13 Amazing Homeschooling Tips From Actual Teachers
Stick to a schedule, encourage creativity, and do a little learning of your own.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, schools have shut their doors and asked students to attend online classes from home. This means that if you're a parent working from home, you're also now you kid's teacher, guidance counselor, lunch person, and principal—and it all basically happened overnight. If done correctly, however, this unique situation could prove to be a special time for your family. For example, Alanna Gallo, who teaches ninth and 10th grade English, says this is the perfect time to teach children practical life skills, while also allowing them to be creative, slow down, and reevaluate what's important to them. And if you're feeling overwhelmed by your new responsibilities, or just looking for a little bit of guidance, these homeschooling tips from teachers will help you make the most out of the experience.
Stick to a daily schedule.
Children are used to adhering to a schedule at school, so there's no reason they shouldn't have one at home. "Focus on building a structure that replicates student's everyday schedule, says Brian Galvin, chief academic officer of Varsity Tutors. "Kids are creatures of habit; use this to your advantage. They will adjust more quickly to being home-schooled by not also taking on a new school-day routine."
It's okay if the at-home schedule allows more free time than children would get in school, but there should be boundaries. Eighth-grade social studies teacher Micah Shippee advises that at-home learning should be about half as long as a normal school day. "If school is seven hours, then distance learning should max out around three and a half hours," she says.
Use a planner.
"Writing things down helps students visually see their assignments and when they're due," says Cristina Zangaglia, who teaches sixth-grade English. In addition to keeping students organized, using a planner can also give students a sense of accomplishment when they see they've completed one of their various assignments.
Take breaks between lessons.
The best way to approach homeschooling is to treat it as similar to a school day as possible while still having compassion for yourself and your child. During normal school days, students have breaks and social time built into their schedule. To keep things consistent, parents should "have their child pick one subject to focus on, then take a break," fifth-grade teacher Caitlyn Dolphin, says. "It will motivate them to do their best instead of sitting for hours."
Reach out to teachers for help.
Parents should always feel comfortable reaching out to teachers as they try to navigate this new reality of homeschooling. "Most parents are not educators, and we do not expect them to become one in these next few weeks," says Dolphin. "Everyone is in this together."
Prioritize your child's mental health.
This is a stressful time for everyone, but imagine how confusing it must be for your children. That's why it's so important to focus on their mental well-being, says Dolphin. "Children will remember these next few weeks as time spent together at home as a family. Try to make it as positive as possible," she says.
To be a source of comfort, go for a walk with them, watch a funny video together, or make them their favorite snack—whatever they need (in moderation, of course) to stay motivated and be happy during this strange time.
Have them keep a journal.
"I'm having my students keep journals since this is going to be something they remember forever," Dolphin says. And if your child's teacher has yet to do something similar with their students, make it your responsibility to have them journal about their experience. Doing so will help them to work through their feelings while also preserving their thoughts on this unique time in their lives for years to come.
Understand your child's learning style.
Every student learns differently. If you or your child do not know their learning style, reach out and ask their teacher. It will help you have a better grasp on how to best approach working with them—especially if you employ other useful techniques.
"Be observant of your child's progress and attitude—if something isn't working, re-evaluate it, and try different curricula or educational philosophies," Galvin says. "Virtual homeschooling can be very effective because of its flexibility and its ability to accommodate the needs of your child, your values, and your lifestyle."
Have structured free time.
Given that students typically cycle through a variety of classes, including art, gym, and music when they are at school, they should also have a diverse curriculum while being educated at home. Allow your child to create a piece of art, play kickball in the yard, and practice their instrument during "school hours" to ensure they are getting the kind of well-rounded day they would have at school.
Set up a designated space for learning.
It may be confusing for students who are now conflating the place they relax with the place they learn. The best way to avoid this is to have a designated space for school time. "Don't let your kids work from their bed," warns 10th-grade history teacher Kevin Bearese. A kitchen table or desk that is not directly near their leisure space works best. Once you've chosen the area, set it up with everything they will need to learn and study—you want them to feel prepared, while not giving them any reason to go roam around the house.
Use online resources.
The internet has made virtual education possible, so why not use it to your advantage? Dolphin says she is having her students use "ReadWorks and NewsELA for reading and writing, BrainPop for science and social studies, and DreamBox and Zearn for math." And trustworthy sites, like TED-Ed Talks and History Channel, can be helpful for older students and parents alike.
If your child's teacher isn't using these educational tools, feel free to surf the web to find resources appropriate for their learning level.
Make it a team effort.
This experience is likely a learning curve for both you and your child, which means it's also a learning opportunity for the both of you.
"It's tough to both parent and teach simultaneously, so do some learning alongside your kids," says professional tutor Kreigh Knerr. "It could be that you both read the same book and discuss it later. You can also do shorter articles or short stories and discuss those." If you immerse yourself in the process, your child will appreciate the effort you are putting in and likely complete assignments with more enthusiasm because they'll be eager to discuss them with you.
Encourage their input and opinions.
This is the time to let your children discover passions and do deep-dives on their favorite subjects, so let them have a say in what they spend their day studying. "Ask your child what interests them and go from there," Gallo says. "True learning stems from extending on what they're passionate about."
Giving students some influence will also help them feel in control of a situation that is far out of their control, while also helping them to stay engaged.
Have family meetings.
During a school day, students generally have meetings where teachers or guidance counselors check-in and go through announcements. Create your own daily check-ins and adapt them to benefit your family. Ask your child how they are doing, what they are stressed about, and what they are excited about. If you feel comfortable keeping your child in the loop, you can also give share age-appropriate updates on the current situation.