How to Create the Best Environment for COVID-19 Homeschooling

Rocio Espinoza is a Marketing, SEO Specialist and mother of 2 (ages 7 and 5) living in Mexico. After getting into her groove homeschooling during COVID-19, she put together this essay about some of the things that have worked for her, in hopes of helping others as well.

Whether by choice or necessity due to coronavirus school closings, millions of parents have suddenly become homeschooling teachers. This new experience can be challenging, but it can blossom into a memorable, rewarding experience as you find ways to connect with your child or children as you learn together, building a lifelong bond. You may also discover your child excels with one-on-one attention instead of being lost in a crowded classroom setting.

We have some tips and advice on turning your home into the best environment for homeschooling your child. For this new venture, you’ll need some extra flexibility, patience, creativity, and humor, along with access to online resources and some good friends to lean on. Remember, this quarantine has created emotional, educational, and economic chaos, but you can help keep that stress to a minimum for your child. With a few deep breaths and preparation, you can turn this into a fun and productive adventure.

Find a Space in Your Home

One of the first steps to ensure learning success is to create a dedicated, organized homeschooling location. Don’t worry–it doesn’t need to be dramatic or picture-perfect; you can change it as needed, depending on your child’s (or children’s) requirements. You’ll want a spot that’s out of the way, but not totally separated from where you are, especially for younger children.

Where you set up the learning space depends on your home environment. Try to choose a location that’s not close to distractions like the television, video games, or high-activity areas. Whether your home space is cozy, expansive, or somewhere in between, there’s a way to make it work. Rearrange furniture or hang a shower curtain or sheet across visually stimulating areas if you need to. Let your child draw or paint pictures on the room “divider” to make it more personal.

Bring cheerful touches to the space, and make sure it’s clean and organized but not cluttered. Clutter is a distraction and can lead to more scattered thought processes and less successful learning.

If the workspace has a window, you may need to pull the blinds or drapes to mute strong sunlight to keep your child from tempting outside distractions while studying. Some children learn well with soft music playing in the background, while others may prefer quiet. You know your child, so adjust the environment as you need to.

Older students who excel as independent learners might work well in their bedrooms but monitor to make sure they’re not too distracted and are keeping up with schoolwork instead of getting lost in Minecraft.

Choose a workspace surface like a desk or table. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it must be functional. Since shopping is limited during this quarantine, look around your home for what you need. You can even set up a card table and put a colorful tablecloth over it to brighten up the space. Make sure the table or desk is big enough for workbooks, a computer, pencils, erasers, a calculator, a lamp, and other supplies he or she needs, depending on the age. Add some storage, so school items are within easy reach.

If your child is younger, try to find a table or surface that’s more on his or her level. For instance, a preschooler might prefer a coffee table or play table. As long as your child is comfy, engaged, and learning, that’s a big win.

Along with a desk, provide a comfortable chair; this could be a dining room chair, an unused office chair, or even a beanbag or armchair. Some kids are “floor learners” and concentrate better if they’re stretched out on the floor. Let them. Remember, they’re stressed and missing their regular school routine and friends. Understanding this and helping them cope with all the changes can ensure success in learning.

If you’re homeschooling more than one child, you already know which kids can be in the same space as others, and which ones need their own desk with fewer distractions. Take a deep breath, because there will be frustrations and triumphs for both students and homeschooling teachers. If working at the same table doesn’t work for your kids, try separate areas.

If space allows, let this homeschooling environment be a dedicated location, day after day. If you need to use the area after learning is finished, have a tote, backpack, or box available so your child can put away supplies, books, worksheets, and papers until the next day. Help your child stay on top of keeping this space clean and organized.

Books, Workbooks, or Online Study

The subjects and methods of learning for your child vary depending on your circumstances. Some schools have provided online platforms for students during the coronavirus quarantine, while others have sent home study packets. Reach out to your child’s teacher or teachers to ensure you have all the tools you need to homeschool.

Try to make sure your child has an appropriate computer, tablet, or another device, and a reliable internet connection. If the cost of internet service is a factor, some internet providers are offering free internet service during the quarantine period. Check with your local internet companies. Many schools also let students borrow laptops, so contact your child’s school to find out.

