One Month In: Revisiting Your Homeschool Strategy

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When schools across the country first started closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a huge surge of parents searching for homeschooling schedule ideas, lesson plans, and educational resources. Now, whether they’re trying to get kids to complete online learning assignments from teachers or attempting to come up with their own educational curriculum at home, a lot of parents are realizing that their initial homeschooling plans might have been…a little ambitious. 

Many members of ParentsTogether’s Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook group—indeed, parents everywhere—have switched from a high-gear “do all the things” attitude into a more relaxed, perhaps more sustainable pace. Both by finding unique ways to keep their kids interested in schooling during what feels, at times, like a never-ending spring break, and by adjusting their own approach to parenting during the pandemic, here are some of the ways parents are settling into a more livable approach to remote learning.

Ways to keep kids engaged in learning

It may require some extra creativity to keep kids engaged in educational activities that they might have been happy to do a couple of weeks ago, when learning at home was still novel. Parents in the Facebook group have suggested all sorts of smart solutions for when kids seem uninterested in academic assignments.

One approach group members are trying is to make learning more fun by gamifying everything—we might be missing the structure of a classroom, but that also means we can take advantage of the freedom being at home and customizing schoolwork to whatever appeals to our own children. Have kids read aloud to their pets or stuffed animals. Play a card game or roll some dice as a gateway to discussing numbers. Set a timer for schoolwork and then offer a reward afterwards (like playing a favorite video game or bringing the scooter outside). There are even ways to use Minecraft as a backdrop for reading, math, and history lessons.

Another approach that parents have suggested is to expand your definition of academics, and let them learn while doing chores with you around the house. The appropriate activities will depend on your child’s age, but some ideas include using a baking session as math curriculum, folding laundry to fine-tune motor skills and color matching, or planting and caring for seeds and plants as a window into talking about biology.

A school principal suggested that one of the best approaches to learning is to simply follow your child’s interests. Whether they’re into the solar system, puppies, or pizza, you can take a deep dive into the topic of interest. For example, watch YouTube videos together about different types of pizza around the world, then have them come up with their own illustrated guide, then choose one to cook from scratch. Kids are much more likely to stay interested in learning when the topic is something they enjoy.

Ways parents are adapting

Many parents have also realized that they need to get creative with the way their lives are organized to make things work realistically in this “new normal.” One parent in the group asked whether she should move two of her kids’ homeschooling days to the weekend so that she could get more of her own work done during the week, and was met with plenty of affirmative support in the comments. Don’t hesitate to adjust your schedule in creative ways to make this new work/life/school balance work best for your family’s particular situation.

Other parents offered up their own solutions for adapting as a family, such as having their kids do school work only in the evenings so they can spend as much time as possible during daylight hours playing and learning outdoors. Many, it seems, are shortening the school week to four days. 

Another parent who is an essential worker shared that most of her kids’ school work has to get done on the weekends, but self-care and family time are also top priorities during that time, so she’s accepted the fact that not all assignments will be completed. The road to success for many families might simply be relaxing their expectations of what’s a priority and what’s realistically possible.

In any case, rest assured that most states and school districts are just looking for main academic requirements to be fulfilled, not a full 8-hour school day every day. As so many parents are realizing, supporting your kids’ emotional wellbeing is more important than completing all academic assignments. Homeschooling parents should give themselves a break, and a much-deserved pat on the back, for stepping into so many roles during such a stressful and uncertain time.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.