Home with the kids during school closings? We’re here to guide you through this challenge with useful insights and powerful advice. Let us help make this time productive and positively educational.
We’ve put together this comprehensive set of guidelines to specifically address this unique set of circumstances. Follow these tips to start this unique journey on the right foot!
1. Tally Up Your Inventory
Before you begin working on things at home, find out everything you can about the resources, supplies, and support available to you from the school district and from your children’s teachers. Get the details on exactly what’s expected of your kids during this time, from assignments and tests to other forms of participation. Take stock on your own before you get ready to share what you’ve learned with the kids.
Remember that if you’re still waiting for this information, you’re not alone. Don’t feel you have to rush the planning process. Do whatever you need to do to get your bearings.
2. Take Time for a Family Meeting
Bring everyone together to discuss the situation in whatever way you’d like. It can be helpful to start by talking about the Coronavirus outbreak, explaining how it’s affecting people and communities, so kids can conceptualize the reasons for this big change in their daily life. Talk about this new “normal” and let them know that school happens at home now for a while, including their assignments.
Since school is a structured environment, provide structure for your kids at home. Use the meeting to discuss this structure, making sure everyone understands and gets to be heard. Also, if you’re not taking time off from work, use this meeting to make your needs clear as well.
3. Set Up a Daily Schedule
To help everyone deal with the process of adjusting to the disruption and change, it can be comforting and productive to keep regular hours for school, shared meals, and other activities.
- Let kids help in the planning. Decide together on how you want the schedule to look.
- Talk in detail about how things will work, to see if people have questions or suggestions.
- Try to listen to each person’s concerns and be open-minded about creative solutions to any issues.
- Each day, let kids decide on their own the order in which they want to do their assignments.
- Be sure to include play time, alone time, and outside time.
4. Create a Learning Environment
Every child (just like every adult) learns differently, each in their own way. Some kids perform well in one environment, while other kids excel in a completely different environment. So think carefully about this concept as you create a work space for each student in your home.
- Help kids to create their own space for working, whether that’s in their favorite living room chair, on their bed in the privacy of their room, or sitting at the kitchen table.
- You may even set up several work stations and encourage students to use different spots for different subjects.
- All you’ll really need is a flat surface! Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can also really help keep out distractions.
5. Fail Fast
If you're feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about where to begin, remind yourself that's normal. All you can do is try to do your best and make adjustments along the way!
In the midst of what feels like chaos, you may be very tempted to say “I’ll just get to the kids' school stuff tomorrow…” Just start. Today, now. It’ll be a long way from perfect, and that’s okay. Just start, and take one step at a time. Choose one of the assignments already on the list, get started on it, and see how it goes.
Because there’s no map for the journey we find ourselves on, we are forging a path rather than following one. Try things, see what works, see what fails, learn from it, get better, keep going.
6. Relax! Take a Break
Downtime does wonders. Students get plenty of downtime throughout any normal school day. So remember to enable moments of downtime and encourage occasional relaxation. Sometimes in the middle of a difficult lesson or challenging assignment, a quick break can be just what you and your kids need. Get outside if you can and use nature to teach; the fresh air is healthy for mind, body, and spirit.
These days are a great time to chill out a little about small mistakes. Try to keep lessons pleasant. Focus on positive reinforcement. If you stay flexible while following your own rules, you’ll set a tone of structured fun.
7. Offer Shameless Bribes
It’s totally okay to incentivize students. Motivation can take the form of positive feedback and praise, limits, steps (“You’ll have to finish x before you get to do y and z”) and of course an infinite array of rewards and prizes. Depending on what works best for your kids, you can make lists of things to do, and let them have the satisfying job of checking things off as they’re completed! When certain items or numbers of items are completed, have fun rewarding your hard-working students with anything from a pizza party to a movie marathon.
8. Stay One Step Ahead
Be sure you do your own homework so you can handle theirs. Whenever you can, read their lessons and texts before they do. Plan out the cadence of your days, and take advantage of scheduling tools to help you get organized.
9. Why Not Have a Blast?
Anything can be an opportunity to learn. While you’re at home with your kids, take the opportunity to have fun learning. Every experience can be a lesson if you want it to be.
Do vocabulary practice in chalk out on the sidewalk or driveway. Working in the garden is a botany lesson. If you’re able to be outdoors for a few minutes, turn a neighborhood walk into a science field trip. If you’re having groceries delivered to the house, pull out the receipt and go through the items as a math class. Baking is chemistry! Cover the floor with an oilcloth and make art or do crafts, get messy!
Let your kids have a say in the decision-making process by asking them to write lists of things they want to learn or do. This is your chance to get them excited about learning!
10. Show Yourself Some Love
If you’ve recently been thrown into an unfamiliar or overwhelming situation, be forgiving and kind with yourself and the other caregivers in your household. Remind yourself and those around you that you’re all adjusting to something new. It could just be a blessing in disguise.
Whenever you can: keep things simple. Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t try to do too many things at once. Take each day as it comes. Don’t obsess over little setbacks; perfection is an illusion. Be sure you take time to recharge every day. If you start to feel stressed, breathe, laugh, and enjoy what you’re doing.
11. Day’s End
A daily wrap-up one-on-one meeting with each child helps ensure success and gives both kids and caregivers a sense of accomplishment. Take ten minutes at the end of the school day to go over their work, discuss any questions they have, and check to make sure everything got done, offering positive feedback and chatting about what you’ll be doing tomorrow.
12. Positivity Works
It’s never a bad idea to look on the bright side. Reframing and gratitude can go a long way. One of the silver linings for all of us right now is the fact that we’re making history!
- When your children’s children ask them about the Coronavirus outbreak, what do you want them to remember? What stories of your own childhood can you share with them? When you were a kid, how did your family entertain themselves at home?
- Think of all the meaningful projects you can do as a family, from creating and sending out handmade cards to seniors in your community, to writing and filming a movie together, or dreaming up a fancy menu and learning how to cook it together.
- When things get tough, take a deep breath, look at each other say: “We've got this.” Believe in each other and encourage each person to believe in themselves. Positivity is contagious, so you’ll find that everyone’s attitude improves.
Whatever happens, be compassionate. Have compassion with your children, have compassion with your fellow caregivers, and have compassion with yourself. We’re all figuring this out as we go along, driven by the clarity of purpose this challenge is revealing to us.