Have you been suddenly thrust into the role of homeschooling parent in the wake of school closures? Here’s some advice from a homeschool grad turned public school teacher on tips and strategies to help your family during this time.
My name is Giselle Palmer. I was homeschooled for 9 years and also have 4 years experience as a homeschool tutor. For the past 15 years, I have been a public school teacher in Tennessee. In the midst of world-wide upheaval, many parents are now finding themselves teaching their own children, something that had never been part of their family plan. You may be feeling overwhelmed with work and family responsibilities, caring for loved ones, and worrying about the national climate, and the additional responsibility of supervising your child’s education may be something you aren’t sure how to manage. Here are some tips to help you survive and thrive!
1. Don’t feel like you have to do it all.
You may have multiple children (including preschoolers) needing you during this time. Internet access may be limited, or students may have to share devices with each other, or with parents working from home. You may have more Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts on your family calendar than you can handle. It’s all right. You can set reasonable limits and still help your children during this time.
Remember to choose QUALITY over QUANTITY. Some school districts are providing many resources for parents, while others are giving little guidance. If your child has so many assignments that they are becoming overwhelmed, make an executive decision to cut out busywork your child doesn’t need, and focus instead on a few key areas that will help your child strengthen weaknesses or extend knowledge in particular areas of interest. If your child’s school hasn’t really given much direction, find a few specific resources that work well for your family, and utilize those. Don’t try to take advantage of ALL the free options out there right now—sample different options until you find the ones that work best for your family.
2. Reach out to your child’s teachers.
Remember that you are the helper in this situation, not the one ultimately responsible for your child’s education. Your child’s teacher is probably still being paid, and in many cases they are still on the clock during the school day. If your child is having trouble with an assignment, have them contact the teacher for help. (Most of us are missing our students terribly during this time and would love to hear from our students!)
Many teachers are providing online videos of lessons, activities, and resources for families. If you aren’t sure where to begin, your child’s teacher is a great place to start. They can give you insight into curriculum and programs that will dovetail with the resources your child has been using in class—and the familiar is your friend right now. Anything you can give your child that connects to programs they already know how to use will be much easier to implement at home.
3. Focus on connection and mental health.
What your child needs most of all right now is YOU. Your love, encouragement, connection, and interaction will give them confidence that the world isn’t ending, even though their social lives have come to a grinding halt. Recognize that your child may be grieving the loss of friends, activities, and much-anticipated events. Even introverts are struggling right now.
Look for ways to help your child share their feelings and frustrations. Writing, drawing, and talking about what is going on can be very therapeutic. Establishing a routine that includes reading together, playing games, and as many normal and familiar home activities as possible can help your child feel safe, loved, and secure. Roughhousing, running around, and time spent outdoors can help your child release the pent-up emotions that they may be feeling.
4. Remember that we are all in the same boat.
All children are missing instruction during this time. Standardized tests are being cancelled; report cards are delayed or cancelled, as well. Teachers will understand typical school isn’t continuing on in the same way at home. We know there is a huge inequity of resources among families, and we aren’t expecting parents to do our jobs for us. The best thing you can do for your child right now is to provide a stable environment where learning is encouraged. Keep your children’s minds active with books, games, activities, and interaction. These are the things that will most help them continue to learn during this time and ensure that they are best prepared to get back into a school mindset when classes begin again.
5. Above all, be patient.
Be patient with your child, because their whole world has been turned upside down, and in many cases they may not understand why. Younger children may have regressions due to their routines being disrupted. Older children who are able to understand somewhat may have fears based on partial information they have received, and they need reassurance over and over again because of the gaps in their understanding.
Be patient with yourself, because you, too, are dealing with something strange and new and completely different from anything you have ever experienced. Take time for self-care and deep breaths and give yourself permission to disconnect from the news for a while each day to keep yourself grounded. Understand that this is going to be the new normal for a while, but this is temporary. Take one day at a time. You can do this.