We are living in unprecedented times that will test us in ways we’ve never been tested before. We are grateful for our ability to communicate, and share and access information through technology. We also understand that we must still “keep tech in check.” As life slows down, we have an opportunity to form new, healthy habits. It won’t be easy as many of us struggle to homeschool while simultaneously working from home full time. Be gentle with yourself. Reinvent how you do things as a family. Try, review and reassess. Try again tomorrow. Work together. Share ideas. Support each other.
Above all, try to reframe this time as an opportunity for family connection, developing healthier habits and trying new things. We have plenty of time. So start where you are and go slow. If you’re working from home and feeling pressure from your employer to put in the same amount of work while also having to “homeschool,” share your dilemma. This is a stressful time on its own. It’s ok to make your family your first priority.
To that end, don’t feel pressure to train yourself to become a teacher overnight. You’re not. You’re a parent. And although we teach our kids everyday, we shouldn't be expected to research and write curriculum during this already super stressful time.
A homeschool teacher tells us, “Homeschooling isn’t about re-creating mainstream school in your home. The secret is: homeschooling isn’t ever about What to Teach, it’s about How we LEARN. It’s child-centeredness, it’s honoring child development and children’s complete selves - mind, body, heart in a holistic way. It’s letting them, and their interests, lead. And right now, they are in a world of stress. Not unlike you.” Right now, we need to listen to their needs, hold them tight, and reassure them through example. And that may mean putting homeschooling on hold.
Remember also that learning can happen in many different ways. Baking and cooking involve math, just double the recipe. Depending on their age, you can encourage them to research the history of a particular food. They can write a day-in-the-life of that food, or a persuasive letter explaining why it’s the best or the worst. Or simply draw it. Walking in nature or looking out a window can spark all sorts of creative ideas. How many different types of birds do they see? What type of bird is that? Research it, and summarize the research, or write a story about the bird. Draw a picture of the bird or anything else you see.
Kids can also learn everyday skills through caring for each other and their home. How many different fruits are in the refrigerator, how many of each, if you ate one piece each day, how many days until we run out? Encourage kids to participate in caring for their home - give them chores, teach them how to do laundry, have them wipe doorknobs and other surfaces. How can they care for their parents, siblings, and neighbors? Encourage them to write a note to an elderly neighbor to brighten their day or send a video message to a teacher.
We are all feeling overwhelmed and technology sure does seem like an easy answer (and distraction). But remember, there was a time, not so long ago, when we didn’t have technology to give us ideas or guide us through our day. Tap into kids’ natural curiosity and creativity. Tell them they are strong and their minds are powerful. Help them uncover ideas but encourage them to entertain themselves, to work through their boredom, and soar on their own. Set goals that encourage independence.
This doesn’t mean that technology has to go out the window. Utilize technology to help kids connect with their friends and families. Use FaceTime and apps like House Party. Schedule online “play dates” throughout the day. There are wonderful online programs that are connecting kids right now. Get involved, if you can, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t. We all have multiple responsibilities to attend to at this time.
Try to schedule 20 minute chunks of online time throughout the day, with the bulk happening in the afternoon. Balance screen use with time outdoors (even if it’s just blowing bubbles out a window, supervised, of course), unstructured play and exercise. During stressful times, we all need to move and get fresh air.
When choosing technology, choose high-quality, interactive content that encourages kids to learn and move. You can find suggestions at https://www.turninglifeon.org/covid
If your child has a special talent or hobby, many artists are offering free virtual classes. Professional ballerinas are posting classes, local gymnastic studios are doing the same. If your child plays an instrument, encourage him/her to step outside and play for your neighbors or record him/her and send to family and friends.
If your kids are struggling to stay focused while completing online work, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, respectfully, to their teacher or principal. Ask for offline suggestions, projects and worksheets. As stated above, there are many ways to learn that don’t involve educational apps and screens.
At the end of the day, approach each day as an opportunity to connect with your kids and find wonder in the world. Good luck. Stay safe and be well. AND PLEASE STAY HOME.