Hello work from home families,
I have been homeschooling my two kids, Zach (age 13) and Caroline (age 10), for the past 7 1/2 years. I was an elementary public school teacher before homeschooling and a few years ago I founded an organization called Kids in Service.
I was asked to write to you today with a few tips about schooling your kids at home. I am not an expert but I have been in the trenches for awhile and have tried and failed at MANY things. Here is some of the wisdom that has been shared with me and a few things that have worked for our household.
1. Give Yourself Grace
This situation is new for all of us (even the homeschooling families) and it will take time to adjust. It is okay if the house is a mess, if your kids are on their screens more than normal and if some days you never make it out of pajamas. Give yourself and everyone living in your home grace as you adjust to this new way of life.
2. Rhythm vs. Schedule
Kids thrive off of structure and predictability. It is important for them to know what is expected of them and what their day will look like. Their daycare/school days were very structured and now they are home all day, trying to make sense of this new routine. I have seen some DETAILED schedules floating around the internet. A strict schedule may work for some families but schedules fail for the majority of us. Schedules are regimented and don’t allow for those last minute things that come up (and they always do). That is why many homeschool experts recommend a RHYTHM vs. SCHEDULE.
A Rhythm will be predictable but not tied to a certain time. Your day may start at 8am some mornings and 7:30am on others. Post your rhythm so that family members know what comes next. My kids know that after family lunch, they go off for an hour of quiet time. Lunch may be at 11:30 some days or 1pm on others but quiet time always follows.
3. Predictable Rhythm–In and Out
Design your rhythm to have an IN and OUT pattern to it, like breathing. When you breathe IN, you are all together working on an activity or sharing a meal. When you breathe OUT, they are off on their own working or playing independently. This IN and OUT rhythm will be predictable and comforting for your children. Having a dose of quality time with a caregiver is all they need to then go off and be on their own for awhile.
Examples of IN Activities–Meal Times, Family Read Aloud, Helping with School Work, Family Fun (games, outside time etc.), Craft Activities
Examples of OUT Activities–Quiet Hour/Nap Time, Educational Show, Educational App, Independent School Work, Playtime, FaceTime with Friends and Family, Cosmic Kids Yoga, Audio Book or Sparkle Stories
Example of Daily Rhythm
Breakfast and Morning Read Aloud Time (IN)
Work Block 1 (OUT)
Answer any Questions from Work Block 1 (IN)
Break/Outside Time (OUT)
Set them up for Work Block 2 (IN)
Work Block 2 (OUT)
Answer any Questions from Work Block 2 and Family Lunch* (IN)
QUIET HOUR (OUT)**
Set them up for Work Block 3 (IN)
Work Block 3 (OUT)
Answer any Questions from Work Block 3 (IN)
Independent Play/Screen-time (OUT)
Chore time (OUT)
Family Fun (IN)
*If you can’t do family lunch, consider having your kids use FaceTime or Google Hangout to share lunch with their grandparents, cousins or friends. It will allow them to feel connected and you will have that time to work.
**If your kids don’t nap, send them to their room with a book, audio book and headphones or another quiet activity for the hour. It may take them some time to get use to the hour in their room and some incentive may be necessary at first. I highly recommend you stick with it though because this downtime is so important.
4. Help Your Child Prioritize
My sister works outside of the home as a nurse and my brother in-law spends most of his workday on the phone. My sister has been getting up before the kids to check out their schoolwork for the day. She takes the list of what they have to do, prioritizes the work and then breaks the tasks into work block sessions.
Is your child more focused in the morning? Have them do the tasks that require more focus then (math, spelling, writing). Save the work that is easier for them to complete for the later part of the day. If your child takes awhile to wake up, have them start with something easier to help get them started and save their more difficult tasks for when they are more awake.
5. Use the Internet
The amount of resources available during this time is ASTOUNDING. Audible has over 100 free books available, ABC Mouse is offering subscriptions at a discounted rate, Zoos are doing daily Facebook safari’s, authors and celebrities are doing read aloud times every day…it is incredible all of the free resources available. Tap into these resources and build them into your child’s day. These are great opportunities for them to be engaged while you get a little work done. I have listed a bunch of resources below.
Sparkle Stories–These are wonderful online audio stories that inspire children’s imagination and creativity. They are offering a bedtime story for FREE each night on Facebook and also have a FREE 7 day trial. Martin and Sylvia are favorites in our house. This site is perfect for ages 3 and up and their blog is filled with cooking and craft activities.
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems–Mo Willems welcomes you into his studio every day for an art experience. All of the old episodes are on the website, we are loving this series.
Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari–Every day at 3pm, the Cincinnati Zoo shares an animal from their zoo for 30 minutes on Facebook. They have all of their old videos on their Facebook page and you can meet the penguins, hippos, red pandas and lions.
Read Aloud Revival--Read Aloud Revival is a great resource for booklists. The library may be closed but you can find most books read aloud on YouTube. Audible is also offering free books and your library also has access to sites like Hoopla and Overdrive which have audio books and ebooks. Celebrities are reading stories as part of Save the Children’s Save with Stories Campaign. You can access those read aloud stories HERE.
10+ Service Projects to do while Social Distancing–We may be social distancing but it is important to reach out and help people when we can. This article has ideas for 10+ service projects that you can do as a family at home. My group Kids in Service is collecting cards for our local nursing home and soldiers over seas (these will go in care packages) if you would like to participate. We are also running a Virtual Talent Show on Facebook for senior citizens in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Click HERE for a long list of other resources 🙂
Thanks for reading. I am happy to help if you have any questions or want someone to brainstorm ideas with when it comes to schooling at home. Good luck and Welcome to Homeschool (here is another post I wrote about this topic).