ed. note: Today’s post is coming at you from former teacher turned stay-at-home mom, one of my best friends on the planet, Diana Schwarzlose. Since we’ve been staying home due to COVID-19 (going on 2 weeks), I’ve been texting Diana for advice on how in the world we’re supposed to support our children while they’re at home — while also maintaining some semblance of normalcy. Are we all supposed to suddenly know how to be homeschooling parents? Her answers have calmed me down and given me the guidance I need to support my kids without losing my sanity. I asked her to share her tips here, and I hope you get as much from her smart and balanced approach as I have. I’d also like to take a moment to note that these are bizarre times, and each one of us is working from a different situation when it comes to the time, support, and resources we have available. Please keep in mind that these are suggestions meant to help and inspire — they are by no means requirements for being an amazing parent. We’re all doing the best we can, and many of us are balancing full-time work schedules with little to no childcare, and may not have the support of a partner. You’ve GOT THIS, and please feel free to ignore anything here that doesn’t serve you. No judgement, only love. Take it away, Diana…
“Ok, we can do this. Maybe staying at home all day with my kids will make us slow down and enjoy the little moments. Wait, I have to HOMESCHOOL my kids now?!”
Take a deep breath. I’m here to tell you this is really all going to be okay. Seriously. I’m a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom, and I have some tips and tricks that I hope will leave you feeling encouraged and less anxious about what’s to come. First and foremost, if your child(ren) is enrolled in school, the school will most likely be sending home curriculum, so you won’t be responsible for creating lessons. Phew. But if your child needs help with something along the way, here’s a little tip. Do one example FOR them, do one WITH them, and then THEY do it independently after that. Do not feel like you have to be with them and teach them all day! I hope this eases some of the pain. Now I can share a few tips that have been working for us lately as we start this journey back into school mode.
Tip #1: Give time-blocking a try.
Disclaimer: time-blocking is awesome if you understand it’s there only as a guide. Our days are organized between 7:30a to 3:00p (ie, the school day.) I generally like to have 30-60 minute blocks with 10 minute “transition times.” When you get your child’s curriculum, y’all can decide which subjects you’ll focus on each day of the week because you won’t work on each subject every day.
Here’s an example of what an “ideal” learn-at-home day looks like at our house… remember that it doesn’t have to be done perfectly! Having some structure helps us stay directed and like we actually accomplished something at the end of a day.
Tip #2: Let them have free play!
Do you know how much free play positively impacts your child’s brain development? According to scientists, play helps evolve the brain’s executive control center which regulates emotions, makes plans, and solves problems. No big deal. And if that claim isn’t strong enough, there’s science to back up that “skills associated with play ultimately lead to better grades.”
Tip #3: Be transparent with your kids.
Take time to explain why the new schedule at home is happening. Remind them and yourself that this can actually create some freedom! Time-blocking is intended to give us a general schedule, but that doesn’t mean we stick to it perfectly or that we always go “in order.” The beauty of learning at home is that your child(ren) will probably knock out an 8 hour school day in 2 hours most of the time. If they get all their work done, you should feel great about giving them free time (encourage them to play “screen free” and be active too). Sometimes my daughter asks if she can do her art time before lunch because she’s not hungry yet. Yes, it’s fine! This is all intended to give some structure, but allow freedom in that.
A few great resources…
Here are some amazing resources that teachers constantly use in the classroom and that you can tap into for learning, entertainment, and activity:
GoNoodle App is used at many schools for movement and mindfulness. It’s silly songs and fun dances will have you moving too. Cosmic Kids Yoga has an energetic teacher and fun, imaginative backgrounds to keep the kids mindful & moving.
BrainPop & BrainPop Jr. have videos and activities categorized by school subject. These are gold. Teachers use these all the time to supplement lessons, and the kids love them! (You get free access right now!)
Art For Kids Hub has the cutest drawing lessons lead by a dad/kid duo. The dad makes drawing so easy, and my daughter has LOVED drawing with them.
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems has immediately gained popularity during this time. I love that such a well-known author is interacting with our kids in this way.
Play to Learn Preschool has amazing FB Live videos every day with circle time at 10am CT.
Handwriting Without Tears workbooks are winners. My 1st grader started teaching herself cursive a year ago with this book.
Reading: Depending on the age of your kids, this could be more or less involved for you. If they’re older, you can block out an hour or more of reading time for them. If you have younger “readers,” pick a high interest chapter book and read one or two chapters a day to them. Or hello! Let audio books make an appearance and change your life. My kids LOVE the Magic Treehouse Collection and Hank the Cowdog.
Math in real life: This is more simple. Bake with your kids. Count money with your kids (then let them keep it and put it in their piggy bank.) Ask them what shapes they see in nature and the city when you’re out for a walk. And then use BrainPop when you’re tired.