With school closures in many places in the world, you may suddenly find yourself needing to teach school at home. First, don’t panic. It’s going to be okay. You can do this.
You were your child’s first teacher. It was you who cheered them on while they took their first steps and helped them learn to write their name. You know your child best. And no one is expecting you to be perfect. Don’t try to replicate school. Your home isn’t school. And you are trying to navigate other things such as maybe working from home yourself.
This circumstance is also not the same as homeschooling. Up until this year, I had homeschooled my 7 kids for 19 years. Our days looked nothing like our days during this current situation. We used to have homeschool co-op, field trips, trips to the library, outings, classes, homeschool swim times, homesteading days, and lots of get-togethers with other families.
Homeschooling is actually pretty awesome, so please don’t judge homeschooling based on what’s currently happening!
But here we are. Chances are, schools in your area have been closed and you find yourself facing teaching your kids at home. In some districts, schools are providing distance learning and in others, they aren’t. Whatever the case in your area, your head is probably spinning with how quickly your life has changed.
This is a brave new world we live in and even though the situation is temporary, we need to learn to make the best of it for both ourselves and our children.
I wanted to provide you with a complete guide to school at home. Tips, tricks, how-tos, resources, and perhaps most importantly, encouragement. There’s a lot to take in, so please don’t feel that you have to read this all at once. Bookmark it, pin it, or email it to yourself to be able to refer back to it in the coming weeks.
How to School at Home:
- Lower your expectations. Academics are not the most important thing. Family connection is. Your child needs you in order to feel safe.
- No one can learn when under enormous stress. A lot has changed in your child’s life in a short amount of time. Like you, they may feel a lack of control. Take some time to decompress. You don’t need to dive into the school books right away. Take time to talk to them about their feelings about what’s going on right now. Be sure they understand the situation.
- Set yourselves up for success. Take care of your health. Drink water, eat healthy foods, get rest and fresh air every day, so that they do the same.
- Create a designated area for most schoolwork. This can be a desk or the kitchen table. The reason it’s important to set up a dedicated spot is to help get kids in the headspace of doing their work at home now.
- Remember that the most important learning is not going to happen on those worksheets. It’s going to happen in between. In the reading, board game playing, and navigating family relationships. And kids will look to you for how you handle this crisis and learn volumes from that.
- Create a schedule. This is critical. Kids need structure and routine to give them a feeling of security. Your schedule doesn’t have to be rigid. It for sure shouldn’t look like a school schedule. Depending on their age, grade, and ability, kids and teens only need 1-3 hours (3 for high school) a day of school work at home. Here are some sample school at home schedules to help give you ideas (or you can print these are use them as is):
School at Home:
Some school districts have sent work home for students to do or are providing distance learning through online classes. In some areas, it depends not only on the district, but on the school itself. Be sure to give your child’s teacher a lot of grace as this is all new to them too. They care about their students and are doing their best to try to provide help in this unusual time.
Once more time has passed and teachers have had a chance to get their feet under them, reach out to them if you need clarification on what your child is supposed to be doing from home. They are in this with you.
Even if your child’s teacher has assigned school work, you can supplement that at home with things that are more practical for learning at home or more hands-on. Here are some suggestions for each subject:
- Do as many hands-on science activities as you can. Your kitchen is full of supplies right now that are perfect for science experiments.
- Notebooking is a great way to get kids really engaged in what they’re learning. It also helps with writing skills and they are so proud to show off the finished projects.
- YouTube has fantastic science videos. Just be sure to watch with your child to ensure internet safety and that it’s reliable information.
- Cooking and baking are great for all kinds of math and science concepts such as estimating, measuring, volume, liquids, solids, and fractions.
- Talk with them about the family budget. Now is a great time for them to learn about budgeting, saving, debt, investing, and other life skill math.
- Play these board games to improve math skills and learn without realizing they’re learning.
- Choose a country to study together. Look at online resources, cook some of the traditional foods from there, and look up videos to discover what you can about the culture.
- With older teens, have them follow the current news. Be sure to debrief with them afterwards though as these are heavy topics.
