With schools closed across the country, parents are frantically putting together a homeschool experience for their children. In many communities, distance learning is on the horizon, but even that experience seems like another unnerving layer for parents and students. I’ve been a middle school and high school English teacher for almost twenty years, and now I’m home, just like you, trying to navigate educating my own elementary school age children.
Here are ten tips to make your makeshift homeschool worthwhile:
1.) Change the scenery. Never stay in the same spot for too long. When you change the subject, change the room. However, make each room as comfortable as possible. A student’s learning environment directly correlates with their ability to succeed.
2.) Follow the lead of your children. If you sense that they’re getting ornery or rambunctious, allow them to be in that energy. Don’t force them to fit your schedule or your lesson plan. There is always tomorrow, or maybe later in the day.
3. Keep things short. Then, re-emphasize as the day goes on. Being in the same spot and on the same subject for too long just doesn’t work. Like Seinfeld, quit while you’re ahead. You had a great time playing a multiplication game? Perfect. No need to play another round.
4. Never interrupt imagination. If your children are happy making a fort, messing up the folded laundry, or playing make-believe games, let them be. I’ve always believed that true learning unfolds when imagination is the center of the experience.
5. Read everyday. Maybe I’m biased with this one because I believe so much in the power of reading and writing, but reading serves our children in a myriad of ways. Reading is a gift and an exercise in empathy.
6. Let go. You don’t need a colorful, organized play space with flashcards and smelly markers. You don’t need “worksheets” — let go of what you think homeschooling is supposed to look like and just make your time yours. School can look like a lot of things. It can be the forest. It can be your basement. It certainly does not have to be pinterest.
7. Ask for help. From your children. Your ideas are really great. They are. But your children are smart, and sometimes they have better ideas than you do. They might know a better way to grapple with the math problem or to practice the vowel teams. When children are involved and take an active role in their learning, the experience becomes more meaningful.
8. Take lots of breaks. Lots. And always, always have snacks.
9. Write letters. I know. I’m biased here again, but like reading, writing provides connection to others and to ourselves. Writing also serves as an act of mindfulness, as a way to process our experiences and to self reflect. In a time of isolation, writing about our experiences and also reaching out to our friends assuage anxiety.
10. Be kind to yourself and stay curious. Kindness and curiosity transcend quarantine, homeschooling, or distance learning. If my children only learn the value of these two virtues through watching me during this tumultuous time, then my ramshackle homeschool made sense. It worked. We learned, and it was bliss.