The chances are, you aren’t home schooling your kids. Although the rate of children in the US being home schooled is growing at an average rate of 2-8% per year, most kids are still in public schooling. However, with the current Coronavirus situation and schools across the country being closed indefinitely, you may have to dust off Math that you haven’t thought about since high school and prepare yourself to home school.
Although it might be tempting to just let the kids have this unexpected time off as holiday, there are definitely skills and classes from school that, if left for months without being practiced, will start to get rusty. Languages, Math, English, Art – all the subjects they have on a day-to-day basis need to be honed regularly so your children can go back to school when they reopen and stay at the level they left at. So, with that in mind, here are some thoughts and suggestions on how to mentally prepare yourself for home schooling – without feeling like you need to know every subject in the curriculum backwards before you start.
Manage Your Time
First things first, you need to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be to take this on. You’ll suddenly be wearing a different hat to your kids, and one they may not have seen before – teacher. How you go about this will depend entirely on you and your kids, your personalities and lifestyle. You might find everyone is most alert in the morning, so you want to have two hour-and-a-half lessons first thing. You might find that your kids like a bit of time in the mornings to play, or exercise and burn off some energy, before they are more settled and can focus on a lesson.
You know your kids and family better than anyone, so you will be able to plan a timetable that works for all of you. And don’t forget, this is a learning process for everyone so be prepared to trial things and then change them if they don’t work, or you have a better idea. There’s nothing wrong with saying to your kids that a lesson time isn’t working, so you’re all going to try something else. Get them involved in the discussion – one of the good things about home education is the autonomy your kids can have over their own education and the independence they gain from that, so embrace it, don’t fight it.
Get Your Resources Ready
Make sure you have what you need, both for the kids and yourself. Whether it’s making sure you have enough lined paper and paint, to sorting out your own prescription lenses (all the better to keep an eye on them), you want to feel organized and like you can manage the situation well. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of improvisation. That doesn’t mean start using the walls as a substitute for canvases, but if you don’t have everything at your fingertips, think about alternatives to the learning you have planned and ways to work round any speedbumps in the road. Your kids won’t know what you had in mind at the beginning, but they will be engaged and energized by your attitude. So, if you’re positive and can-do, they will be too.
Your kids are one of your best resources in all of this! They might actually know more than you do about what they’ve been learning at school, and there’s nothing children like more than telling the grownups things. You can start your home schooling adventure simply by spending a little bit of time just asking your kids what they’ve been learning and getting them to take you through it. Repeating and re-explaining learnt information is a great revision method and can significantly improve understanding of a given subject.
Get Older Kids Involved
One of the biggest challenges you might be facing when suddenly in the position of having to home school is working with different ages. If it’s just a two or three year gap, that might be manageable, but if you find yourself trying to work out lessons for teenagers and tots at the same time, that might be more problematic. Here are a few suggestions on how to make it work:
– If the children are closer in age, then you can treat it as if you’re working with a mixed-ability class. Teachers have to adjust and plan their lessons so the class is easy enough for the lowest level ability, but also challenging and stimulating enough for the kids at the higher end of the ability spectrum. Read up on how teachers plan their classes around including all ability-levels in the room.
– When you are working with completely different ages, you could approach it in a couple of different ways. You can run separate classes, which might work well although is more of a time-commitment for you and, if you’re also dealing with keeping your house clean and hygienic, checking up on elderly friends and relatives, and managing all the regular day-to-day chores, this might seem like a bit of a tall order. However, there’s no reason the older kids can’t teach the younger kids.
If you have a middleschooler taking Spanish, and a younger child, the older one can teach them the basics. Not only is it good revision for the older child, but they will be enhancing their own skills set by learning how to teach and impart knowledge clearly and concisely. You might need to be in the room, to make sure tempers don’t fray, but overall that might be a productive way for everyone to progress. The little one will start getting some basic vocabulary and the older one is still learning. This can work with other subjects too – such as a history project.
If you never expected to home school, this can feel like a huge challenge. Keep your cool and remember, you’re all in this together learning how to do it. Don’t panic and work together as a family and you’ll get through it.