If you’re like many parents across the globe, you’ve suddenly been thrust into the world of homeschooling your students, yet with very little time to prep, mentally or organizationally. Trying to find the balance between continuing important instruction during the next five weeks (minus one week for Spring Break – yay!) while maintaining a positive and nurturing household environment can be challenging for even the most Zen parents. That’s why I’ve compiled my favorite homeschooling tips for the coronavirus shutdown, from tackling the schoolwork itself, to ensuring mental and physical health are prioritized above all else. Bottom line: We’re all in this together, albeit, from the confines of our individual homes and yards.
Assess the Situation
At-home learning will look different for each family, so try taking a step back to breathe and determine the priorities for your situation. For families with older students, their kids are often already on autopilot and can navigate online learning seamlessly from home, though it’s still important to check in with them to hold them accountable and ensure they’re getting their work done.
It’s the families with elementary-aged children who are discovering the need for guided instruction throughout the day to be more than they think they can handle. Start by creating a learning area, if you don’t already have one, and assure your children that you’re in this together. Experts agree that children thrive off structure, so review the materials and expectations shared by your child’s teacher and be honest with yourself as to what part of each day can be dedicated to instruction. If you’re a working parent, your day is likely built around meetings and deadlines, so fold those into the schedule as times for your child to read, draw or just relax. During a typical elementary school day, there are multiple opportunities for your kids to take a break, so make those the times when you do the work that cannot wait.
Don’t beat yourself up about your student possibly falling behind or not meeting educational benchmarks, as every parent across the U.S. is in the same boat as you. However, it’s also not necessarily the time to just give up and say you “can’t do this,” because you CAN if you map out a plan.
“No one is expecting you to magically have a master’s in education overnight,” Oona Hanson, an educator and parenting coach, recently told POPSUGAR. “So many elements of a successful at-home learning experience require skills you already have as a parent.”
Find Projects That Interest and Excite
For many students, doing lesson after lesson online or in a workbook is torture without the promise of an upcoming class period where they get to do something they love, be it P.E., band or art. Take a tip from Ana Homayoun, a Bay Area educational coach, who told NPR she advises parents to find things for their kids to pursue that they haven’t had time for previously. If you have a budding Cake Boss, break out the pans and give them permission to experiment (baking is all about chemistry, right?). For a promising Picasso, find an area to set up the paints you’ve discouraged them from using in the past because – admit it – you didn’t have time previously to even thing about getting acrylic out of your rugs. Maybe take this time to train as a family for the Park City 4th of July 5K, or investigate the many, no-cost online exercise options, such as HIIT, with exercise boards and playlists offered by the local Beau Collective. This is the time to find a common interest you might not have discovered without the advantage of spending so much time together.
Take Virtual Field Trips
School fieldtrips tend to be one of the things many of us remember most fondly about childhoods. Trips to the science center or the zoo were often the highlight of a school year, and this year should be no exception for your children, even while learning from home. Check out some local nonprofits who are providing educational and engaging opportunities, including Utah’s Hogle Zoo, which is holding a live Facebook Fieldtrip every day at 11:30 a.m. that’s posted to their YouTube channel afterward. The National Parks Service also offers virtual tours of their locations across the country, so take advantage of the opportunity to “visit” areas that feature Natural Science or U.S. History, such as Denali National Park or the Erie Canal.
Dino fans will love the online learning opportunities offered by the American Museum of Natural History, which offers science classes and quizzes to sharpen minds of all ages. To support arts education, the Metropolitan Museum of Art provides dozens of resources, including art-making classes, audio guides and 360-degree videos of its collections. And for those whose goals take them to infinity and beyond, the Kennedy Space Center is providing free, online distance learning videos focused on space-related science, technology, engineering and math using Facebook Live, with presentations in both English and Spanish – an excellent opportunity for kids in Spanish Dual Immersion to receive instruction in their target language. Meanwhile, French Dual Immersion kids can take advantage of online tours of the Louvre en français.
Adjust Your Expectations
I was going to write, “lower your expectations,” but for many of the hyper-driven types I know, this would be impossible. Instead, take stock of what is critical – maintaining a sleep schedule, reading and checking in with your child’s teacher to let them know you’re dialed in and doing your best, talking with your child to see how they feel homeschooling is going, or if there are other concerns they’re harboring related to the pandemic. And reach out to your “village” – there’s a reason “virtual happy hours” have become so popular as of late. It’s a great time to get support from other parents facing the same challenges, while other virtual get togethers can offer your kids a chance to see and chat with family members across the country and around the globe.
The close-knit community and excellent educational opportunities are one of many reasons so many people Choose Park City for their new home or vacation property. To learn more about the variety of schooling options across Summit County that make the area so special, connect with Christine Grenney at 435-640-4238, or visit her website by clicking here.