The spread of COVID-19 has rapidly caused many state populations to adjust plans and close schools. Some states have announced school closures for two weeks or longer. Parents are facing working remotely with all of their children home, and right now we all need these tips for COVID-19 homeschooling.
How can we quickly prepare for weeks at home with children, who still need to learn, master concepts, and stay in routine? This is where homeschooling comes in. If you're an absolute novice, we've got you covered with these hands-on COVID-19 homeschooling tips.
Take a deep breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.
The events and anxiety of these past weeks have given parents and teachers much to process, and our kids plenty of anxiety to absorb.
Realize that when unplanned things happen, feeling out of control is normal. Allow yourself the freedom to grieve canceled events, loss of schedule, and the ability to gather together without fear.
Give yourself a day or three to be loose. Today we played outside, watched movies, and ate chocolate chip cookies. Inwardly, I knew I needed to ground myself before I could even start planning. Today that involved folding laundry and watching the "BFG."
Take time to reflect. Think about yourself and what works for you as far as structure, free time, planning, and goal-setting. Think about your children and how they are wired and what they need.
Think through how you will get your work done. Most parents at home with children will also be working remotely. This can change how time is used. Talk to your spouse about balancing work time and sharing the load. Consider your childcare options if available and how other caregivers will shape your children's days.
Be encouraged about the possibilities of this unexpected time. Do not try to recreate school, or imitate your friends who homeschool regularly. This is something temporary and different and that can be stressful, but also exciting. What can you do with this unique time? I love this mother's advice to those of us new to this vocation.
Then, get started.
You don't need much. Teachers that sent packets home either sent supplies or thought through accessible activities that would not require extra purchases.
For my own organization, I knew I would need a way to deal with the paper. We are working with packets of worksheets for my two elementary students, and my preschooler creates art and drawings all day long.
I picked up this file box from Target, hanging file folders, pre-sharpened pencils, a stapler because ours is broken, and two packs of fresh markers because working markers are at a premium over here. If there is yelling at the art table, it's about markers.
I also bought a pack of white paper for endless crafts. It was time for a refill anyway.
Kids need routine. Two weeks or more out of school cannot be treated like snow days or we will all lose our minds. Plus there's no snow.
Children also need routine when the world feels uncertain and there is anxiety all around them. Daily rhythms provide safety and security for everyone.
Consider dividing the day into thirds or fourths. Schoolwork, screen time, outside play, and chores is a simple structure.
Most would advise getting the schoolwork done first in the morning and out of the way. Afternoon rest time is still part of my inward clock so that would be most likely when we would watch a movie or show together.
Outside play can be after schoolwork or after meals, or really, quite often as long as the intended work is getting done. Some children gravitate outside more quickly and more often than others, which is fine. But since we are not going anywhere I'm going to be pushing them outside as much as possible. "Sunshine is a great antiseptic," says my pediatrician. So outside we go!
Ask your children to make lists of movies they would like to watch, books they would like to read, or subjects they would enjoy exploring during this unexpected time home. Each day, consider drawing an idea or ideas from a jar that you can then integrate into the day's schedule.
Make a list of house projects that need to get done. Especially if you have older children, you have capable hands at home, and now is the chance to train those hands.
List organizing or cleaning tasks that you have not been able to get to and choose one each day for your group to complete together.
Will they fight it? At first, yes. But the beauty of routine is that they will also adjust quickly and grow in confidence over increased responsibility.
Does your school district have online resources for virtual learning? Did they send packets home? Look over what each child needs to work on and then consider how/if you are going to add to it.
Many online education companies are currently offering free access to their materials. Take some time to go over a few options and consider how you can work it into your child's assignments. But consider also how you can emphasize your child's interests with extra art classes or writing prompts.
Are there tutors available virtually who can help you with higher math or science? A friend of mine who is a homeschooling parent has offered her services during this time.
Do you have therapists for yourself or your children that are now holding virtual appointments? Reach out and get on their schedules. Make a list of your resources, so you can plan and shape your days with all your needs met.
One way you can re-frame your family's thinking about this disruptive season is through creating special rituals. Perhaps you make a video journal, where each day you hold up a sign of what day it is and take a few minutes of video and commentary on the state of your small world.
Divide up fun tasks, like cooking meals or picking a dessert to bake. Think like a teacher and consider having a "student of the day" who gets to make choices on shows to watch or games to play. Begin reading aloud as a family each evening before bed and see if you can finish the book.
Write letters to teachers. Take the time to thank them and keep them updated.
Many churches will be offering online resources. Your family can engage in worship and prayer together, specifically praying for the COVID-19 pandemic and those who are ill.
Each day, remember to be gracious to yourself, and in turn, you will be more gracious to your children. No one planned for this. Everyone feels stressed and stretched. We are missing our communities and our routines. Be sure to take care of yourself in small ways throughout the day.
Laugh a lot. Laugh with your kids at the creative songs they are singing while they wash their hands. Laugh at your mistakes and messes.
And stay connected. Build the group chat for your people who are in it to share the stories and small complaints. Share pictures and sweet moments, as well as the time you hide in your closet because "it's the best way to be 6 feet away from them."
Throughout history, we see how extraordinary circumstances bring out resilience in people. Last month my biggest complaint was the February malaise. Now I'm homeschooling four children, and continuing to work remotely all while staying in my home and monitoring everyone for signs of fevers and cough.
I've thrown perfection and expectations out the window and, like all of us, am taking it one day at a time. Suddenly my convenience and preferences don't seem as urgent.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Okay. Let's do this.