Keep to a Schedule

Try to keep to a schedule every day; this helps your child get into a routine not unlike at his or her school. Try to start at the same time each day but have breaks. Schedule fun into the day, along with more serious studies. Younger children learn through play, and it’s a crucial part of their education and growth process.

While it’s important to keep to a schedule, leave some wiggle room for diversity. For example, is there a subject your child finds really challenging? Try sandwiching that between subjects he or she enjoys more, or break the more difficult course into more manageable blocks. As your child’s homeschool teacher, you have lots of options. Explore incentives for rewarding your child for doing well or sticking with a difficult chapter.

Brain Breaks

Know when it’s time to break that schedule, though. Before your child –or you–hit a brick wall in the learning process, take brain breaks.

Search online for age-appropriate game sites, chill together in front of the TV for a bit, go for a walk, or shoot a few hoops–just do something fun for a bit before returning to tackling the books or online quizzes. This helps break up the monotony of schoolwork and keep the stress at manageable levels.

Your child might also need a break from his or her usual learning space, so why not let him or her climb a tree to read that book, or sit outside while completing that worksheet?

Be Flexible

As a homeschooling parent, flexibility is a lifesaver. You’re there for your kids, encouraging and helping guide them through lessons. Some kids need more side-by-side help, while others do great tackling subjects on their own. Here is where you as a teacher can shine, helping your child navigate through math and writing, social studies, and science. If you don’t know the answer to a question or problem, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer, but let’s see if we can find out!”

Every child’s educational journey is unique, so you’ll need to adjust your methods. Some kids excel at-home learning, while others may struggle. Understanding this helps you tailor the learning environment and experience for your child or children. Younger children have a shorter attention span and need more breaks with play and exercise, while older students may be able to focus for longer between breaks. Experiment until you find what works for you and your child.

Does your child prefer learning and studying with others? Contact the parents of your child’s friends to see if an online “study meeting” through Zoom or another program would help. Other parents are also a great resource about assignments and advice, or just to lend an ear when you’re struggling with algebra or verb tenses.

Working and Teaching

Many parents have the added frustration of trying to work from home while helping students stay on track. This is another area where patience and flexibility are your friends. Try scheduling your most challenging work projects at times different from your child’s most intense subjects.

Have a Zoom meeting with your boss? Challenge your child to find different leaves from the back yard while you’re at your virtual meeting. Or, repurpose a recycled soup or coffee can, paper, glue, paint, beads, or other craft items, and turn her loose decorating a pencil holder to personalize her learning space. Letting your child play Minecraft for a bit while you’re working intensely or need quiet? It might just be what both of you need to get through the day in one piece. Progress, not perfection, wins.

Make it Fun

Use this quarantine homeschooling opportunity to encourage your child to discover new passions. Look for ways to turn lessons into exciting, engaging, hands-on experiences. Search online for educational, science-based STEM projects, or reach out to local online parenting or teaching groups for ideas.

Is your child’s science unit learning about trees? Grab a magnifying glass and take your kid outside for a close-up study of bark, branches, and leaves. Start a garden. How does that seed grow into a plant with red, juicy tomatoes?

Many museums and performing arts centers now have virtual tours available online, letting you and your child get up close with dinosaurs, architecture, plays, musicals or paintings, all from the comfort of your sofa. Do a craft together or learn a lifelong skill, like cooking, music, creative writing, game coding, drawing, photography, or digital art. YouTube is full of tutorials on new skills that may excite your child.

Let this be a joyous time of exploration for your child. This will help ease the sadness of not spending time with friends during social distancing.

Online Resources are Your Friend

You are not alone in your quest for the best homeschooling experience for your child. There are lots of free online resources, like homeschooling teacher groups, learning platforms with age-appropriate lessons, and much more. These sites have already invented the educational wheel, so let them help lessen your frustrations and provide an online community of support.

Diving In

While taking this sudden, deep dive into homeschooling due to coronavirus can be a challenge, teaching can be immensely rewarding if you set up a good, organized homeschooling environment and approach learning with flexibility, patience, and understanding. Remember, you’re learning, too. Make lessons fun when you can and try to keep mistakes and frustrations in perspective. We’re all in this together, so reach out to teachers, friends, and homeschooling groups for more advice. They will no doubt have lots of helpful tips that will make this journey one to remember with a smile.

