As many parents probably already know by now, homeschooling is tough – especially if you’re working from home. Bay Area school officials have announced that May will be the earliest kids may go back to school because of COVID-19. So, parents, we’re in this for the long haul.
There are some parents who have been doing it for years like Sandy Halsted of Castro Valley, Sharon Khadder of Alameda and Karrie Orchard of Acampo. We asked these homeschooling parents for advice for parents who have had to learn overnight how to manage their kids’ education from home.
Create a schedule for your kids, but be flexible. If one schedule isn’t working, make a new one, says Khadder. “If you don’t accomplish everything on your list, that’s okay. We all have good and bad days, and most of us can’t be inspired and creative all the time. One of the best things about homeschooling is that if something is not working, you can change it.”
Get organized. Orchard says she organizes what her child will be doing the night before. “The night before, I separate his subjects into different piles. On a whiteboard or piece of paper, I write out his assignments for each subject. Subjects that he can complete without my help, I lay out at the front of the line. Any subjects that need my assistance I place toward the end and then use my lunch break or evening time to complete with him. I give him a happy face or check mark next to each subject he completes well on his own.”
Find things your kids want to learn. Halsted says her son’s love of trains has led him to learn about history, engineering and more. “Start with an interest they have, and it can take them in so many amazing directions and they are really into it,” she says. “The world is your classroom.”
She suggests helping them find a project. For example, if you have more than one child, they can put together a play or concert.
“This is also a great time to try something new,” Khadder says. “Pick up an instrument, learn to do splits.”
Teach them life skills. “There are so many life skills they can now have time for which I think have been crowded out by long hours of school and homework like cooking, working on a vehicle with a parent to help, building, exploring outside and house chores,” Halsted says.
Minimize distractions during the school day. “No screens are allowed during curriculum time unless called for by the actual activity,” Orchard says. “I let my oldest Facetime high school friends if they’re working on homework together, but otherwise phones and iPads are out of reach so they don’t get distracted.”
Let your kids experience boredom. “They will eventually work through it and find wonderful ways to use their time that don’t involve screens,” Orchard says.
Contact friends. “Technology has definitely made it easier to be apart,” Khadder says. “Kids can text or call their friends, even from tablets. They can also play games together while apart. My 10-year-old plays chess or Minecraft with a friend on an iPad most days.”
Cut yourself some slack and take breaks. Khadder says it’s okay for working parents to rely on educational programming, educational websites, arts and crafts, and journaling.
“You can’t be a full-time teacher while you try to do your job,” she says. “Kids can do a lot on their own, and if that means playing with LEGOs for four hours, it probably counts as STEM.”
Taking breaks is very important, she says.
“Recess is a great word, and kids will usually happily disappear for a while if the alternative is schoolwork or chores,” she says. “My kids are old enough to be left home so I like to go for walks. Retreating to a quiet space or outside and calling a friend can also be a nice break.”
Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent who recently started homeschooling her two kids because of school closures.