With sudden school closures, many parents have decided to continue their children’s education at home for the remainder of the school year. Overnight, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has transformed thousands of families from being in the public education system, to being left on their own to figure out how to keep continuity of learning for their children in the weeks to come. If you are one of those parents that have found yourself willing to give homeschooling a try you might be wondering, “how do I do this?”.
Disclosure: This post was written by a member of the Trigger Memory team – founders of Times Tales, Pet Math and the Kids Chore Chart.
Veteran Homeschool Moms Share Advice to New Homeschoolers
Sisters, Marillee Flanagan and Jennie Winters, are not only authors of the widely popular educational products used in schools and home learning across the U.S. (Times Tales, Pet Math, Memory Triggers, etc.) but are also veteran homeschool moms for over 20 years with eight children between them. Out-of-the-box teaching methods, tips, and resources can be found on their blog Teaching-with-a-Twist.com.
10 Frequently Asked Questions from New Homeschool Moms
1. How much time should I be spend directly teaching my student compared to having them work independently?
Most homeschool students in the upper elementary grades through high school spend the majority of their time in independent study. The parent takes on the role of the facilitator. However, younger children will need additional instruction for their home education. The good news is that homeschool instruction time is significantly shorter than public school instruction time. The reason for this is because you don’t have to deal with all the transitions and classroom management that occurs at public school with 30 students in a classroom. Take some time at the beginning to teach your children how to learn independently, and you will see that the amount of teacher instruction time will significantly decrease over time.
2. How do I get my children to work independently?
When homeschooling, it is critical to have an expectation for your child to do a portion of their school work independently. Set up some time each day for them to do independent reading, journal writing, and math review (where they won’t need your help). It is equally important to establish some time where they will have your undivided attention to teach new skills or review their independent work. Talk with them about expectations and set up rewards for staying on task.
For the younger age children, I would suggest buying 2 – 3 supplemental school workbooks for the core subjects (such as reading, writing, and math) then bundling the individual pages into daily packets. An example of a daily packet could include: two math pages, one reading, and one writing page stapled together. Have the children complete the daily packet independently and then review it together and discuss any corrections that need to be made.
For the older children, a school par check off list works great! When my boys were working independently, I would have a required amount of assignments for each subject, for every week. For example, I would require five Saxon Math Lessons, two copy work lessons, three history’s, and four language arts that would need to be completed for that week. Kids loved this system as it gave them the freedom to work on the subjects they wanted, on their time. My par sheets always had a minimum of required daily check offs, but they got to decide which subjects they were going to work on for that particular day. This works as a great reward system as well. Doing a little extra school each day could mean the school week ended on Thursday.
3. How do I homeschool and limit screen time?
As a result of the Coronavirus COVID19 outbreak many parents worry that having children temporarily switch into the world of home learning, might result in having bug-eyed, zombie children that have been plugged in for most of the day. Doing online learning will increase time spent on screens, but each parent can choose which homeschool platform works best for their child.
Try to alternate between online learning activities and good old fashioned pencil and paper work. Use workbooks or printables to give your children a break from the screens. Also, during reading time, use real books instead of Kindle to provide more time away from screens.
Learning games are also a great way to take a break from the screens. There are many fun-learning games that you can incorporate with common household items around the house that combine competition with hands-on learning.
Each day we have unprecedented, historical events unfolding through the Coronavirus pandemic. During this chapter in our lives, many teenagers are experiencing loneliness and isolation from their friends and even the social interaction from school. My advice is to continue to allow screen time during specific hours, as long as they do not conflict with the part of the day that has been designated for school. Having a discussion about the phone rules during school time is a great way to involve your children to help determine the parameters for a healthy balance between school and screens.
4. How do I use this time to incorporate life skills in order to keep my house from becoming a disaster zone?
Having your children at home everyday will most definitely result in a messier house. The kids are at home all day and the restaurants are closed! What this means for mom, is more dishes and more mess. The Coronavirus school break is a great opportunity to incorporate some life skills into your daily routine.
Zone Cleaning is a great way to teach children cleaning and organizational skills. Incorporating this cleaning system 2 – 3 times a day is a fun way to teach personal responsibility and housekeeping skills that can last a lifetime!
Keep your home clean! Read more about a Kids’ Chore Chart System that Works!
