do research on a place they would like to visit. Keep an open mind on what is educational. Books are great but not the only way to learn.
If you have multiple children in different grade levels, help them find spaces away from each other but also ways to do things together. Enlisting the assistance of the older ones to teach the younger ones can be fun and a great learning experience.
Check in with your kids: Each homeschooling classroom is a creation between the parent and the child. Get to know how your child enjoys to learn. Talk to them regularly about their likes and dislikes of how you are doing things. You can be stern in making sure they get their work done but also flexible on how they go about it.
Take time for yourself: This might be one of the most important things you can do as a homeschool parent. You set the tone each day. Your mood or stress level will affect how the day runs or how you deal with your child’s unforeseen response to a new way of doing things. A moment of peace or mindful meditation at the start of each day can prepare you mentally to hold space for your child. Remember that it is a transition for both of you.
Be aware of emotions: Just living is as important as learning. Be kind to yourself and your child. Make sure to allot time in the schedule to just be, to process emotions, to deal with feelings that may be randomly triggered, and to deal with illnesses that may occur. It’s ok to take time off from studies to take care of things that develop.
Relax: There is no such thing as a perfect homeschool schedule or curriculum. Adaptability is key. Don’t be afraid to change things up if something is not working, or take days off. Netflix days can be as important as workbook days.
When life throws a curveball is up to us to make the best out of it. And being forced into a change like this can be as awesome as you decide to make it! Each minute spent with your child is precious, this is an opportunity to experience something new together. Relax, you’ve got this!
Karen Matamoros is the founder of Project KAring; a leader in the revolution of our traditional education models. She currently homeschools her own two children and has created an amazing an enlightening space on her own website found here: Project KAring