What a crazy time we live in! I’m sure many of you never imagined you’d be teaching your kids from home. There have been a lot of adjustments and changes in our home to make it work and to help the kids feel successful. Since my kids are all older and self-sufficient with schooling, I asked several friends for some advice and tips. They had so many helpful ideas. Many of these tips have come from them.
Change can be scary. Our lives have been turned upside down. This can be a very frustrating time for everyone involved. Kids are missing friends, teachers, and routines. I feel like everything is so crazy right now. We are trying to find a new normal while all of our routines are messed up. This is just as difficult and scary for your kids. Try to focus on the positives through all of the challenges. Make sure that your kids know that you love them especially in these hard times. Pay attention to how much the news is on or what you are saying in front of them. They can overhear a lot!
Your kids are unique. There is no set mold for what works best for all kids. You know your kids best and what they really need. Use that knowledge to figure out the best plan for them. Don’t be afraid to try different things until you find a good fit for each child. Some kids are very self-motivated and will get started quickly with very little prodding. Other kids will need your full attention while they are working. As you experiment with different methods you will find the best fit for your child.
Schedule. This was hands down the most common thing mentioned from the moms I messaged. Kids thrive with routine. The first week of home school we stayed up late and slept in (and we had some big earthquakes)…it was a disaster! We didn’t get anything done. So the following week we went back to our school routine: an earlier bedtime, getting up earlier, eat, exercise, shower all before school time. It really made such a difference! Here are some tips to remember when setting up a schedule…
- Get enough sleep! Sleep is so important for learning. A tired brain is a dumb brain and makes it so hard for them to focus. Treat weekdays like school days with a set bed time and set alarms if needed to get them up and moving in the mornings.
- Eat a good breakfast before you begin.
- Have them get showered, brush teeth, and dressed before they start school.
- Have a set time for school work. Like 10-12, 2-4 or something like that. Right it down and talk with your kids about it. My kids start at about 9:00 and work until it is done. I do make them stop at dinner time even if it’s not done.
- During school time, put away/turn off all other distractions: TV, texting friends, checking phones, games. Even vacuuming can be a distraction. If we all work at the same time, there won’t be any distractions.
- Include fun in the schedule. Take breaks! Give the kids something to look forward to throughout the day. Remember all the breaks they had in school for recess, lunch, art, computers, PE, etc. Try to reward them with short breaks; 15′ jump on the tramp, run around the back yard, bike or scooter around the block, text friends, Face time a cousin or grandparent, have a snack, etc.
Location. Set up a place for them to do their work. Some families work better all together at the kitchen table. Others work better in separate rooms. If they tend to fight, I’d separate them to avoid any problems. This really is about trial and error. Find an area that works best for your kids. My kids like being together. Sometimes they laugh about each others work and enjoy being together and helping each other. But they can also focus when they are by each other.
Consistency helps a lot! Just make sure they know where they should study. Have a set place nearby (on a shelf or bin) for each of them to put their computers, school work, papers, and pencils when they are done for the day. This makes it so much easier to pick up where they left off.
- Little kids have a shorter attention span, so their little minds need to switch tasks more frequently and take more breaks. You can break up their homework into smaller portions and give them a break or reward in between.
- Start with the hardest/least favorite work first. Their minds are fresh and ready to learn and will be able to accomplish more.
- Make a checklist for their homework. For junior high kids, help them keep track of each class. You can create a simple chart that includes each class and each assignment: when it is due, what is due, and what is expected to get full points. This gives them an easy way to keep track of each assignment and they can check it off when it is completed. Some schools have a planner so you could use that as well.
- Teachers are a great resource. My teacher friends have expressed how much they miss their school kids. They have spent most of a year with them and know their learning style. If you have any questions, please email them. They can provide a lot of insight and help as to how they do things. Please be sensitive to their time and try to text them during school hours.
- Be present. Are you paying attention to them? Sit with them while they work and notice what they are doing. You may need to put away other things, or forego a super clean house to get the school work done.
- Don’t expect perfection. What is the purpose of the assignment? Focus on the main purpose and don’t get distracted by other things. For instance, if it’s a handwriting assignment then they need to have nice letters and penmanship, but if it’s a journal entry or a math assignment, it shouldn’t matter if a letter is backwards or lower case.
