Homeschool Scheduling Tips

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The coronavirus has reshaped our daily lives for the time being. With schools closed families are looking for homeschooling advice and resources as they face the challenge of teaching their children at home.

If you have found homeschooling to be stressful, you are not alone. Pasadena mother Robin Gillespie has five children, ranging in ages from six to twenty-years-old. Pre-coronavirus she was a pre-k assistant at a local private school. Now, she is a full-time teacher. Her classroom is the kitchen table. A typical day encompasses subjects ranging from first grade reading to fifth grade social studies and eighth grade algebra, all before lunch.

Like all parents Gillespie is trying her best. “I am not a teacher. I did not go to college for this,” she reflects. “It’s been hard. There is the challenge of a limited number of computers and supplies. Everyone cannot be doing their work online at the same time, so that has caused issues.”

Having a schedule has been essential to both keeping the peace and ensuring each child at least tries to complete their school work. Each morning starts with a family walk around the neighborhood. Once school starts, if one child is on the computer doing work, the others may be working on an art project, music, or reading.

GettyImages 844357070Heather Bowen, a South Carolina mother of two blogs about all things family, including homeschooling. She urges parents to recognize that it is not just an adjustment for you, but also your child. “Since your child is coming from a structured school environment, I would definitely continue with providing daily structure both for them and for you,” Bowen says. “Plan a daily family schedule. Have set hours for school, meals, chores, etc.” She suggests offering incentives to keep everyone on track. Extra play time or electronics time can be an enticing motivator when all else fails.

Meghan Biemiller’s two daughters attend public school in Harford County. Piper is in seventh grade, Quinn is in third grade. Once schools were closed for the virus, she started homeschooling and began each day with a schedule. Initially her challenge was the lack of guidance from the school system, “The school basically sent a small packet home that has stuff to do around the house—read any book and answer these questions, play a math game with cards, construct a map of where you might find something at home…useless really.”

She has found that being flexible has been key for everyone in the family’s sanity. “I thought for sure we needed to keep a super strict schedule, but now I am thinking that was causing more stress on both of us. So for now we are trying to do something productive at some point during the day and if the girls are getting along (which doesn’t happen often) then they can play video games or do a craft.” She has been able to find online activities to occupy Quinn and Piper has been writing reports about current events and practicing her music.

Allana Gallo, public school teacher and founder of Play Learn Thrive, educates on the importance of play as it relates to learning. She shared her top five tips for parents during coronavirus.

  • Breathe. Create a block schedule that is structured but also flexible.
  • Ask your child what interests them and go from there. True learning stems from extending on what you’re passionate about.
  • Involve them in your day-to-day. This is the perfect time to learn practical life skills.
  • Encourage outdoor time (2–4 hours per day) and don’t be afraid of boredom. Boredom breeds creativity, imagination and innovation.
  • Connect. Slow life down, savor moments you would normally rush, reevaluate what is important to you and your family.

Ultimately, it’s not just about reading, writing and arithmetic. Take advantage of online resources, such as virtual field trips, but don’t go crazy with screen time. Go on a nature bingo scavenger hunt. Make some popcorn and watch an upbeat movie together as a family. Keeping our kids healthy both mentally and physically, will be what keeps us moving forward. As a very wise fish once said, “Just keep swimming.”

—Joyce Heid

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