This article was originally published by NPR on 24 March 2020.
If you prefer listening to reading, here's the audio file from NPR.
With school closures happening all across the country due to the coronavirus outbreak, public schools are varying widely in what they offer. School districts have a legal obligation to provide equitable learning opportunities and it can be hard for schools to guarantee access to necessary hardware, like laptops and WiFi, for all students, so some are confining themselves to handing out optional "enrichment" lessons.
If you're one of the tens of millions of parents who are now essentially homeschooling your kids, we have some tips to help you keep your kids engaged and everyone sane. (And here's a comic version of these homeschooling tips!)
Know your kid
Strong learners can do even better independently, but weaker learners may really struggle. "Online [and independent] learning is really hard for a lot of people. It requires a lot of self-regulated learning skills," says MIT education researcher Justin Reich.
Different kids will do best in different learning environments. If your child learns better in groups, try a Zoom study session with a fellow classmate. The older kids are, the longer they may be able to work on their own. And remember, resources are going to become available slowly for students who need them — you may not have to do this all by yourself.
This is a good time for passion projects.
Ana Homayoun, an educational coach for students in the Bay Area, says this is a good time for kids to pursue interests they haven't had time to focus on in the past. It could be cooking, building in Minecraft, or drawing. Bonus: If it's something they're truly interested in, you won't have to bug them to do it.
Free online resources are amazing but just the beginning.
Free online educational resources don't equal free education. Don't get bogged down by the flood of downloadable PDFs and lesson plans available online. If you're working from home yourself, they can be especially overwhelming.
Instead, find a couple of resources that work and build from there. Prioritize your kid's greatest need and then their biggest interest or passion. Look for resources that will keep them connected to their real-life community — piano lessons, Sunday school and local dance classes are all going online. Grandparents and family friends are volunteering to lead activities like storytime and craft sessions. You're not going to recreate school in one day, so start small.
Set up designated space and time for learning.
Kids may need to move around during the day, but Homayoun suggests having one or two designated areas for learning. Have your kids pack up their materials into a basket so they can put them aside when they're finished.
Same goes for time. While it's good to have a general daily routine, you can also be flexible. It's OK to let your kids sleep in a little later than usual — research shows many of our children and teens are chronically sleep-deprived. Plus, most homeschoolers don't teach seven hours straight a day. Shoot for two to four good academic hours instead. And don't forget to get outside — learning happens outdoors too.
Be forgiving of yourself and your kid.
This is a very stressful time. If you need to put on a movie to get through the day, that's absolutely fine. Homayoun says, "You don't have to home school if it's really going to cause severe emotional distress for everyone involved. And I think that's really important for parents to hear right now because we all feel so much personal pressure."
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