With schools closed and families self-quarantining in response to COVID-19, we’ve found ourselves in a uniquely challenging situation. Many of us are living, working, and teaching/learning from home. We’re in close quarters with our loved ones for extended periods of time, all while dealing with new and unexpected stressors. Of course, all of these factors make home learning extremely difficult. Follow these tips for home learning to make your homeschooling experience less stressful and more successful.
4 Tips for Home Learning
There are many steps you can take to optimize home learning. However, these four essential tips will help you stick to the basics and establish a “new normal” that’s both effective and manageable.
1. Create a Routine
For both children and adults, life as we know it changed abruptly. This can feel overwhelming and scary. When children are in a state of stress, anxiety, or fear, learning becomes nearly impossible. Predictability feels safe. For this reason, one of the best ways to reestablish a sense of safety is to create a routine and stick to it.
You may wish to create a routine using blocks of time (e.g., 8:30-9:00 Breakfast, 9:05-9:15 Morning Meeting, etc.). However, this may be too stringent for your family. And if the routine is too difficult to maintain, it’s not helpful for anyone. Instead, you can schedule a series of events (e.g., Wake up, breakfast, brush teeth, morning meeting, first lesson, brain break, lunch, etc.).
If the series of events is also challenging to maintain, try to wake up, eat meals, and go to sleep around the same time. Any semblance of structure will help your children feel more comfortable, confident, and ready to learn.
Consider Your Unique Needs
As you create your routine, think about your family’s needs. Are one or both parents working from home? If so, build time into your routine where one parent is “on” and available to help with schoolwork, while the other parent is “off” and busy working or in virtual meetings. If you’re the sole adult in the household, include blocks of time for your child to work on art projects or watch educational TV independently, allowing you a bit of space and time to work.
Make Time to Connect
And don’t forget to include time for connection in your routine! Along with safety, connection is an essential foundation for optimal learning.
Consider putting away phones for mealtimes, spending at least ten minutes a day in child-directed play with each of your children, and/or having your kids take turns selecting a daily family activity. (As a bonus, connection inspires cooperation—and we could all use some extra cooperation right now.)
2. Learn Through Play and Exploration
Depending on the age of your children, they may have lessons and assignments dictated by their teacher(s). Others, like children in preschool, might have no lessons or assignments, leaving the schooling completely up to you.
In either scenario, it’s important to remember that children learn best through play. It nurtures children’s imaginations and teaches vital skills in context, such as problem-solving, creativity, leadership, cooperation, and conflict resolution. Create opportunities for child-directed play, arts and crafts, nature walks, and so on. Not only does this take some of the pressure off of you as a parent teacher, but it’s also a highly effective form of learning.
Exploration and curiosity also fuel learning, regardless of your child’s age. What’s a topic your child would love to learn more about? Help them create an independent research project on a subject they find fascinating.
Learn in context, like taking a walk through your neighborhood and asking your children to jot down observations about what they see and hear. Depending on age, these observations can be converted into a creative story, a map of the neighborhood, a journal entry, a song, etc. Get creative and incorporate plenty of experiential learning into your home learning routine. You don’t need to become a professional educator with a full curriculum in just weeks. Learning by the book isn’t always the most effective—and certainly not the most engaging—form of learning. If you can nurture your child’s creativity and curiosity, you’re doing just fine.
3. Take Breaks
Especially in times of stress, it’s vital to take plenty of breaks. Schedule brain breaks into your child’s learning routine, or call for a brain break when you notice your children becoming unfocused or frustrated.
Brain breaks are a great way to relax and recharge. Do a silly dance, create a secret handshake, play a quick round of Simon Says (or freeze tag or trash can basketball), engage in some deep breathing exercises, or take a walk around the block. If you need some inspiration, you can find extensive lists of brain breaks all over the Internet.
A Note About Screen Time
As you take breaks, remember to limit screen time. Avoiding excessive coverage about COVID-19 can help you and your family keep stress levels low.
Slightly more screen time than usual may be necessary during these unprecedented times, but try to focus on quality. Use most of your child’s screen time for education and connection, and don’t let it get out of hand. Too much screen time can impair the function and structure of the brain, causing problems with school and learning.
4. Give Yourself Grace
Finally, the most important of all home learning tips: Be kind to yourself. Give yourself grace. It’s not possible to perfectly juggle the roles of parent, partner, teacher, and employee/coworker all at once. Especially not in the middle of deeply uncertain and stressful times.
If you put unnecessary pressure on yourself to be the perfect teacher, you’ll also pressure your child to be the perfect student. Both of these tasks are impractical right now, and impossible expectations will only impede learning. Try to let go of fears about your children falling behind or about how “lost learning” will impact their futures. Children around the world are sharing this experience, and when children eventually return to school, teachers will be prepared to meet them where they are. Do your best, forgive yourself when you make mistakes, and take good care of yourself. Remember that you’re not alone, and make time to talk to your support system when you struggle.
Final Thoughts: Essential Home Learning Tips
As you navigate home learning with your family, keep your expectations reasonable. Limiting the stress and trauma of the current situation is far more important than any academic lesson right now.
Set and follow a manageable routine, emphasize connection and creativity, take plenty of breaks, and be patient and kind to yourself. By following these simple home learning tips, you’ll focus on what truly matters, avoid adding unnecessary stress, and continue nurturing your children’s minds during these challenging times.
Comment below how you have been managing and if you have any tips to add!