Homeschooling Tips for Parents (From an Actual Teacher!)

child writing on paper in school

Seven ways to help transition from parent to teacher now that schools have closed due to COVID-19 

One of the most major changes caused by the COVID-19 in the United States has been the closure of schools. Parents now find themselves trying to assume the role of both parent and teacher, literally. This is already a scary and uncertain time and the added pressure of making sure your child stays up-to-date academically can be a huge burden for a household. Thankfully, teachers in California, Texas and all states are rising to the task of transitioning their classroom online. 

I’m the Marketing Director at Net Pay Advance, and my husband, Mr. Westphal, is an eighth-grade teacher with training in science, history and mathematics for middle school through high school ages. I asked Westphal for his top pieces of advice for parents when handling the transition to homeschool. Read further to learn more.  

Maintain structure 

Implementing and maintaining some sort of structure during this time will help both you and your children. While they won’t have the same schedule as before with going to a school for a certain amount of time per day, you can still outline “school” time and “fun” time. 

One great way to implement structure is by creating a space that is for learning and is not their bed or the couch. Using a kitchen table or another table to turn into a desk so that it’s easier to transition into “learning” mode simply by being in a different location in the house from where they are usually relaxing. 

However, while structure is important, allowing flexibility is equally as important. Make time for breaks so that your child isn’t working several hours straight and can break up their day. Also, school is now your schedule so if you’re finding that it’s hard to keep your child focused for several hours at a time, splitting the learning time into an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon and an hour in the evening, or some other timeline, will help you and your children maintain learning without getting overwhelmed.

Finally, preparing a rough outline a week in advance will be helpful for both you and them so you aren’t scrambling with what to do each day. 

Turn chores into learning 

Thankfully, most everyday chores have an element of core subjects involved in them. Doing laundry means measuring laundry detergent and understanding why hot or cool water effects colors differently, even learning more about the chemicals in detergent and why they are effective. Cooking is full of measuring, reading and following instructions and taking part of chemical reactions that result in a delicious meal. 

Learning is fun and looking for opportunities to both teach and get things done around the house will help take a lot of the weight off your shoulders. 

Keep in contact 

Staying in contact with other parents, your children’s teachers and encouraging your children to keep in contact with their peers is so helpful. We are all in this together and leaning into the support group that is created in school will be so crucial right now. 

Teachers are learning this new territory, too, and are here to help. Maintain contact via email, text, video conferencing or phone for any questions you may have, and they will help guide you. Speaking with other parents to plan out weeks and keep your children working on similar tasks can help build comradery amongst you all. 

This is NOT a vacation 

While being out of school may feel like a vacation for students, its important to emphasize that this is not a vacation and pushing forward with your education is important. Setting up a structure during what would be “normal” work and school days will help keep the evenings and weekends fun and carefree rather than each day feeling like the same thing. 

Old school is still cool 

Even though we are in the age of new technology and it seems like everyone is doing things on a computer or tablet, don’t forget that old school methods are still very much relevant! Parents with younger children, if you have a printer, print off worksheets for them to use. Is the weather outside nice? Head to your front porch, back porch, balcony, yard to see what learning opportunities are outside. 

Reading hours are helpful, too! Assign a reading block to break up the day. Your kids can choose the book of their choice, so it feels like more of a treat than an assignment. 

The importance is keeping your children engaged on anything that is helping them learn and grow, even for just a couple hours out of the day. It doesn’t have to be perfect or the latest and greatest thing. 

We are all in the same boat 

Be patient with yourself and with your children. We are all in uncharted territory, and thankfully we are all in this together. Don’t burden yourself with trying to teach your children every single thing, just doing your best is enough. There will be a gap in learning and teacher’s will be understanding and making up for that during the next school year. 

It is easy to get frustrated when tensions are high and there is a lot of stress, allow yourself and your children to have the emotions that they need too. This is going to be hard time for their emotional health. Scheduling Zoom or Facetime meets with their friends can help them socialize and create some normalcy. Making activities more fun than maybe they would have been in a classroom can help both of you. 

Use resources, but exercise restraint 

There are hundreds, if not thousands of resources that are available to teachers and to parents to help facilitate their student’s learning. In response to COVID-19 and the effects on the school systems, a lot of these are now available for free at a reduced rate. 

While these tools are a great resource, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of all the options and get overwhelmed. Westphal’s recommendation is to stick to what feels comfortable, “I have been using Zoom video conferencing and have found it helpful. Also, anything Google is usually great. I use Google drive and Google classroom daily and that is a great way to keep everything organized.” Below are some links to some helpful resources recommended by Westphal.

Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and this will not last forever. We are all navigating a new normal. “A lot has been thrown at us in a very short amount of time. Don’t stress over the little things, everything will be just fine,” concluded Westphal. 

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