Online learning has become the new norm in Louisiana since schools shut their doors in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Due to the change in learning, parents are taking on a whole new role in their households–teacher!
If your first (or second) week of “teaching” didn’t go as planned, don’t worry! We reached out to Heather Durham for some tips on how to navigate the whole experience. Heather has spent 16 years in the classroom, from elementary to higher education. She has been homeschooling her oldest daughter for nearly three years, but now due to the pandemic, she is homeschooling her kindergartener as well.
Heather’s Tips for Homeschool Success
By Heather Durham
- The homeschool day won't look like a school day. Children don't need eight hours of academics. In fact, many children, depending on their grade level, can complete academic work in one to three hours (more for later grades, less for earlier grades). Since children peak at different times of the day, use the flexibility of homeschooling to allow children to work when they feel best and when it suits the family's schedule. For some kids, this is first thing in the morning. For others, it may be after lunch or even evening hours that they're ready to settle down.
- Speaking of feelings, put emotional well-being first. Just as in the classroom, a child who is distressed or upset or angry is in no condition to learn. Deal with negative emotions first before diving into schoolwork, even if that means postponing a lesson until the next day.
- Use practical life lessons and combine learning with other activities when possible to cut down on screen time and seat work. Fractions can be taught using textbooks or videos, but they can also be taught during cooking and meal preparation. For younger children, incorporating movement while memorizing material can improve focus and enhance retention by keeping them busy and active. For example, my kindergartener likes to skip count by 5s and 10s while we do jumping jacks. She is less fidgety, and I get much-needed exercise!
- Take breaks! Take lots and lots of breaks! Children need break time as much as adults do. Outdoor time, free play, games, art, music, drama, and storytelling are good ways to decrease stress and increase creativity, both of which enhance focus and improve learning and retention.
- Keep your routine flexible. Children benefit from a routine, and children coming from a traditional classroom are used to a structured environment, but don't be too rigid. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that extra time can be devoted to a lesson a child finds particularly challenging OR particularly enjoyable! Not all subjects need to be taught every day, so don't be afraid to spend extra time with a science demonstration or writing assignment than a traditional class period might allow. Follow your child's lead, keeping in mind there are few benefits to hurrying through an assignment.
- Finally, make homeschooling a family affair. Once the quarantine is lifted, enlist the help of other family members and friends who may be particularly strong in an academic area and ask for their assistance if possible. I love to take a co-op approach, as I teach phonics to my neighbor's child along with my own, and I let my neighbor handle arts and crafts. It will give you time to tend to other things, and your child will benefit from being exposed to other teaching and learning styles.