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Homeschool Group Offers Advice to Educators

For Immediate Release: Group run by homeschool alumni promotes research on distance learning and supporting socially isolated students

05/12/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Children (CRHE) believes research on homeschooling and online schooling has much to offer educators as they hone their distance learning offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed schools across the country. “We have spent years researching at-home education,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit focused on child advocacy. CRHE has created a report, At-Home Education & Distance Learning: Educators Responding to COVID-19 School Closures, to share what it has learned with educators. 

Coleman points to recent research on achievement gaps among students enrolled in online charter schools and district-run virtual learning and distance education programs such as Alaska’s popular public “correspondence” programs. “Students who are educated in the home experience a ‘math gap’ whether they are enrolled in online programs or homeschooled independently,” Coleman says. Her organization is urging teachers and school districts to pay special attention to math education when implementing remote learning programs.  

Coleman also points to concern that school closures may accelerate inequities in education based on students’ socio-economic status or race. “While these concerns are reasonable and understandable, a growing body of research suggests that students who are educated via online learning or homeschooling may actually see the racial and economic achievement gap narrow,” Coleman says. While she urges caution — noting that we don’t know the reasons behind this finding — her organization is advising educators to approach all parents as competent and interested partners, and to avoid making assumptions about families based on demographic factors. “We want to see all children succeed,” she says. 

What other advice does Coleman have for educators? “The research is clear: online instruction is not an adequate replacement for in-person instruction,” she says. “Educators should create synchronous learning experiences that involve live interaction with students.” Coleman also notes that the distance learning programs that involve a high level of parental involvement and input tend to be the most successful. “Parents should be engaged and included,” she says. 

CRHE’s report also covers the challenges socially isolated school-age children can face, as well as a list of recommendations for how educators can support students during what is admittedly a challenging time. “Our goal is to share what we have learned from our own advocacy with educators,” says Coleman. “We understand the public health reasons behind school closures, and we want to see both students and their teachers succeed.” 

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals. 

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Homeschool Group Publishes Report for Child Welfare Workers

For Immediate Release: Group run by homeschool alumni advises social workers on supports for children isolated due to COVID-19

05/12/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Children (CRHE) is offering advice to child welfare professionals on supporting children isolated at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since our founding in 2013, we have advocated for children who are isolated by parents who misuse homeschool laws to hide their abuse,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit focused on child advocacy. “We wanted to put some of our knowledge to use.” CRHE’s report, School-Age Child Isolation and Abuse: Children at Home Due to COVID-19, is co-authored with the Center for Child Policy, a division of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. 

School closures prevent teachers from observing children for signs of child maltreatment. Local child welfare agencies in many areas have already noted that child abuse and neglect reports fell dramatically after schools were closed and stay-at-home orders went into effect. In addition, social isolation is associated with an increased risk of child fatality, according to a 2016 report by the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. Social isolation can also lead to an escalation of existing abuse: a 2014 study of child torture found that school-age victums’ removal from school to be homeschooled “was accompanied by an escalation of physically abusive events.” 

Coleman says she and her colleagues started worrying about children impacted by school closures early on. “Working in this area, we are well aware of the negative impact social isolation can have on child welfare,” says Coleman. CRHE’s report outlines various ways child welfare professionals can support children isolated due to school closures, offering insight on topics such as how to identify child maltreatment when children are socially isolated and thus less visible. Among other recommendations, the report points to research suggesting that internet access can be a protective factor. 

“Our goal is to share what we know from our own advocacy with child welfare workers who are dealing with a difficult situation,” says Coleman. “We understand the public health reasons behind school closures. We want child welfare professionals to have all of the tools possible to protect and support children impacted by these closures.” 

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals. 

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Homeschool Group Supports Accountability For Charter Funds

For Immediate Release: Public-private partnerships serve students, but taxpayer funding must come with public accountability

05/11/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) supports the California legislature in its efforts to create responsible guidelines for charter schools that enroll homeschooled students. “Homeschooled children benefit from public-private partnerships that provide both financial reimbursement for educational expenses and accountability for their educational program,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. 

