Whether you were planning to do it or not, right now we’re all homeschool parents thanks to COVID-19. Schools around the country have closed down for the remainder of the year, leaving parents and students scrambling to adjust to distance learning models and the new reality of learning from home. This doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience, though. Here are some of our favorite tools and tricks for making home-based learning a little bit easier.
1. A Flexible Parent
Right off the bat, do not expect the “sit still for 6-8 hours and learn” model to work when your kids are at home. At school, there are no distractions. At home, all of their toys and games are there at their fingertips or taunting them from the other room. Be flexible. If your kids are having trouble paying attention to their lessons, redirect them to something different or walk away entirely for a few minutes.
There’s science behind this. Studies have shown that taking regular breaks actually helps to increase creativity and productivity, allowing your children to focus on their tasks better. If you try to work all the way through, eventually you hit a burnout point and stop focusing. Before they burn out, take a break. Throw a dance party, bake cookies or just take a walk around the block.
2. A Decent Printer
Your child’s school may have a distance learning system set up to allow them to keep learning even though they’re at home. But let’s be honest — some things, like mathematics, are easier to learn and retain if you’re scribbling the formula down on a piece of paper and showing your work on a printed worksheet. Their school might not require it, but whether you’re COVID-homeschooling or doing this as a full-time educational choice, a decent printer can make all the difference.
Choose a printer that connects easily and quickly to your home network, prints well and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to restock with ink. You don’t have to buy a super-expensive model like the ones you might see at school, but get something that you won’t want to throw out the window as soon as it stops working.
3. A Learning Style
Did you know that there are actually seven different learning styles? How does your child learn? One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that you have the option to cater your teaching style to the way your individual child learns. If they’re a logical learner, you can print out worksheets and let them work their way through problems. If they’re an auditory learner, you can invest in audiobooks or read lessons aloud to them.
If they’re a visual learner, you can provide them with pictures or diagrams that help the lessons make sense. If they’re a kinesthetic learner, you can design your lessons so they have hands-on components that help the concepts sink in. The possibilities are endless. Homeschooling is designed so that children can thrive regardless of how they learn. On the other hand, public school tends to be one-size-fits-all, and that doesn’t always work.
4. A Functioning Computer
Distance learning through public schools is all being done online through things like Zoom and Google Classroom, so a functioning computer or mobile device like an iPad is a necessity. For more traditional homeschoolers, a computer is an invaluable tool as well. We quite literally have the breadth of human knowledge at our fingertips when we log on to the internet.
Does your child want to learn a new language? There’s an app for that. Do they want to learn how to code to create their own game? There’s an app for that. Do they want to learn to cook something new, or sew a pillow or any other skill you can imagine? There’s an app, a website or a resource for that available at your fingertips, somewhere on the internet. A computer is a necessity for home learning in the information age.
5. An Open Mind
The most important thing you need as a homeschooling parent, whether you chose this path or had it thrust upon you, is an open mind. Contrary to what public school might have taught you, education is not one-size-fits-all. We all learn differently, and not all learning has to come from a textbook. If your kids are having trouble with a lesson on fractions, head to the kitchen and bake something. That’s fractions applied to real life, which can make them easier to understand.
Your open mind will be your most valuable tool as you learn to navigate the ins and outs of homeschooling and distance learning. Don’t lock yourself into a “this has to be just like public school” box. You and your kids will both end up frustrated, which will just make this harder than it needs to be.
6. Reward Good Behaviour
Motivating your kids to embrace homeschooling can be very hard. It’s different to what they’re used to and they can get bored very easily. To help engage and stimulate your kids, you can try using rewards to incentivise them. Incentives can help students become motivated to do well because they know that their success is acknowledged.
Look at giving basic rewards for daily tasks, such as a gold star or a sweet if they get their work done. If they complete all their studies for a whole week you can even try increasing the reward by treating them to a cool new present for all their hard work. It’s also important to make sure you offer recognition as well as rewards. Verbal praise and positive reinforcement are key factors in ensuring your kids learn to love learning.
We’ll Get Through This
If you didn’t plan to homeschool your kids, suddenly having them home 24/7 is probably a bit of a shock. Take a deep breath. We’ll get through this. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be a public school at home. Take your time, keep your mind open, and remember that this too shall pass.