Teaching Your Children at Home During a Pandemic
With daycares and schools closed nationally, parents have been thrown into a situation many never thought they’d ever experience: Mandatory Homeschooling. For those of us non-essential employees who have had the dual duty and privilege to stay home with our families, we’ve been faced with the question of how best to navigate pandemic-style education.
The first few weeks of quarantine in the Vernon household were admittedly very rough. The school days were long and exhausting, featuring enough assignments to last thirteen hours. There were new apps and programs to learn, emails to read, phone calls to field, video conferencing, and announcements in no fewer than five places. Not to mention that two of our children are in elementary school and require a fair amount of guidance and handholding while the other three are all under four years old. Though the learning curve was quite steep, and the emotional energy expense seemed to never end, we made it through and learned extremely valuable lessons that will change our family for the better.
About one week in, we realized that we cannot do it all. Nor should we have to! My children agreed: completing the same amount of course work that was expected in school is not realistic or sustainable at home. We don’t have the luxury of converting an extra room into a classroom. We can’t expect our children to perform the same academically while tethered to a device for five or more hours a day—interrupted frequently by siblings and household distractions—when they are accustomed to learning from peers and a handful of teachers in a physically interactive setting. The moment you realize that you have to scale back your expectations and focus on the capacity your family can handle, the easier schooling and quarantine will become.
Any childhood expert will tell you: play is how children learn. It’s how they develop problem-solving skills and deal with stress. With larger volumes of stress and abnormality surrounding children at the moment, it is important to schedule in time to play. To put your phone and devices away and play your way through family activities. Not only will this help relieve stress for your children, but play promotes bonding and stress relief in adults as well.
Taking Advantage of Your Support System
With the sudden arrival of mass home-education, parents globally have been tasked with being their children’s primary educator. For many, this can be a source of stress when you and your student fail to see eye-to-eye. Instead of allowing a frustrating assignment to strain your parent-child relationship, learn to move away from subjects that seem to continually cause a problem. Communicate with your child’s teacher to see if a weekly group lesson can be arranged in that subject. Ask friends and family if they can video conference with your student to help. Check with your local library and school district as well. Many are offering free online tutoring for students struggling with content.
Teaching Life Skills
Now, more than ever, it is apparent to me that my children are going to have to learn certain skills to be able to function as healthy, well-adjusted adults. The ability to cook, for instance, is a valuable attribute to possess in times of extended quarantine. Teaching your children how to successfully manage their time (both through modeling behaviors and verbally communicating) and execute various household chores are opportunities that should not be missed. For instance, my children are learning about organization and personal responsibility by filing away their books and papers at the end of the day and converting their workspace back into living space when they are done with school for the day.
Emphasizing Perseverance, Not Perfection
I cannot reiterate the importance of this enough. We, as parents, have no way of relating to what our children are experiencing as they finish this school year. Graduation ceremonies and traditions are being canceled or honored to the best of our current abilities. Children are realizing that they won’t be able to see classmates for months, or ever again, and they were not prepared to say their farewells. Students are grappling with competitions, plays, concerts, and games that are canceled. Others are now babysitters, chefs, or even working outside of the home. Now is not the time to expect perfection from our children. Be it behavior, attitude, affect, or academics, it is to be expected that they are going to miss the mark somewhere. Teach them that it’s okay to fall short of balancing their normal load and that mistakes are not the end of the world.
Children are very intelligent, and they reflect what we radiate. If we are not handling the stress of this pandemic well, they are not likely to be able to either. If they see you as a superior instead of a partner in their education, this is going to continue to be an unprecedently difficult schooling experience for you both. The key to success in the face of corona-fueled uncertainty is maintaining your flexibility and trying again the next day.
For more on helping your children with their school work, check out this article about creating a great learning environment in your home.
Alayna Vernon has been a tutor over 15 years and an instructor for the past 5, specializing in math, science, and language arts subjects for high school students. Alayna has taught test preparation at the Princeton Review for the SAT®, ACT®, PSAT®, AP® Exams, SSAT®, GRE®, and GMAT®. She has also been seen on-screen as a life-style model for the last 10 years and enjoys marrying this passion with that of teaching. Alayna brings her love for her students and her perspective as a mother of five with her every moment that she teaches, whether it is in the classroom or on the set of Marco Learning.