If “homeschooling” during the Coronavirus pandemic has caught you by surprise, you’ve come to the right place! I want to start this post out by saying that this is such an unexpected and difficult time – trust me, I get it! As parents, we have now found ourselves trying to balance work life, home life, and now suddenly “homeschooling” our kids. If this change of pace has been difficult for you, know this: it has been difficult for EACH AND EVERY one of us moms, myself included! But as a former teacher – I wanted to share some tips and tricks for homeschooling during this time that will hopefully be helpful for you as you try to keep your sanity and teach them a few things along the way.
Where we’re at…
We’re in our 5th week social distancing home. The first week was technically our spring break, and then the second week my husband, Russ, went to Australia right before everything shut down so I had Reese (7) and Paige (4) alone at home for the first week of school being out. Russ eventually made his way home but has still been going into the office daily (he’s the only one going in; everyone else is remotely working.) My stepdaughter Maddix was with her mom’s side the first weeks, and has been back with us since and has been doing online learning for her high school. Like many places, Arizona has closed school for the rest of the academic year.
On one hand, it’s been really difficult. Teaching kids at home without being able to leave the house is not normal; regularly homeschooled kids at least get out and do things! But I’ve also loved spending so much time with the girls. I feel like I’m learning so much about them, and enjoy seeing them in a “school environment.” They seem like they are really loving more time with Mom, too. That’s been a huge blessing in the midst of this all!
Today I want to help moms out there with what has worked well for me during these weeks and share a few tips for classroom management, how to emulate your kid’s teachers, how to utilize visuals, incorporate carpet time, and manage their energy levels and attention span. FYI these are going to be geared towards my younger ones, since my high-schooler is pretty independent, but a lot of it is still applicable to teens, too!
Homeschooling During the Coronavirus: My Tips and Resources
Create a schedule
If you only take away one tip from me today: create a schedule! It does NOT have to be rigid, but a flexible schedule can help provide a sense of rhythm and normalcy to your kids in a very unusual time. Kids thrive when they know what to expect, and are used to this kind of schedule at school. Think of it as a rhythm or framework that will help provide your kids with structure throughout their day!
Like I mentioned above, kids thrive on predictability & consistency! If you can implement some simple “classroom management” principles into your routine, you’ll likely find that their behavior and attention span improves 😉
The first day, our schedule went surprisingly well! I set clear expectations, and they were excited about “doing school” together. It felt like they really viewed me as their teacher – and as a result, they were on their best behavior. As the week went on, we started to loosen up with the schedule a bit, and this is when I noticed that their behavior changed – whining, constant requests, and fights broke out between the two of them. Every family is different, but I’ve found that my kids do best when there are routines and a schedule in place. So we tightened things back up a bit.
Tips for “classroom” management
Copy your kids’ teachers
Seriously, anything you can think of that their teacher does – copy it! This could be a method of getting the kids to quiet down, phrases, reward systems… anything! Try to recall from times you’ve been in their classroom, or ask your kids. This will help them view you as being in “teacher mode” rather than just plain ol’ “mom mode” 😉
Most kids are visual learners, but this is especially important for younger kids! For example, I put our schedule up on a large poster board, hung up note cards, etc.
Alternate between high and low energy activities
Kids don’t have a very long attention span, so switching between high and low energy activities will keep them engaged and focused throughout the day! I’ve noticed that if they’re in one mode for too long, they’ll start to get restless and lose attention. And if they do start to lose attention, that brings me to our next tip:
Use brain breaks
Write various one-minute brain break activities on popsicle sticks and put them in a jar, then let them pull one when they’re starting to lose focus during school work. For example:
- One minute dance party
- Ten push-ups
- Balance on one foot for a minute
- 20 Jumping jacks
Turn your voice down instead of turning it up
This one can be difficult and is a bit counter-intuitive, but it works! When you’re trying to get your kids’ attention or redirect their behavior, try talking in a very serious, quiet, calm voice. It works like magic – the kids will usually match my quiet voice, too. It grabs their attention!
Lessons and Breaking up the Day
Create and use worksheets
This has been especially helpful this week for Paige, who doesn’t have assigned work like Reese does. You can use teacherspayteachers.com, Google, Pinterest, and blogs. Copy and paste onto a blank document and print out coloring pages, word searches, games, anything that will keep them entertained and their mind working.
Helpful websites and apps
I am picky about websites and apps because there are so many out there that aren’t very good. I prefer ones that are not loud and obnoxious, are well designed and easy to use, and hold the kids’ attention and actually have them do meaningful things.
- Scholastic – They have daily lessons with read-alouds, quizzes, reading comprehension, etc.
- Duolingo ABC – letter sounds, shapes and tracing for Paige
- Endless Alphabet – Reese used this back in the day when she was learning the alphabet. They have numbers and reading, too
- Typingclub.com – typing is a skill kids definitely need! We just started this one with Reese and it’s been great
- RAZ Kids – Reeses’ school assigned this for their reading and it’s a paid program, but in case your school has it for free or you want the free trial, it’s been helpful! The kids earn stars by reading leveled books, and can make cute little avatars with it, which has motivated Reese to read.
- Epic – if your kid is a bookworm, this is like an online library!
If you have little preschoolers or early elementary kiddos, start the morning on the rug or floor rather than at the table or desk. This sets the tone for “school” and creates a clear starting time in your day.
Again, try to copy what their teacher does. We’ve been reviewing the day of the week, weather for the day, and have show and tell which is very entertaining 😉
Kids love to have jobs – this helps them to feel important and responsible! A few jobs we’ve assigned are line leader and supply manager (hint, I’m completely making these up!). Again, you can always ask them what jobs they have at school and copy that.
Set timers for everything! Kids do well with consistency and predictability, so setting a timer will help them know how much time they are expected to do a lesson or how much time left for any given activity… and hopefully minimize the “Mom, when can I be done?” question.
Zoom and virtual extracurriculars
Make a reference sheet
I created a spreadsheet in Google Drive with the times and dates of their virtual Zoom lessons. I put all the applicable meeting links and meeting ID numbers in there, too. Having it all in one spot has been helpful when the time rolls around in the afternoons for their dance, theater, or music lessons!
Put it into your calendar or planner
Like the spreadsheet, I put their lessons and Zoom meetings into my Google Calendar, just like usual, so that we don’t miss anything.
I hope these tips help you find a sense of routine and a little bit of fun during this time with your kids at home. This is a hard, stressful time for everyone – we’re all doing our best! Just remember to give yourself and your kids lots and lots and LOTS of grace. And when all else fails… screen time! 😉
PS. If you missed this blog post it might also be helpful during this time : “What I Did About Yelling at My Kids”