- You don’t have to finish it all at once. If your child is struggling, it’s okay to take a break and start it again later. If you get behind you can always add an hour of work on a Saturday.
- It’s okay to put something aside and come back to it later. I know some of the math books expect answers done a certain way. Take a break and talk to the teacher or research it then try again later.
- What does your house sound like? Is it too noisy or too quiet? You want to have a nice environment for learning. Play some calming music. Some kids work better with music playing. If they have an online meeting they can put on headphones, go in another room, or ask us to be quiet. I have yelled during several of their online meetings, OOPS!
- Some kids may need prompting, encouragement, or even bribery throughout the day. Start out sitting next to them and helping them. See what you can let them do on their own. The ultimate goal is to get them to be self-sufficient in their work.
- Ask questions. Even though my kids pretty much do their own work, I like to ask them what they have to do today, how much homework they have, how long it will take, how their grades are doing, and any online meetings they might have. This helps us plan our day better, when we will go on a walk together, and when we’ll have time for other fun activities.
- Have an afternoon science experiment. Like these ones from Mystery Science. This would make a fun reward.
- They don’t always have to write the work. If they can tell you the answer and explain the reasoning behind it, that should count. Sometimes having you help write can alleviate some of the stress of the assignment.
- BREAKS!!! Take lots of breaks, break up work, break out in song, whatever! Just mix it up!
Working From Home. This adds another challenge to the mix. Hopefully your work is flexible and understanding of little ones fighting or interrupting you at times. It’s helpful if you can tag team with your spouse when the kids need help. My husband is working from home now and has learned if he is on an important call to shut the door. That way we know not to bug him when the door is closed. If you have older kids at home, they can be a great help and influence to their younger siblings.
If you can take a little time first thing in the morning, that may be enough to get them going. Then they can have outside play time while you get your work done in a peaceful setting. Do what you can and don’t stress too much about it. If you have to do school work at night or on Saturdays, that is okay.
What do I do with my toddlers while the kids are working on school? Toddlers are used to having all of your attention now suddenly they are having to fight for your attention. Here are some tips I got for what to do with your toddlers.
- Try an online preschool or online learning games.
- Have a place set for them with the other kids to “do school”. This helps them not feel left out and they can come and go to school when they feel like it.
- Find simple activities or games that they can do while at the table.
- Make sure when they want to play, that you or one of the kids takes a break and plays with them.
- Plan the hard assignments during nap time. So you can be there to help your other children.
- Find starter work and activities for your other kids to do while you help the younger ones get ready for the day.
Spend more time doing things as a family. I have loved this part of being “stuck” at home. We are spending so much more time in the evenings together. This can also be a reward for the kids for all of their hard work.
- Eat meals together! It is so fun to take a break at lunch time and sit and joke together.
- Go on a walk together. We have been doing daily walks in the middle of the day! Rain or shine. It has been so therapeutic to get out.
- Have a chalk art day. Leave some uplifting messages or activities for others that walk by. Or leave nice chalk messages at a friend’s house.
- Go on a bike ride together.
- Watch a movie.
- Have a game night. Wii, board games, ping pong, mix it up!
- Have a read-a-thon. Just like when you were in school with pillows and lots of yummy treats.
- Go for a drive. Sometimes this is nice just to get out of our routine!
- Make some goodies. We’ve been eating a lot of goodies and experimenting with new recipes…cinnamon rolls, cookies, mug cakes, yummy!
- Do some service for someone. Look around your neighborhood. There are a lot of people that need your help! Last week we mowed and weeded a neighbor’s yard. Nothing is better than seeing the big smile on their faces! My friend made masks with her girls. There are lots of opportunities to help!
- Do chores. Yes, they still needs to be done, but it seems a little less painful if everyone works together!
- Have daily crafts or fun activities! We did a paint night. It sure got us laughing! Here’s my post about kid’s crafts.
- Have a Nerf gun war, laser tag game, or paper airplane contest.
I have noticed how resilient people are. We will find a way to make it through this craziness. Enjoy your time together. What do you like to do with your family? Don’t get discouraged. There is a learning curve to this for you and your kids. Keep at it and have fun together!