As schools across the nation explore various learning options for the new school year, you may have already made the decision to keep your kids home. Maybe someone in the family has a preexisting condition, or you have a newborn in the house, or you simply don’t want to risk your kids intermingling too closely at school and possibly bringing the coronavirus home.
I’m grateful my family has the ability to choose to home-school because the decision is not easy for many (even teachers are weighing whether to return to the classroom).
I was already a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers before the COVID-19 pandemic, and I decided to home-school until conditions improve. My decision to home-school was based on a few things. My husband is an electrician and cannot work from home; in case our kids get exposed from him, we didn’t want the kids to then expose it to others. Also, with class sizes already reduced for safety measures, I didn’t want to keep a spot from parents who couldn’t work from home.
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But how do you home-school your children for the long haul while maintaining your sanity? My bachelor’s degree in communications and master’s degree in community planning are not the proper background for teaching pre-K. But as Bloomberg reported, there’s no perfect model for teaching kids during the pandemic.
Here’s what I have learned about home schooling during the pandemic.
Gather the resources to help your kids learn from home
If your school is offering a virtual option, you can start there. It will determine the majority of your schedule since there are set virtual times with teachers and students.
There are online options for home schooling that align with federal educational requirements. Though my kids are toddlers, I’ve found that the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education offers great educational resources. Websites such as K12 and Connections Academy has flexible online programs in which parents can enroll their children.
There are also plenty of free supplemental resources available online that can help make learning at home fun. As a result of the pandemic, some apps extended their free trial periods to allow access to families with limited income. Netflix and Disney have a lot of educational content that can be included in the kids’ curriculum. My favorites are Word Party (Netflix) for preschoolers and Secrets of the Zoo (Disney+) for older kids.
The Family Education website lists free educational websites that help your young kids with fractions, spelling, or phonics. For older children, We Are Teachers has helpful resources in math, reading, and science.
Create—and stick to—a schedule
If your school district has gone virtual, the schedule is mostly predetermined. But if you home-school on your own, your schedule can be flexible. The key is sticking to a consistent routine for both you and your kids so there’s order and structure.
It’s essential to build in some self-guided activity time (Read: Do not bother Mommy, she is working) so that you can get work done or attend virtual meetings while your kids are still learning. Creating a schedule gives kids some predictability in their day and can help with making sure there isn’t too much monotony. This can allow you to plan family bonding time while teaching your kid.
Your kids don’t need their noses in books all day for them to learn—free time is important, too. You can create designated screen time for educational apps, anti-racist kids shows, or even use family game time as a way for kids to learn. Monopoly focuses on budgeting and building wealth, and Candyland can help toddlers with counting and colors. Physical board games might also help your child’s mental health, since the pandemic has led to limited interaction with classmates and other kids their age.
It’s all easier said than done, so be kind to yourself if you hit a rough patch.
Schedule personal time for yourself
Don’t forget that the schedule you create should include time away from kids and work.
Read a book. Start the new hobby you’ve been meaning to. Make the time to have a virtual talk with your close friends. Get outside, even if it’s just in your own backyard for some vitamin D. But most importantly: Remember to give yourself some grace because you are not a trained teacher. You are doing what’s best for your family’s health, which deserves an A on the report card for life.