How to Help Parents Navigating the Homeschool Arena for the First Time
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has shifted the lives of millions. Businesses are closed, social distancing is being enforced, and many parents now have to balance their work and their children’s education under one roof. Suddenly having to divide their attention between their job and keeping their kids focused on schoolwork is no small feat. (Let’s be honest, getting out of your pajamas while working from home is a task in itself!) So any lifeline you can offer them will mean the world right now. After all, you and your staff are the pros in education, and just because you can’t see your families right now doesn’t mean you can’t maintain the strong and very important role you’ve established in their lives.
Providing helpful teaching advice, checking in to see how families are holding up, or just offering words of encouragement can help keep parents engaged and connected with you. Frequent communication with parents now will help you to retain the students you have so that when the quarantine is lifted and your doors reopen you’ll be ready to start anew.
Here are a few tips you can provide to parents homeschooling for the first time.
Knowing a child’s needs. It’s crucial for parents to know what their child has learned so far this school year and what curriculum was prepared for the remainder of the year. You may want to share some of the activities you had planned as well as the subject matters that you hoped to cover. Even if parents don’t teach things in the same way you would have, providing them with a list of skills and knowledge the child will ideally acquire can really help a parent tremendously.
It will also save parents and children a lot of frustration if parents know how their child learns best. Fortunately, homeschooling can be adapted to their child’s learning style. Are they a visual learner or are they more hands-on? If your staff has already identified the type of learner the student is, save your parents this step by providing that information as early as possible. Otherwise, you can offer resources to parents to help them figure it out. Knowing this information will assist them in shaping their first, and thankfully temporary, curriculum.
Perhaps you’ve already communicated your observations to parents, but, with how chaotic life has become, receiving a reminder email will be very much appreciated. If you’re using childcare management software, like EZCare, you can track and send these emails from within the same platform you use to manage your family and child data.
Use technology to your advantage. What child doesn’t love a little screen time? Online learning platforms can alleviate the workload on your parents hands, and it promotes independent learning for children. Independent learning can keep kids occupied with study while parents focus on other responsibilities. Providing a list of online learning platforms, applications, and various tools is a great way to assist parents!
Maybe there are a few online tools or software your students have already used in the classroom; make sure to provide a list of these to your parents. A lot of online sites may also offer free trials that are perfect to take advantage of during quarantine. ABC Mouse and Reading Eggs offer free trials, while BrainPOP is offering free access in the event of school closures.
Using apps like EZSmiles can also be an excellent resource to help you reach parents while they’re at home. Use the app to share weekly or even daily activities parents can do with their children. Check out How to Increase Parent Engagement for some additional ideas.
A lot of zoos and aquariums are offering free streaming or “virtual field trips” as well. Help parents get creative, share with them a field trip you would like their child to attend accompanied by an activity sheet such as “Name Five Facts About Polar Bears.” The San Diego Zoo is a great example. They have free streaming of their animal exhibits and offer a site tailored to kids with accompanying material to help adults with the curriculum.
Set up a space and time for learning. Routines are very important, especially to children, as it helps them feel a sense of security. During a time when parents may be exhibiting more anxiety than usual, a set schedule is paramount for their children. Start by sharing what a typical schedule at your center looks like to help parents build off of what their child has already become accustomed to. Remind parents to build a schedule that works best for them and their child so that their child is occupied during times that they are most busy with household tasks or work assignments.
- Send parents some helpful tips about the kind of environment that is most helpful for engaging children and keeping them focused.
- Clean workspace, get rid of distracting clutter
- Posters and signs that motivate (Creating their own artwork to hang on the walls is a great project for parents to do with their kids)
- Good lighting, avoid having a glare on any screens, as this can lead to eye strain
- Quiet, avoid having the TV on or any loud music, though soft background music or white noise can be helpful
Remember to use your creativity. Point out the silver lining, parents can use this opportunity to take advantage of the freedom and flexibility that comes with homeschooling. Parents can ask their kids what they are interested in learning and even have them come up with their own projects or assignments. This is the perfect time for one-on-one learning too; suggest project ideas that you’ve been wanting to do with your students but can’t with the large class size.
Even some everyday tasks can be great learning opportunities. Suggest some of these ideas to your families:
- Making dinner: Try cuisine from a country you’ve always wanted to visit. Have the kids pitch in with the cooking while talking about traditions from that culture.
- Gardening: Teach children about photosynthesis while planting some seeds in the garden outside. Have them help out by watering the plants and have them observe the progress as they grow.
- Organizing family photos: Talk about your family tree, history, traditions, etc.!
- Mental health check-ups. The mental well-being of the community is so important during this time. It can be helpful to remind parents that their child’s emotional health is just as important as physical and educational activities. Being away from family members, friends, and teachers can be difficult for a child to understand or cope with. Try to take advantage of tools that facilitate virtual relationships as this can help ease the tension for families who are staying at home right now. FaceTime, Zoom parties, and Skype checkups are all ways to stay connected during these difficult times. Emphasize the importance of self-care and encourage relaxing activities that their children enjoy.
Share with your parents what works best in your classrooms. Maybe you have a reading nook piled high with soft pillows that kids love or maybe you have a hands-on station that parents could recreate outside when the weather is nice. Help your parents come up with ideas that you know work best and that they can implement in their homes. Really any space can be a work and learning space, including comfortable areas like the couch, the kitchen table, or even the floor.
Don’t forget to throw in some ideas about staying active. Without gym and recess, kids will have a lot of extra energy to burn. Even though team sports might be out of the question, there is still a lot of fun to be had.
Homeschooling is new territory for many parents. Providing any type of support, whether it be with proposed curriculums or sharing tips, can help alleviate anxiety during this pandemic. Make an effort to stay in touch with parents, providing support, and answering questions. This will help to facilitate the return of students after quarantine. We are all in this together and staying connected as a community will help all of us through the coming weeks.