Assembly Bill 2990, passed by the Assembly Education Committee last Wednesday, was prompted by concern that such charter schools were reimbursing families for Disneyland trips and ski passes, among other things. One charter school network was closed after its leaders were indicted on fraud allegations. Coleman says that it makes sense that these questions are surfacing now; her organization has seen the number of public-private education partnerships serving students educated in the home rise. “State leaders have a responsibility to ensure that state money is used responsibly,” she says. 

Coleman points to debates in Alaska nearly two decades ago: beginning in the late 1990s, district- and charter-run programs in that state provided homeschooling families with financial reimbursements for education expenses while requiring an annual educational plan, monthly check-ins with a teacher, and annual testing; these programs saw themselves engulfed in controversy in the early 2000s after some families used the money for vacations and some private school students enrolled in order to net public money for extracurricular expenses. The state’s board of education responded to these concerns by creating new rules barring reimbursements for travel, uniforms, or family passes to sports or recreational facilities and mandating that at least 50% of students’ courses be in core subject areas. 

California’s AB 2990 takes similar steps, prohibiting funds from being used on private school tuition and mandating that charter schools and districts vet enrichment vendors before providing families with reimbursement. “We applaud the growth of public-private partnerships that provide support and accountability for homeschooling,” says Coleman, adding that “it is understandable that we are seeing growing pains.” Coleman says state legislatures and state boards of education should ensure that such programs center students’ educational needs, provide academic accountability, and ensure that taxpayer funds are used responsibly. 

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.

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My COVID-19 Homeschooling Journey

Like many other parents who send their children to public school, I’m now supervising my children’s education at home due to COVID-19 school closures. Unlike most other parents who send their children to public school, I was homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade and I run a nonprofit that advocates for homeschooled children. 

When I learned my children’s school would be closed, I decided I would have them do their school work in the morning and give them free choice time in the afternoon. I work from home and still need to have time for my own tasks, for one thing, but I was also homeschooled and this was the schedule my mother kept growing up. You can read more about why I didn’t want to simply replicate a school schedule at home here

Here, I want to focus not on the school schedule I’ve kept but on my efforts to navigate the resources provided by my children’s school district. While middle and high school teachers are continuing their classes online as best they can, elementary school districts are taking a variety of different approaches. Given that many other parents are trying to navigate these same things, I thought my experience might be instructive. 

When a parent sets out to homeschool, they typically spend time looking at different curriculum and choosing what materials to use. This is not the case for those of us thrust suddenly into educating our children at home due to a global pandemic. We have the advantage, of course, of having a school district and teachers to help us and provide us with materials, but they, too, have had to throw things together suddenly. 

We’re all navigating uncharted waters—principals, teachers, parents, and children. It’s important that we show grace to all of those involved—especially the children. I would rather have my children feel loved, safe, and supported—even if it means they miss some learning—than make them miserable by forcing something that isn’t working. 

Chapter 1: Choice Boards

On the last day of school, my children each came home with a packet of materials in their backpack. These packets mostly consisted of worksheets and outlines for activities for parents to do with their children, as well as a “choice board” that offered different activity ideas under each subject, all of which required some parental involvement. 

On the first Monday the children were at home, I went through their packets. I’m a planner, and I like to be organized. We did activities on the choice board—one each day for each subject, the materials said—and worked our way through some of the worksheets. After a few days, however, I realized two things. First, the materials that came home with my kids were primarily review—things my children already knew. Second, my children’s teachers hadn’t put the packets together; the district had. 

Chapter 2: Online Assignments

As I went through the emails sent by my children’s school, I found that each child had an online platform that their teachers could post assignments to. I logged each child in and found that the assignments did not line up with either the worksheets or the choice boards sent home in each child’s packets. This was understandable, given that the packets were put together by the school district, not the teacher. I appreciated having assignments from my children’s teachers—it reassured me that I was not alone and promised to keep my children connected to their teachers and their classmates. 

