Listen to the iHeartMedia interview with KFBK's Dean'a Kodiak with ideas on how to effectively homeschool your child. The full audio interview can be found below.
A typical day of homeschool is very different from a typical day of homeschool during this frantic time and parents suddenly diving into school from home. I've spoken with many teachers about this and the resounding questions from parents are...Where do I start? What does the day even look like? How do I begin?
While I am certainly no expert, I have transitioned from public school to homeschool. It can be an overwhelming transition at first even under normal circumstances. I do have some perspective as our children are currently in charter school. I think I may have even cried more than a handful of times when we first began because I wasn't sure I was doing enough and wasn't sure I could do it. Their academic adviser, who we meet with every 20 school days, assured me I was. My oldest daughter who’s in 8th grade is on campus two days a week for a few hours each day and my youngest who’s in 3rd grade is on campus one day a week for a few hours so the majority of learning happens at home.
One of the leading conversations I have had with teachers about how families can make this transition a bit easier is to create structure. For all ages, continue to wake up and get ready for school, have breakfast and get started. Maybe have fun doing school in your pajamas, but get up at the same time each Monday through Friday and have a set learning structure. High school students are better equipped to move through their day on their own. Many parents though are worried about helping their younger children.
Begin at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning as an example. Think about how much time your child spends on each subject in their public school class. Use that design to help you. Begin with math. Work for 50 minutes, take a wiggles break for 5 or 10 minutes then begin science. Maybe establish and study that for 40 or 50 minutes. Times of course will be determined by your child’s age and ability to focus. Break for play or do something implementing physical education for 15 minutes or so. Have a small snack just as your kids might do at school. Regroup for social studies. Devote a block of time there. Say 40 or 50 minutes. Before you know it, it’s noon. The kids can play indoors or outside while you get things going for lunch and recharge. Have lunch together. Start again when you’re ready...all that’s left is language arts. Now, language arts includes writing, spelling, grammar, literature and reading, and for some, handwriting. Don’t feel like you have to focus on all of those at once each day. Pick one or two. Remember, many parents have now collided into the role of teacher. Think of lessons as chunks. If you’re biting off only what you can chew, it’s likely you’re doing the right amount of coursework for both you and your child, especially during this hectic time.
This can be overwhelming for parents with multiple children in the home and at different grade levels. You can work around this, for example language arts for your first grader might be spelling and handwriting which can be done without a lot of oversight from you and you can help your older children with math which may require more of your focus. Your 6th grader might do a free write essay about their last family vacation and the new activities they tried while your youngest works on sentence structure with your help. A free write doesn’t require too much of your time so you can focus on your younger kiddos. As part of the free write lesson you correct it together for spelling errors, grammar errors, and sentence and paragraph structure and just make sure it makes sense. Reading lessons could be your older kiddo reading his awesome book to your younger children. Older children can also help younger children with their math lessons. Encourage older children to help your younger kids. I assure you, they will all be learning. Have your children write emails to their teachers. It's a writing lesson and your children are missing their teachers very much and I know their teachers are missing them deeply.
Understandably, this is especially overwhelming for parents who are still at work during this time and not home during the day and many of those now working from home. While you’ll likely be exhausted by the time you get home or get off of work, this schedule can be done later in the day. That said, you can also leave worksheets or the like for your kids to work on while you’re not home. Some of it they may need help with, but tell them if you need help with something skip it and keep moving forward. You can help when you get home just as you would’ve when you got home and helped with homework. It’s helpful, too, if you do go to work, to add in worksheets, material or online activities that are at a grade level or half a grade level below where they are. This will help them feel successful and accomplished while you’re not there to help. And, for the time being, help neutralize feelings of frustration or sadness for them if they don’t finish their work or don’t understand some of it. And, it’s always good to revisit the basics. Especially with math!!
Parents may also be worried because we’re in the design of Common Core State Standards. This method of teaching many parents are not used to. If you struggle with it try not to worry about it. For example in math you may not know what “regrouping” is. Parents used to know it as “borrowing and carrying.” If that’s what you know, teach that. This is temporary. However, if you need help there are a plethora of videos on YouTube of teachers beautifully and visually explaining Common Core concepts you’ll find on worksheets or in workbooks that you create or that your child’s teacher may have created for you to use during this time. In YouTube’s search field just type the name of the lesson or skill. YouTube can also be your friend if you have middle school and high school students where the concepts and lessons are more involved.
Ask other parents what they’re doing. Reach out to your child’s teacher via email. Countless teachers on social media are posting…“I’m here. Ask me anything.” They are posting the grade levels they teach and are willing to help via Skype and FaceTime. Look for teachers in your community offering to guide you or even just help with that one math problem! They would love to continue helping you and your children reach academic success. They can also provide you with wonderful social and emotional activities for your children during this time. They've spent much of the year with them, getting to know them, supporting them and loving them. They know your children and can help. Again, I assure you, they miss your children. They want to teach and would love to hear from you and your kiddos.
YouTube also has extraordinary videos for PE, too! Living room workouts, stretching or yoga. Do you have a trampoline in the backyard? There are trampoline workouts on YouTube. Have a gaming system? Wii bowling, skiing, or Just Dance!
Most importantly, during times like this and becoming teacher, even just relaxing and reading with your kids and having them read to you is learning. Playing online education games with your kids is learning. Writing in a journal, building a cardboard rocket ship but really measuring is learning. Baking a cake is learning. It’s math and science if you look at it that way. This is the most wonderful time to also make art and music part of every school day.
Finally, it’s not to say that any of this will be easy for everyone. It won’t be easy for everyone and that’s OK. You might also feel like you’re not doing enough. YOU ARE! It’s important to remember everything our children do at school. They have recess, lunch, they wait in line, they have activities for roll call, they have classroom chores, there is time the teacher takes to settle a room full of children after recess, or when they switch lessons. They do small groups. Teachers have 25 to 35 sometimes 40 students in their class at one time. Each also requires special needs and attention that take up bits of time. There are bathroom breaks and disruptions etc. They go to the library and learn how to find books. They go back another school day to responsibly return them. They stop to learn problem solving with 40 other children at the teacher's guidance. They learn about friendship and leadership. Yes, all in the classroom! Each and everday! And, our teacher's take time in the classroom to guide this. There are life lessons that happen in the classroom and our teacher's teach this. It takes time. Our teachers do so much! Remember right now, for you, this is not about time spent on school. It’s the quality of time. Even the time blocks I spoke about earlier can be and may often be shorter. Some days could be just two or three hours some maybe five. Many days you may even be done by noon as teaching two, three and four children can be done more efficiently. It’s important to remind yourself, this will get easier and this is temporary. That said, homeschool will be especially difficult as many parents and caregivers are also worried about health, work, finances, food for their families and even what the next day will bring. Be kind to yourself. You can do this. We can do this. Balance and grace. Lean into that.