Just over 50% of elementary and high schools have transitioned to online learning this year amidst the coronavirus. Meanwhile, another 19% will participate in some form of hybrid schooling and just 25% will attend in-person classes full-time.
If you’re one of the many parents whose children have gone virtual, you may be struggling to recreate the schoolroom experience at home. After all, you’re no teacher and your house doesn’t resemble a classroom in the slightest. Yet, your kiddos’ education still rests on your shoulders.
Luckily, there are several ways to create an at-home school experience for your kids and give your children a sense of structure, quality education, and a somewhat normal childhood this year.
1. Gather School Supplies
At school, kids have cubbies, paintbrushes, whiteboards, and other supplies. However, you may not have these items on hand at home. Make a trip to the grocery store for basic art supplies, binders, clipboards, and storage boxes to maintain organization.
These supplies — and others like bookbag hooks and planners — will also make your children feel like they’re back in the classroom. Even if they can’t use a Smartboard or have their own desk, at least they’ll have a few things that remind them of their classroom.
2. Establish a Work Space
Once you’ve gathered supplies, set up space within your home to serve as a classroom. Convert the kitchen table into a desk or turn a corner of the family room into a learning center. Then, keep this space free of clutter and let your children organize it at the end of each day — just as they would their desk at school.
Establishing a school-like environment at home will help kids differentiate between school time and free time. Plus, once they know where they’ll be working each day, they’ll be more apt to start school on time and get to work right away.
3. Keep a Schedule
Most kids function best on some sort of schedule because it gives them a sense of comfort and security. At school, they rely on bells to signal the beginning and end of each period. When the clock strikes noon, they know to go to lunch, and, at three, they prepare to go home.
You can create a similar routine at home using an hourly planner. Of course, you likely won’t plan a full eight-hour school day. However, you can schedule in a few hours of learning as well as recess, lunch, snack time, and other breaks.
4. Make Time for Movement
Speaking of recess, it’s important for kids to take one, especially right now. Experts recommend at least an hour of physical activity each day, but even a few minutes of outdoor play can be beneficial. From reducing disruptive outbursts to improving their productivity and focus, recess can make the entire school day more manageable and enjoyable.
Purchase your own swing set and let your kids loose in the backyard or head to the local park to play on the jungle gym. If you opt for the latter, bring hand sanitizer and masks and remind them to socially distance themselves from the other children.
5. Coordinate With Other Parents
If your children are learning virtually, their peers will be studying the same material, making tutoring and study sessions simple and easy to coordinate. However, if you’re homeschooling your child without the help of a virtual classroom or teacher, your little one may lack social interaction.
To encourage friendships and help your kids find a support team, consider coordinating with other parents to create matching lesson plans. Use the same curriculum, host Zoom meetings, and assign group projects so the kids can interact and learn together just as they would in a physical classroom.
6. Use a Reward System
Many teachers use a reward-punishment system to minimize bad behavior and encourage obedience. You may also find that such a system is effective at home, too — especially when there’s no social pressure to keep quiet and concentrate.
Use fake currency or a points system to motivate your kids, allowing them a special treat or activity once they reach a certain amount. Furthermore, outline punishments and institute them when kiddos are especially unruly. The consequences may include taking away screen time or sending them to bed earlier than usual.
Grace and Flexibility
Just like adults, kids are facing a great deal of anxiety and stress during the pandemic. In fact, 22.8% of them are currently suffering depressive symptoms, which researchers have linked to spending more time online and a problem-focused coping style — among other things.
Of course, virtual schooling isn’t likely to help. However, you can alleviate some of their stress by showing them grace and being flexible. Understand that they feel sad and lonely just like you and are probably misbehaving because of it. Then, work together to tackle schoolwork, lessons, and all the emotions associated with recreating school at home.
Give yourself some grace, too. Don’t sweat the small stuff and, remember, everyone’s just doing their best.