An assignment for my 2nd grader asked him to read a page from a book he was reading out loud, after practicing it; by hitting the microphone button on the assignment page, he was able to record himself reading. Next, the assignment asked him to take a picture of the page he read and underline words he had problems with. Finally, he submitted the assignment for his teacher—and his classmates—to view. The goal, the instructions explained, was to practice reading fluency. He loved it. He was engaged; he was able to produce something he was proud of; and he knew his teacher would view it. 

I decided to defer to the assignments posted by my children’s teachers, and only use the materials sent home by the district as needed. I soon hit a bit of a snag, however. For one thing, my 2nd grader’s teacher only posted one assignment per day. While these were engaging assignments that made full use of what the online system had to offer, more was clearly needed. For another thing, I found my 5th grader sitting at the table near tears. “I already know this stuff, mom!” she said. “Why did she assign us all the same thing?” she asked. It was math. She’s always been ahead in math. 

Chapter 3: DIY Learning Activities

It was around this time that the district sent out an email letting parents know that the governor had declared an Act of God, which meant that lost days did not have to be made up. While older students needed to complete the assignments on Google Classroom, the district asked elementary parents to make sure our children did reading, writing, math, science/social studies, and fine arts each day, but said we could choose how we did this. “Families may choose the activities they complete,” the email read, “activities provided by the educators or ones from the choice boards or you can design your own learning activity for the content area to align to student interests.” 

This email came as a bit of a relief, because I was growing frustrated. As I noted, I was homeschooled as a child. I enrolled my children in public school precisely because I didn’t want to be the one making them do their work. I remembered the tension I had sometimes seen between my mother and my younger brothers as my mother had to be not only their cheerleader but also the enforcer. I had liked that I could tell my children they needed to do their homework because their teacher had assigned it and would be expecting it the next day, and not simply because I said so. More and more, now, I felt like I was fighting with my children to get them to do work—especially my younger child. 

The email from the district also gave me a new feeling of freedom. I could use the choice board or have my children do assignments posted by their teachers—or we could design our own learning activities. One day, I created learning activities around a theme: the children calculated rates of exponential growth, we read about Louis Pasteur’s discovery of microscopic organisms; and we watched a Netflix documentary about pandemics. They loved it. Other days, I told them to choose something to do for each subject, based on their own inclination, and let them do their own thing. 

Chapter 4: Finding Balance

After nearly a week during which I interspersed activities I designed myself with letting my younger child do whatever he wanted for each subject, I received an email from his teacher. She wanted to know why he wasn’t doing the assignments she was posting each day. She also wanted to know why he hadn’t logged into a program for practicing math, and another that let him read books she assigned and take a quiz over each to check reading comprehension. I had somehow missed these latter expectations, in part because there were so many emails. Oops! 

At this point I realized two things. First, I value my children’s teachers and I didn’t want to sever their connections with the classroom. Second, we needed somewhat more organization to our school days—and our rhythm of life—than we’d been having. 

Now in our third week at home, we are moving toward a new balance. My 2nd grader does the daily assignment his teacher posts, as well as the online reading program where his teacher assigns him books to read, with comprehension questions. Telling him that his teacher has assigned these things for him has helped; it means I’m not the one making him do them. I’m also having my 5th grader check Google Classroom first every morning, to see what her teacher has assigned. 

I’m going to go rogue for some things, however. Neither of my children likes the online math their teachers have assigned. I asked my 5th grader’s teacher if we can do our own thing for math, and she gave the go ahead. I looked into a number of online math programs, some currently free, but found myself disappointed. I want my kids to keep progressing in math, but I also know the research—children who are homeschooled or enrolled in online schools perform worse in math than do their peers who attend public school. I’m not going to make my children do online math programs they dislike; I don’t want them to develop negative perceptions of math. 

While I haven’t found a perfect solution for math yet, I’ve ordered fact sheets that go over the common core standards for each grade, with examples. When these come, I plan to use them as a guide and teach my children math myself, creating my own assignments. In the meantime, I’m teaching my 2nd grader his multiplication tables. 

As for everything else, I’m keeping things flexible. I’ve told my 5th grader that outside of the small number of assignments her teacher puts on Google Classroom, I want her to spend some time each day on free reading and working on the novel she’s been writing for a year. Social studies, science, fine arts—for those we’re mixing materials the school has sent home with doing our own thing. Mo Willems is giving a daily art lesson online, and the Cincinnati Zoo is offering a daily home safari on YouTube. And for history, I’ve begun reading aloud a book about a 17th century English village gripped by the plague.  

