You may be fortunate enough to have your local school providing teacher lead on-line learning, so you aren’t having to homeschool on your own. But, if you are in a district like mine that is just releasing some packets and videos on-line or nothing at all, you may need some help. Here are my suggestions to help conquer homeschooling, and some resources I use in my classroom.
1. Have a schedule
Children of any age need structure and to know what their day will look like. Our one daughter is in college and the twins are in middle school. We need a schedule for both, to make sure we are optimizing our internet connection. We have a copy of the schedule taped to the children’s bathroom door and one downstairs on the fireplace in the living room. This is the schedule in our house:
College – Online Classes
Monday – Math@ 10:45-11:40
Tuesday – Math@ 10:45-11:40
Wednesday – Math@ 10:45-11:40
Thursday – Math@ 10:45-11:40
Friday- Math@ 10:45-11:40
Middle School Schedule
9:00 – 10:00 = Get up; Get Breakfast
10:00 – 10:30 = Math Time (Delta Math Online – from their teachers)
10:45 – 11:15 = ELA
11:30 – 12:00 = Social Studies
12:05 – 12:45 = Lunch
1:00 – 1:30 = Science
2. Have a defined learning space.
To have optimal internet connection and a quiet space, our older daughter is using our bedroom. She places her computer on the cedar chest and then sits on the floor. This is working well for her. She can close the door so she doesn’t disturb anyone or be interrupted. The twins and I have “school” in the living room. They can sit in a comfortable chair, the couch, or the floor.
(Side Note: In my 8th grade classroom, I have tables and chairs. I create a comfortable learning space for my students. Sitting at tables is more comfortable than desks, is more real life, and provides opportunities for collaboration. Students don’t have to sit up straight at a table the whole time. Figure out what works best for your child. Every child learns differently and needs a space that helps them learn.)
3. You don’t have to do school all day.
As you can see from our schedule, we have school in 30 minute increments. That is about the attention span of most students, depending on their age. Again, do what is best for your child.
4. Give them brain breaks.
Students need time to rest their brains before them move on to the next subject, plus this gives them some processing time. You decide how long you want to give your children. I have 15 minutes between subjects, this gives them time to go to the bathroom, move to a different seat, get a quick snack, or just take a break.
5. Incorporate Life Skills into Lessons
For example, one day this week we will use our math, reading, and science skills to plant a vegetable garden. The kids will determine how far apart and how deep the plants/seeds should be planted; the cost of the materials; and estimate the cost savings on groceries. For a family of five, my husband and I are hoping the garden will have a major impact on how much we spend on groceries each month. Plus, we will have our own organic vegetables.
6. Look up your state standards, so you are teaching content your children have learned or will learn in school.
This may seem like an odd tip, but as a teacher it is important. For instance, in the state of Tennessee 6thgraders learn ancient World History, like ancient Greece and Roman; 7th graders learn about Midlevel World History, like the Norman invasion of England, Trans-Saharan trade route, and the Silk Road; and 8th graders learn U.S. History – Jamestown to Reconstruction. If your student would be learning about ancient China and the discovery of gun powered, you don’t want to potentially confuse them with the founding of Jamestown.
(You can generally Google your state standards, which should send you to your State Department of Education.)
You might be thinking, “I’m not a teacher and I don’t know where to find materials to teach my child.” I will let you know about a resource that most teachers use to find fun activities that are relevant. www.teacherspayteachers.com This website is where teachers share or sell materials they have created and used with their students. You can search by grade, subject, and cost. I normally just use free resources or pay no more than $5.
Ted Ed is a great website with a YouTube channel, where you can find great videos on a variety of subjects. If you go through the website, you can find questions to ask after the video, as well as resources to dig deeper. This is a link to the general lesson page; you will need to search for the topic. https://ed.ted.com/lessons?direction=desc&sort=featured-position
Many times, I will just go to YouTube to search for a video on the topic I’m teaching. I will do a search for the topic and add “for kids” to make sure I find appropriate materials. I highly suggest that you watch anything before showing it to your children. Crash Course is a YouTube channel I use in my classroom, but have to preview first for possible inappropriate language or subject matter. (I tend to be stricter on language than most.)
If you are teaching the American Revolution or the Civil War, the American Battlefield Trust has great resources. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/topics They have animated maps, 4-minutes in history videos, texts to read, and even Virtual Field Trips to battlefields.
If you have read this entire post, you may be thinking, “I can do this!” Or “I can’t do this! She makes it seem simple because she is a teacher. I don’t know where to find state standards!” I understand finding standards might be difficult and not what you are interested in doing.
If anything, I want you to know you can do this! Just take a breath and think about your children’s needs and your abilities. If you aren’t a math teacher, there are resources like Khan Academy for higher math or ask your child what they use for math at school. I tell my kids all the time, “I’m not a math teacher, but I will help you however I can or find someone who can help you.” Think about the people you know. Maybe there is a business owner who has had to close their business or someone who is working from home you could talk to about math. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – we tell our kids this all the time.
At the very least, read books together and talk about what happened in the story, talk about paying bills and bank accounts, teach them to cook and bake, plant seeds, or clean the house together and talk about how the cleaners get rid of dirt and germs. You can teach all the subjects by teaching life skills.
Know you are not alone in navigating this world of homeschooling, so give yourself some Grace – just like Jesus gives us Grace.