As a work-from-home employee who has homeschooled her son since kindergarten, the current social distancing mandates haven’t changed much about my family’s days. But for many of you, having the kids at home during the day has upended the family’s daily schedule. Here are five tips to help establish a routine and keep the kids learning while they are home.
Create a Schedule
School and work provide routines that give structure to our days, and you can do the same thing at home. Of course, your family’s preferences (Are you night owls or early birds?) will dictate your schedule. However, I found that scheduling school work to be completed in the morning was better because there were fewer opportunities for the schedule to be sidetracked.
When my son was younger, we worked in half hour increments, starting with the subject that was hardest for him. I would alternate subjects he liked with ones he disliked and include short play breaks throughout the morning. School work, with the exception of reading, was completed before lunch on most days. Now that he is a teen, my son completes school work mostly after lunch, and that’s fine, too—as long as the work gets done.
Home will likely have many distractions for your kids, including toys and video games, so keeping their work on track can be challenging. It’s best if your children know what you expect of them each day in each subject. How many chapters should they read? How long should they work on math? Include these expectations as part of your schedule. It is easier to focus if they know exactly how much they need to get done. Making time to be outdoors, while still being mindful of social distancing, will help keep them focused as well. If they’ve been working hard on learning, take a break and go for a walk.
Match Lesson Plans to Interests
If your school didn’t send work home to be completed during this extended break, you can find a variety of resources online. One way to keep your kids engaged in learning is to base your lessons on your student’s interests. Is your teen into Hamilton? The Library of Congress offers access to Alexander Hamilton’s primary source material so your student can learn more about the man behind the musical. Maybe your elementary student is missing baseball. The National Baseball Hall of Fame offers free baseball-related lesson plans in all subjects. The possibilities are endless.
Throughout our years of homeschooling, most school work has taken place at the kitchen table; no elaborate set-up needed. As my son got older and started doing more work independently, it was nice to set up my laptop at the table and work while he completed his lessons. I was close enough to help when needed, but also still able to keep up with my own tasks. I recommend that learning take place in a common area of the home to help limit distractions.
While not planned for most of us, this unexpected break gives parents a wonderful opportunity to learn with their children. One of our favorite things to do together is listen to audiobooks. You can check them out digitally from local libraries or access them through audiobook apps. If your family had to cancel travel plans, take a virtual tour instead. A number of museums throughout the world offer online tours or provide access to certain content through their websites. Just search “virtual museum tours” and you’ll find a list of all kinds of museums you can visit from home.
Remember that remote learning doesn’t have to be “doing school at home.” You can make it fun and cater to your children’s interests. While your kids are being educated at home, they get to take advantage of individualized learning. That means they will likely be able to complete their school work more quickly than they can at school. That leaves plenty of time for free play, board games, baking, and other fun family activities.
- The Kennedy Center’s Arts Edge website has wonderful art resources for all ages of students.
- The National Gallery of Art has lessons and activities for pre-kindergarten through college. The lessons relate the art-based curriculum to other subjects such as language arts and social studies.
- The Library of Congress has lesson plans, primary sources sets, presentations, and activities on subjects ranging from immigration to Alexander Hamilton to baseball.
- The Smithsonian’s History Explorer site has lessons and activities on every era of U.S. history.
- NASA provides lessons for fifth through 12th graders on a range of science and STEM topics.
- The National Women’s History Museum has lessons available on influential women and women’s rights topics.
- The New York Times offers lessons and activities available on current events.
- The website math-drills.com has more math worksheets than you can use in a year.
- IXL offers a limited number of online work in all school subjects for free each day. More content is available with a membership. Some school’s provide access to this site.
- Typing.com is is a great site for practicing typing and more.