Last Updated

Help! I’m Homeschooling! #COVID19

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.

K-5 Resource Links

6-8 Resource Links

9-12 Resource Links

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CRHE to Participate in Homeschooling Summit

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) is pleased to participate in this summer’s “Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform” sponsored by Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program. The summit is being organized by Prof. James Dwyer of William & Mary School of Law and Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard Law School with the intention of bringing together the leading scholars and advocates working towards homeschool reform.

CRHE staff members Dr. Rachel Coleman and Dr. Chelsea McCracken and CRHE board members Samantha Field and Carmen Longoria-Green have been invited to speak at the summit on subjects within their areas of expertise. We are grateful to the summit organizers for featuring the voices of homeschool alumni so prominently and for incorporating our suggestions of other scholars and stakeholders to invite to the summit. We look forward to sharing our expertise as homeschool researchers and advocates.

Collaboration with other scholars, experts, and advocates is an incredibly important aspect of work in an area as new and exciting as homeschooling. We anticipate that the summit will create an important space for discussion and debate among advocates for homeschool reform who hold a variety of perspectives, including CRHE’s perspective that homeschooling should be a legal and accessible educational option, with accountability measures in place.

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It’s Okay: Thoughts from a Homeschool Grad Turned COVID-19 Homeschool Parent

Like many parents across the United States today, my kids are home from school due to COVID-19, and will be for the foreseeable future. Unlike most parents who have found themselves in this situation, though, I was homeschooled K-12. I am also the executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. As I have watched the conversations in some of my local moms groups, I have realized that other parents may find my experience helpful. 

First and foremost, it’s ok just to take it easy for a bit. It really, really is. At CRHE, we advise parents just starting to homeschool to take a week or two to just chill and adjust, and not feel like they have to jump in with everything already lined up. This is true here as well. Yes, many of us have teachers we need to work with and work that has been sent home from school that should be completed at some point, but you really do not need to do everything this week. It’s ok. And remember—your kids learn things all the time, even when you’re not formally “doing” school. 

I think it may be helpful to explain how my mother structured our homeschool, when I was growing up. We would get up in the morning, do chores, and have breakfast. After this, from about 9-12, was what we called “seat work.” Math, writing, vocabulary, etc. We typically did this sitting at the table while my mother moved from person to person (I’m from a large family, so she was always supervising multiple children). She would generally try to get one child started on one thing, then work with the other child on something that needed more direct attention, and so forth, staggering things. And we’d be sent outside for a 10-15 minute recess at least once, maybe more if we had energy to burn. Sometimes she had us run laps around the house. It helped! 

Those three hours were all my mother needed to get us through everything, and that included the breaks we would take (and usually a snack!). Since what many of us have to work with is not as formalized as the curriculum my mother spent time creating—the schools are doing the best they can—two hours should be plenty for younger children, and for Kindergarten, even less. You do not need to (and should not) keep your kids in their seats “doing” school the full school day. 

In the afternoon, my mother instituted “nap” time. For the little ones, this meant actually napping or at least laying down, and for the older ones it meant quiet reading or project time. Somewhere around 3-4, my mother would make a snack and gather us for read aloud time—that’s how she did history with us, by reading aloud to us. Sometimes there would be an activity or a project, but often we would just play with legos while she read aloud for 30 minutes or so. 

Most homeschooling works like this—three or so hours of formal “seat work” and a lot of what we might call “choice” time outside of that. Some states require homeschooled children to have a certain number of hours of instruction per day (this does not apply to those of us whose kids are still in school and only home temporarily, of course), but time spent doing free reading counts. Time spent outside looking for worms counts. Even time spent playing with cars and train sets can count—city planning! civics! Your children learn all the time; it does not have to look formal. 

The schedule I’ve worked out in my own home with my children (grades 2 and 5) adapts what I had growing up. We’re doing work sent by the school in the morning, then lunch and outside play from 12-1. After that I’ve told the children they have until 4 to choose things off a general list, during which time they are to leave me alone, so I can get my own work done. The list includes playing board games with each other, puzzles, learning games on computer (such as Code.org), more outdoor play, craft making, dress up, other creative play, etc. Starting at 4, I’m letting them have free computer time until dinner. It’s screen time, but we all need our ways to blow off steam these days. 

