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PARENTING MENTOR BLOG
I can’t remember a more stressful Back to School season. With so many considerations surrounding COVID-19, more and more schools are calling for distance learning for the start of—if not the full—school year. As such, many parents are looking to create a homeschool curriculum.
But, how? I’m sharing six key pieces of advice to take the pressure off of homeschooling and distance learning. I hope they’ll show you that you’re even more prepared than you might think.
- Reframe your mindset: “But I’m not a teacher!” you might say. First of all, you are. You were your child’s first teacher. They learned to walk, talk, and more all from you. And if you’ve been helping your kids with their homework over the years, you have lots more experience to help you in this endeavor. Just don’t expect it to be exactly like regular school (remember, many homeschooled kids are only in “school” two hours a day).
- Use what you have: You don’t have to follow a prescribed curriculum all of the time. And you certainly don’t have to create a mini-school in your own home. There are plenty of everyday activities that “count” as learning, and many of them are valuable in life. For example, baking bread involves math and science content but is also a great life skill.
- Lean into your child’s interests. You can also let your child’s passion guide you. If they love soccer, use that topic as a vehicle for learning. Have them do research and fill up a notebook with everything they learn about the sport--from its history, to famous players, to strategy, to even dissecting an old soccer ball!
- Consult the experts: Remember, parents homeschool children by choice all the time! Find a friend or neighbor who does homeschooling regularly and get advice from them. If you’re in a distance model, ask your child’s teacher how you can best support their learning from home.
- Take advantage of online resources: There’s so much available on the Internet, and a lot of it is free. With the teach@home program, you can download 12 weeks worth of daily lessons, activities, and videos for grades K-5. Khan Academy, Wolfram Alpha, and Chegg all offer help if your child’s math skills have surpassed your own. You can also try googling “how to homeschool” or “what my fifth grader should know.”
- Start a teaching co-op: Chances are, many of your friends are in a similar situation. If you can find a group to quarantine with, you can each take turns being the teacher for the day. Play to your strengths. If each of you takes on a different subject area, you’ll likely have most of your bases covered.
Schools being closed is stressful, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Break down the homeschool curriculum and distance learning into manageable tasks, and you’ll be just fine.
With distance learning and school cancellations, parents are definitely feeling the pressure not to let their kids “fall behind.” This summer, however, try to remember that you don’t need structured schooling: Children can play and learn. In fact, there are any number of activities that your kids can do this summer—and year-round—that feel like just having fun but actually reinforce learning.
I know this idea would have helped me relax and enjoy the summer days with my kids. I wouldn’t have felt so guilty about time spent making mud pies, building forts, dressing up Polly Pockets, or just daydreaming on the couch. Since then, I’ve learned that play develops skills tied to patience, collaboration, following directions, self-sufficiency, and more.
Think about it: play is the way babies first learn, and that doesn’t stop as they get older. Designing blanket forts promotes spatial reasoning and STEM skills. Drawing, coloring, and painting reinforce concepts like color and line. Pretend play exercises those all important creativity and problem-solving muscles.
To enhance opportunities for summer learning, you can take three simple steps:
Identify their interests. What does your child like to do? Tailor activities to their interests and passions. Nature lovers can explore outdoors and track their findings in a journal. Got builders? Supply them with blocks or LEGOs and challenge them to create a tower, castle, or bridge. For performers, encourage them to put on a show complete with sets and costumes!
Brainstorm together. Ask your child: “If you could make one thing, learn to do one thing, explore one thing this summer, what would it be?” Or maybe: “Let’s make lists of the things we want to learn/make/do this summer!” Maybe they want to learn how to juggle or learn a new language. The more kids initiate the ideas, the better. Let them lead.
Plan for a more involved activity. Break the project into steps and have your child try and do some on their own, providing lots of encouragement along the way. For younger kids, you might bake some cookies. Talk through the steps (gathering ingredients, mixing, etc.) and find things they can do by themselves (like cracking eggs). Help older children make a plan to run their own lemonade stand or make a bird feeder.
So if you’ve been worrying about coming up with daily lesson plans for your child, I hope this reminds you that you likely already have all you need for them to have an engaging, fun, and educational summer. Keeping a positive, flexible attitude—and teaching them to do the same—is a lesson already.