As a teacher and mom, I can completely understand the panic I see from other moms suddenly thrust into a teaching-from-home position due to the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent school closures. Moms around the country are scrambling to find a way to continue their child’s education by implementing learning from home. But most aren’t sure where to start!
Like many of you reading this, I have seen social media posts from (what I like to call) the moms of Pinterest to the moms barely keeping it together. I have seen families plan structured activities throughout each day, and families play outside all day (in their own space, of course). Both are okay! There is really no right or wrong way to do this. But because of my background as a teacher and mom, I want to offer some encouragement and tips.
Tips for Learning at Home
I am a teacher. I am a mother. I have stayed home full-time. I have worked full-time. And still, this challenge we have all been forced into is hard. I hope these tips from one mother and educator help all types of moms!
First and foremost, breathe. We are all in this together. The most important thing right now is keeping your family safe and healthy. Even teachers understand. Any educator’s first goal is to set up a classroom community where students feel safe and loved – this will be the number one priority when schools resume.
This is not an ideal situation for anyone. Give yourself some grace. Even most homeschool mommas feel the pressure – no longer can they utilize museums, the zoo, or libraries for learning opportunities. They, too, are forced to adapt to the changing times.
Keep in mind that you are their momma. You are meant to love and keep your babies safe. This role shift is difficult for them, as well. In my family, we have an understanding: I do not help my kiddos with homework. That was a job for my husband – until now. So, while the rest of the tips below are research-based, they are also the few things that have helped my family transition from learning at school to learning at home during this time.
After all, play is and should be the job of our youngest learners. Exploring their environment, making choices, building things, reading books, drawing pictures, playing with all their toys, and kicking the ball around in the backyard. You get what I am saying.
Humans learn by doing. And our littlest humans are no different. Their “doing” just happens to be playing! Think about the little boy flying around the living room wearing a cape or the little girl who has just set up a tea party for her favorite stuffed animal friends. They are engaged in creating, problem-solving, and learning about their environment. Creating a scenario where only a superhero can save the world. Problem-solving how many cups are needed, so every bear has some tea. Learning about their environment by jumping from sofa to chair to ottoman to floor – spatial reasoning at its finest!
Remember, the job of a child is to play. I encourage you to allow them to do their job.
Set up a Routine
I’m not necessarily talking about a minute-to-minute schedule, although this might work for some. I am talking about a general daily routine. Think weekends with a little bit of academic time thrown into the schedule. Research has proven children thrive on routine.1 This is even more true in a time of such uncertainty for all. At first, think about big blocks of time, such as the following:
- Mealtimes such as breakfast, lunch, and even snacks
- Quiet time or Nap
- Academic Activity Time
- Outdoor Activities
And keep in mind it is okay for your routine to evolve and change. Finding a solid learning at home routine takes time and practice. I have tweaked my routine each day to meet my family’s needs best. I know this will continue as I learn more about my role in work and my children’s teachers’ expectations.
When thinking about academics, make sure to engage your child in academic activities that require more concentration in the morning and leave those less structured activities for later in the day. Keep in mind that most schools engage students in reading, writing, and math activities early in the day.
Remember, quiet time is just as much for YOU as it is for them. This is a time for you to rest, work, complete household chores, etc. While I keep a constant eye on my work, I have designated quiet time to fulfill other work responsibilities, such as planning lessons for my students.
Keep Them Moving
Keep their focused academic time to about 10 minutes per sitting (a good rule of thumb is to double a child’s age in minutes – this still may be a little lengthy). When you see them becoming restless, allow them to move. In other words, provide frequent breaks. Even moving to another location in the house to read a book can help regain focus. While I have set up an academic area in my dining room, my 5-year-old and I often go to other parts of the house to play a game or read a book.
One way to keep your kids moving is to play some old-fashioned games. A good old game of Simon Says or Red-Light Green Light can also help energize anyone! One of my dear friends posted pictures of her family playing hide-and-seek. I can only imagine the giggles of her precious boys radiating through the house. This provided a break for both her (still working full-time) and the boys – something they all needed!
In all of this, I hope you make the best memories and find some joy in the days to come. Learning from home may not be something you ever anticipated (or wanted) for your kids. But try to remember that this altered way of life won’t last forever. Your kids won’t stay young forever. But the memories you are creating will last a lifetime. And remember, first and foremost, just breathe.