Updated: Apr 27, 2020
By Marianne Rogenski
Many of us are now working from home and that might mean we are sharing spaces with our partners and children. This requires adjustments to routine, managing time differently, and figuring out how to complete our own tasks while helping our children with theirs.
I homeschooled my two children for 8 years while working a part-time job of my own. While my situation was obviously different—I chose to homeschool and was not forced because of shelter-in-place orders—I feel that I learned some lessons that may help in the time we are currently in.
First, school at home does not and should not be exactly like school in a school building. I tried to mimic school at first and found that it did not work for my children. While a routine is helpful, that routine should be unique for each child. I found that it was best to let my children find what worked for them. My son thrived on structure and wanted to plan when he would work on math, English, social studies, etc. However, my daughter worked better if she could do what she felt like doing at any given moment. While my son’s days all looked very similar, my daughter’s days were not at all. The important thing was that they were both learning and it was far less stressful when they were able to create routines that worked for them.
Second, take lots of breaks! Once your child completes a task, have them go outside and run around or get a snack. Brain breaks are important before moving on to the next subject or assignment. Things like reading a chapter of a favorite book, taking the family dog for a walk, coloring, or building with Legos are all great ways to refresh before tackling the next thing.
Third, school at home does not need to be a full 6 hours. Schools need that amount of time each day because the teachers have 20 or more students in each classroom and they need time to get everyone ready to learn, take bathroom breaks, transition between subjects and travel when students go to PE, art, music, etc. At home, one child can complete an assignment or task fairly quickly. One thing I had to learn with my own children was that it was ok if the math worksheet only took five minutes! That doesn’t mean that they need more busy work; that means that they understood the lesson and can move on!
Fourth, there are so many opportunities to have fun with your child while they are doing school at home! Sometimes teachers don’t have time to do all of the experiments and great visual or active examples that they would like to do. Now is a great time to look up fun experiments, do PE with your children, read together and use fun voices for the characters in the story, cook with your children and teach them fractions and units of measurement, and so much more! Life with you, the parent, is natural learning and that is valuable! It is an indescribable feeling to see your child grasp a concept or get truly excited about learning. So, in the midst of this chaos of a pandemic—look for those small but meaningful moments.
Finally, and probably most importantly, it is ok to take an hour or a day off—even if it is not planned by the school. We are all in an uncertain time. No one has lived through a pandemic before and we are all responding differently to the shelter-in-place orders. In fact, we all have days that are fine and days that are not and that is normal. Sometimes school just doesn’t work on a particular day and that is okay. When I was doing homeschool with my kids we had days when one of my children just could not seem to understand lessons or could not focus. This frustrated me at first, but I learned that in those moments the best thing to do was set the task aside and come back to it in an hour, three hours, or even the next day. There is nothing wrong with calling it a day after 30 minutes if that is what is needed. The mental well-being of you and your children is the most important thing right now so don’t sweat it if the day does not go as planned.
Do your best, hug and love on your children, and let them know that we will all get through this together.
Marianne is a Prevention Specialist and has an extensive history in supporting youth. through her roles as a Director of Youth and Children's ministries and as a Direct Support Professional for PURSUIT, a collaborative program through Clearbrook and NWSRA.