In the future, I’d like to crack some activity books and do kitchen science with my children, as well as more read aloud, but right now I’m feeling pretty tapped out, so I’m trying to keep things simple. 

I’ve set up our dining room table as our school room. Everything stays there. Even if it gets disorganized, I know it’s all in one place. It means we have to eat in the kitchen, but we were doing that anyway, and it’s worth it to have one set space. For work sent home from school, I’ve made up checklists so they can check off each subject when they complete it, which helps us all keep on track in the morning and see what we’ve finished and what we haven’t. 

Homeschooling is not about replicating the school day in the home. In fact, CRHE specifically advises parents not to try doing that. You will burn out. Your kids will burn out. Instead, set aside a specific time to work with your children on work sent home from school, foster creative play outside of that, and try not to worry too much. Your kids will be fine. 

I have a friend who spent 7th grade in Italy. She attended local schools during that year but had barely any knowledge of Italian and learned very little in the way of academics there. But she was curious, and she learned a lot of other things during this time, and the academics worked themselves out later. It never hindered her. Your kids will be okay too. 

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Emergency Homeschooling and Coronavirus (COVID-19) School Closures

For Immediate Release: Parents should be ready to take an active role in their children’s education in case of school closures

03/11/2020—As COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreads in the United States, some local authorities have temporarily closed schools to slow the rate of infection. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is encouraging parents to make preparations in case their children’s schools are closed. “We will probably see more school closures in coming weeks,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “Parents should be prepared to support their children’s learning at home.”

The CDC has recommended that parents make arrangements for alternative childcare in case of school closures in their area. Some school districts are responding to the potential for school closures by making preparations to transition to online schooling to cut down on lost learning time. “A switch to online learning will create special challenges for families without a caregiver at home or those without internet access,” Coleman says. “Online learning will also create challenges that affect all children. Parents need to be aware of these challenges.”

In recent years, education researchers have expressed a growing skepticism of online schools. A 2019 study in Pennsylvania found that students who transferred from brick and mortar schools to online charter schools showed weaker growth than matched peers who remained in school. A 2019 study conducted by the National Education Policy Center found such concerning results for online schools that they recommended that policymakers “slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools … until the reasons for their relatively poor performance have been identified and addressed,” although they did find that online schools run by school districts performed better than those run by outside entities. 

“These studies suggest that online learning is not an effective replacement for in-person interaction between students and teachers,” Coleman says. “Parents should not assume that a computer will be sufficient to make up the education their child was receiving in school.” CRHE is encouraging parents who find themselves faced with school closures to take an active role in their child’s online schoolwork and to take proactive steps to foster their children’s learning. “When schools close, parents must play a key role in furthering their children’s education,” says Coleman. 

CRHE has posted a list of learning activities and ideas for parents on their website. 

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.

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Emergency Homeschooling: How to Support your Kids During a Coronavirus School Closure

As COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreads in the United States, some local authorities have temporarily closed schools to slow the rate of infection. It is likely that parents in the U.S. will see more school closures in coming weeks; a number of countries, including Italy and Japan, have already closed all schools for a month. The CDC has recommended that parents make arrangements for alternative childcare in case of school closures in their area. 

Many parents are understandably worried about the possibility that their children may temporarily lose access to schools’ educational resources. As school districts explore ways to implement online learning in case of school closures, parents may wonder what these programs will be like, and how this shift in learning will impact them and their children. 

As an organization that focuses on homeschooling, we have a number of recommendations for parents. In this article, we will offer evidence-based advice on how parents can help with the implementation of online learning in cases where school districts attempt such programs. We will also provide a list of suggestions for keeping your children active, learning, and engaged during either school closures or quarantines. 

An Experiment in Online Learning

Some school districts have begun responding to the potential for school closures by making preparations to transition to online learning. If your child’s school closes, you should be prepared for the school to implement some form of online schooling in order to cut down on lost learning time. This switch will create special challenges for families without a caregiver at home or those without internet access. However, parents need to understand that online learning will also create challenges that affect all children, including those that are well positioned for online learning, with a caregiver at home and access to the internet. 