- Watch documentaries.
- Have reading time every day. Read aloud, even with older kids. Allow the kids to do quiet activities like playing Lego or drawing while you read. You’ll all come to look forward to this time together. You can also have quiet reading time every day.
- Operation Storytime – Fabulous children’s authors are reading their stories to kids each day.
- Have kids keep a quarantine journal where they document their feelings, what is happening in their day or in the world, and 5 things they are thankful for each day. This is not only a great way to practise writing, it will also become an interesting keepsake for them to share with their children and grandchildren someday.
- Little House on the Prairie audiobooks (free)
- Play these board games to improve spelling and reading.
- chalk pastel tutorials
- art journal
- ride bikes, go for walks, have a dance party (music is great for mood), obstacle course, scavenger hunt, hopscotch, hula hoops, sack races with pillowcases, jump rope, trampoline, nature hike, play tag with siblings, play catch, plastic bottle bowling, paper airplane race, or wide games with family
- yoga or exercise videos online
While there are many disadvantages of the current situation, there are some advantages too. Many companies and individuals have stepped forward to provide help and that includes in the form of online education.
Online Field Trips:
Right now, there are some amazing online field trips available since you aren’t able to visit in person. These are super cool and something you can do as a whole family.
Art & History:
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- Van Gogh Museum
- The Vatican
- Guggenheim Museum in New York
- British Museum in London
- Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, B.C., Canada
- National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
- Musée D’Orsay in Paris
- Royal Ontario Museum, Canada
- National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea
- Uffizi Gallery in Italy
- National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
- Canadian Museum of History
- The White House
Animals and Zoos:
- Panda Cam at the Calgary, AB Zoo
- Sea Lion Beach at OrcaLab, BC
- Vancouver Aquarium – Penguin Cam and Sea Otter Cam
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- San Diego Zoo
- Georgia Aquarium
- Cincinnati Zoo
- Houston Zoo
- Discovery Education Polar Bears
- Virtual Farm Tours
Landmarks Around the World:
- The Great Wall of China
- Buckingham Palace
- Empire State Building
- The Grand Canyon
- Taj Mahal
- Eiffel Tower
- The Pyramids
Other Awesome Virtual Field Trips:
- Take a Virtual Walk on Mars
- Tour of the Moon
- Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips
- National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Great Online Learning Resources:
- free homeschool printables
- Khan Academy (engaging online lessons)
- Prodigy (math games)
- Science Mom and Math Dad (free daily lessons)
- Big Life Journal (growth mindset resources for kids – free podcast and free printables)
- BrainPop (educational animated movies)
- Mystery Science
- National Geographic Kids
- Go Noodle (movement and mindfulness videos for kids)
While all the online resources are amazing, it’s important that your child doesn’t sit in front of a screen all day. They need brain breaks, sensory breaks, movement, and fresh air.
Sensory and Brain Breaks:
I cannot stress enough how important it is for your child to have many, many sensory and brain breaks during the day. This can be as simple as having them get up and do five jumping jacks or do some animal walks. These breaks will help them better retain information and be able to get through their schoolwork more quickly.
Crossing the midline exercises are great for this too as they help both sides of the brain better communicate with each other.
Other School at Home Tips:
- Each child is unique. Your child may learn best through reading, listening, or hands-on. This is a great time to discover that and help teach them in the ways that work for them.
- Follow your child’s lead. If they are super interested in a certain topic, let them run with it. Even though you may not be able to go to the library to take out books on that subject, the internet has so many resources that will give you a good start. This time is actually a wonderful gift to help you and your child discover their passions.
- Don’t forget: you can do this! I believe in you.
This is so important that I’m going to say it again: the most important learning is not going to happen in textbooks and worksheets. It’s going to happen in the moments in between. In the reading, board game playing, and navigating family relationships. And kids will look to you for how you handle this crisis and learn volumes from that. That is the most important thing they can learn right now.
To get printable versions of our sample School at Home Schedules, enter your email below. You’ll also receive our Parenting in the Pandemic email series, designed to help you through these surreal times.