Homeschooling Tips During Transition
Updated: Feb 13
At the end of last summer, our family started homeschooling for various reasons. Until last week, we were the only family in our immediate surrounding that was homeschooling. Little did we know then that this coming Monday most of our family and friends, around the whole world, will be starting (or already continuing) virtual school or home learning. For our family, apart from social distancing, our daily routines will probably (hopefully) not be very different in the next few weeks than it was before.
However, for many of our family and friends, their lives radically changed from one moment to the next. Change happened suddenly, and we have all been thrown into an unprecedented transition that may last a long time, and that will likely leave footprints forever. Many things have abruptly stopped or have been canceled, and as a result, many of us may face unattained closure and unresolved grief.
The challenge is to manage this transition, hopefully allowing us all to gain in strength and resilience through losses. The enormity of what is happening may feel very heavy right now. Do take some time to digest it. Reach out to your loved ones, and prioritize what is important to you right now.
Over the last years, transition, as a result of moving from one place to another, and how it affects people, has become the center of my work and my writing. As we are all facing transitions collectively, the following tips may be helpful as you navigate the early days of your own ‘homeschooling’ experience during COVID19:
Comfort rather than Encourage — Kids are incredibly intuitive and even if they don’t fully understand the scope and depth of this situation, they will pick up on a lot it. Make sure you comfort them and provide a strong sense of safety and stability. Children crave and need this at the best of times, but especially when their world is disrupted by transition. Allow them to express their emotions about the situation, acknowledge and accept those emotions for what they are, without trying to persuade them to feel differently about it.
Try to keep a routine — Try to set up a routine that works for your family. There are many different, inspiring examples being posted right now. This is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation, so do what works for you and feels right to you. Of course some of you may be restricted due to the time your school offers the virtual learning program, but then build the rest of your routine around that and try to stick to it. However, accept it when you can’t or simply don’t, that’s okay too.
Exercise — Many sports and activities are cancelled as a result. Make sure to fit in exercise for yourself and your children. Whether it’s going on a walk as a family, doing a family exercise routine, or each taking some time to yourself to exercise. When we started a Pilates routine, it took a few weeks for our children to truly engage. Two months later, they lay out their mats in the morning and tell me to join them.
Remember That Each Child Learns in a Different Way and at a Different Pace — Every teacher will tell you that (and that’s why teachers will hopefully be appreciated even more now for trying to do so when teaching 24-30 children at the same time). Most likely, your children will not do their work quietly and purposefully all at the exact same time every single day. One child may need more assistance one day than another. Also, acknowledge when things are going well. When they are not, consider changing activity and leaving it for another moment.
Allow Children Ownership Over Their Own Learning — Many schools will provide a curriculum to follow at home. Even though they may not have a choice whether or not to complete the work, they may have a choice in which order to do them. If you are in charge of their homeschooling, it’s a wonderful opportunity to engage your children in projects that they express interest in. Connecting each project to math, literacy, social studies, etc. can be much more engaging for some children than completing worksheets in each subject separately. There are many wonderful websites and online groups that offer ideas, support and community.
Take Breaks – We all need breaks. Take deliberate breaks from home learning and take deliberate breaks from each other. Give each other some time. Call it whatever you want, we call it quiet time, but allow for a time when every one in the house retreats to their own space. Of course this is not always easy with younger kids, but make sure that you find some time to yourself, whether it’s with the help of a partner, family, or a friend, private tutor or even screen time, but to work well together, we all need ‘me-time’ and actively ensure self-care.
Play, Play, Play – Play outside, play boardgames, play card games, create games. Make sure your kids have time to truly just play on their own, but also take the time to actively engage in play with your kids. It’s quite liberating and a welcome change of pace to escape in the world of play when we are facing so many uncertainties, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
Let Imagination Run Wild – Allow for creative time every single day. Paint, draw, do arts and crafts, doodle. Same reasoning as above. There is a reason the doodling apps and drawing books took off a few years ago. It’s a wonderful way to add some mindfulness to your day.
Do That Project That You Always Said You Would – You know there is something in the back of a filing cabinet, a closet, your mind that you have put on the back burner. If there is any way you can use your time at home now and engage your kids, try it. For me it was starting a quilt that has been on my to do list for over three years. Once I taught our daughters to use the sewing machine, the project became a whole lot easier:).
Be kind, generous, loving and forgiving – Most of us strive to be that at the best of times, but right now we need to more than ever. Being together all the time is not always easy. It allows for many more bonding opportunities but also many more opportunities for irritations. Take a deep breath. We are all trying our best, be gentle with yourself and others.
Over the following few weeks, I hope to share more resources that I have come across via two organizations that specifically address transitions (Families in Global Transition and Safe Passage Across Networks), as well as the network of wonderful colleagues from working at various international schools. Some excellent ones that I came across in last few days:
Helpful articles for Parents and Teachers Specifically Addressing COVID-19:
My librarian friend, Megan Elizabeth Graff, has allowed me to share her compiled list of sites offering books and stories to read and listen to for free:
Storyline Online (https://www.storylineonline.net/) – Actors reading picture books
Story time from Space (https://storytimefromspace.com/) – Astronauts reading picture books on the International Space Station
International Children’s Digital Library (http://en.childrenslibrary.org/) Stories in English and other languages from around the world
Oxford Owl (https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-h…/find-a-book/library-page/) Free ebooks for primary students but you need to register
Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/) Free eBooks, primarily classics in the public domain. Better for older students as there are not many picture books.
Storynory (https://www.storynory.com/) Free audio stories
Storytime Online (https://www.worldbookday.com/storytime-online/) Famous authors and stars reading children’s books and short stories
Free Kids Books (https://freekidsbooks.org/) a library of children’s books and literary resources available online and for download in pdf format
Loyal Books Children’s Books (http://www.loyalbooks.com/genre/Children) – Free Public Domain Audiobooks & eBook Downloads
Just Books Read Aloud (https://justbooksreadaloud.com/) – a collection of children’s books