5. How do I keep my kids from falling behind when they go back to school?
If your child has been recently struggling in a certain area in school (such as math or reading), my advice is to use this homeschooling time to focus mainly on that subject. For example, around the time of the school closures, most children in the 3rd grade were expected to have their times tables mastered. If your child was falling behind in that area, practice multiplication through various workbooks or even extra reinforcement through a multiplication app.
A quick way to teach your children to master the upper multiplication tables is through our Times Tales program available at: www.TimesTales.com
6. How do I work from home and homeschool at the same time?
The Coronavirus has created not only a huge influx in homeschooling, but mass working from home as well. Time management and homeschooling is a great conundrum for shelter in place parents and children.
Being the co-owner of Trigger Memory Publishing, my first years of building our business coincided with homeschooling my four children. Sometimes it was sheer chaos while working on the computer, answering school questions and nursing a baby all at the same time.
If your homeschool chapter is just for a short time during the school closure break, this is a great opportunity to come together as a family and create some “workplace rules”. You can discuss boundaries, considerations and expectations such as: acceptable noise levels or hours of quiet time, designated work/school place areas in the house for each family member, and hours of operation for study and work time. This is a great opportunity to work together as a family team!
7. How much time should my child spend on school work each week?
In homeschooling, the parent makes the hours. My advice is, don’t try to fulfill the same amount of hours your child spent at public school. A great secret amongst veteran homeschoolers is that learning time at home is a fraction of time spent in public schools. When my children were in their elementary years of schooling, they did an average of 1-2 hours a day. When they got to the middle and high school ages, time spent on schoolwork was about 3 – 4 hours. Based upon years of talking to other homeschool moms, this is pretty normal for the average homeschooler.
Time spent on schoolwork does not necessarily translate into having a better education or increased knowledge. I used to tell my kids not to “advertise” they only did a few hours of schoolwork each day because I was afraid people would think I wasn’t teaching them anything. They always had a goal to end by noon, so they could be free to play the rest of the day. When my boys started community college (at age 15) they did so with completing a mere fraction of the book work compared to their peers. The lesson in this is, quality (as in fun memories of learning with mom or dad), not quantity, can achieve great results.
8. If I have multiple children how do I homeschool all at once?
My four children have an age range that spans over 9 years. Since my two older boys began their freshman year of college at 15 years old (yes, right from homeschool to college), I only had a few years where I was actually teaching all four of my children at one time.
Unit studies are widely popular for large homeschool families with a variety of age ranges. These studies can be tailored to each grade level and skill while learning the same subject. Working together to discover your family tree history online is also a great idea as a sibling unit study during this memorable time in our history.
9. How do I keep the learning going without spending a ton of money?
The cost for homeschooling varies depending upon curriculum. During my four children’s grade school years, I spent a minimal amount on school supplies. We did a lot of journaling, fun home learning games and supplemental workbooks. I never bought a school year curriculum set until my children reached 5th or 6th grade level.
During this school closure break my advice is to use supplemental learning workbooks found at Costco or a wide variety of online stores. Printables (which there a ton of freebies online!) are a great way to give your child a “worksheet packet” for each school day. Math-Aids.com allows you to print dynamic worksheets for any math topic for free. You can also use this time to incorporate real-life math that can teach children the math involved in owning a pet, shopping at the mall, going to a restaurant, using credit cards, creating budgets and managing a bank account. Real-Life Math workbooks are available for grades 3-5 and grades 6-9 at a reasonable price.
Temporary homeschooling can be a little more tricky for the middle and high school student, especially in the area of math. I would suggest using supplemental workbooks that can be found fairly inexpensively online for the core subjects.
10. Should I have a rigid or flexible homeschool schedule?
Homeschooling styles, schedules and curriculum come in more flavors than Baskin Robbins has ice-cream. From over 20 years of personally witnessing the whole spectrum, I have to say that ALL varieties can be successful.
If you have found yourself in a temporary homeschool situation due to the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, my advice is to “keep it casual”. This is a historic moment in time that your children will NEVER forget. Homeschooling with mom or dad offers an opportunity to create new, close family memories in an unstable and uncertain moment in history. Remember, homeschool is YOUR SCHOOL… where the dress code is pajamas, the couch is a desk, and the teachers are mom and dad. Have fun and enjoy your time together!