In recent years, education researchers have expressed a growing skepticism of online schools. A 2019 study in Pennsylvania found that students who transferred from brick and mortar schools to online charter schools showed weaker growth than matched peers who remained in school. A 2019 study conducted by the National Education Policy Center found such concerning results for online schools that they recommended that policymakers “slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual and blended schools … until the reasons for their relatively poor performance have been identified and addressed,” although they did find that online schools run by school districts performed better than those run by outside entities.

These studies suggest that online learning is not an effective replacement for in-person interaction between students and teachers. If your child’s school closes and implements some form of online learning, you should not assume that a computer will be sufficient to make up the education your child was receiving in school. Instead, you should take an active role in your child’s online schoolwork and make an effort to foster their learning. This may include sitting at the computer with your child, answering their questions and providing examples, helping them stay on task, and providing enrichment activities. Children should not be left to complete their online coursework on their own and without guidance. Most children cannot successfully complete schoolwork online without the accountability and support parental involvement provides. 

Fostering Learning at Home

Caregivers who find themselves quarantined at home, or housebound due to school closures, have a variety of resources at their fingertips for keeping children engaged and learning.

Read aloud: When you stock up on groceries, make an extra stop at the library to stock up on books to read aloud to your children. Many libraries also have ebook or audiobook lending programs, so even if you can’t go to the library in person, you may be able to download books to read. Quite a few books for children and teens are also available to read for free online through various services.

Studies show that reading to your children is highly beneficial to their vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Children develop mature literacy skills through learning to make sense of language that is not about the here and now, so talking through key story elements with children is an essential component of reading aloud together.

Play games: Pull out some card games and board games with engaging components that foster learning, such as:

  • Language arts games: Apples to Apples, Dixit, Scrabble
  • Math games: 24, SET, Blokus
  • Social studies games: Axis & Allies, 7 Wonders, Monopoly
  • Science games: Evolution, Pandemic, Wingspan

Some studies suggest that having indirect experiences with numbers in the motivating context of games may be beneficial to children’s mathematical development. Younger children may benefit from using dice games or playing cards to learn number names and simple operations, while older children and teens may appreciate logic and strategy games like chess and sudoku. Many games are available for free online, on loan at your local library, or at low cost at your local thrift store. 

Do activities: When you hit the library, take a moment in the crafting and science sections of the children’s area; many science books include experiments and activities your children can do in the kitchen, and arts and crafts books may spark your child’s imagination. (If your library uses the Dewey decimal system, science books start at 500 and arts and crafts at 740.) A quick Google or YouTube search will also pull up plenty of kitchen science experiments and crafting ideas. Doing activities together contributes to family bonding, and hands-on projects often offer added benefits in science learning, engineering, exercising the imagination, and hand-eye coordination. 

Get your children started journaling; create a daily art challenge; plan a scavenger hunt. If your children play instruments, ask them to put together a concert for you. Children also love to put on plays, especially when they have access to materials to use as costumes and scenery. Your children might also enjoy putting together a “museum” of their artwork. Pull out toy trains and cars, blocks, or Legos and work with your children to design a city (a simple project like this can turn into a unit on urban planning or civil engineering).  

Keep them active: Kids have a lot of energy and need breaks from online learning, so get your kids playing outside. If you have a private outdoor area under quarantine, you can use sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, and playing catch or frisbee; kids can play indoors via dancing, Wii video games, or YouTube workout videos. YouTube also has dance videos and yoga tutorials for families. A family dance party or yoga session can be a great way to help your kids work out some physical energy. For example, check out this series of yoga adventure videos for children.  

Facilitate friendships: Even if it is not advisable for your kids to meet their friends and classmates in person, they may find it difficult to be separated from their peers for an extended period of time. You can arrange phone calls or video hangouts for your children and their friends, or create a private Minecraft server so they can play online games together. You could even arrange online book clubs for older kids.

Online media: All caregivers need downtime! Fortunately, there are a number of TV series, YouTube channels, and online games that have educational aspects, such as:

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