School Closures, Coronavirus, and How to Take the First Steps Educating Your Kids at Home
Your kids are home. You are home. You both need to get work done. What on earth does working and homeschooling look like?
Millions of American kids are, for the first time ever, being homeschooled. As it turns out, I happen to be married to a brilliant thought leader in the homeschooling world, Kelly Haanen, the director of the homeschool enrichment program at Ascent Classical Academy in Lone Tree, Colorado.
In this guest “post,” Kelly sent a note to parents of full-time K-12 students at Ascent classical academy, giving them tips about how to approach homeschooling for the first time.
If you find yourself trying to reorganize your daily schedule around your work and your kid’s school work – all day long – this article is for you.
As a homeschool parent and director of Ascent’s Homeschool Enrichment program, I want to offer you all a word of encouragement, and a few ideas, as you approach the next month of facilitating your students’ education at home.
First, I genuinely believe that amidst the chaos, we have been given an opportunity. For a few weeks we will be forced to slow down, to be present with our sons and daughters, and to learn alongside them. We chose to send our kids to a classical school because we care about what they are learning and who they are becoming. Second, balancing your own work responsibilities and their school work may be tough. But let me encourage you: you will be given tools and resources from Ascent teachers, you as parents are capable facilitators of your child’s learning, and the ideas below will help you create a flow and schedule for your day.
There are a million great ideas and resources out there; you may have seen the colorful daily schedules and offers for free online learning. Many of you are experienced teachers or previous homeschool parents. I don’t intend to add to the noise; I simply want to offer a few practical ideas that help us through our homeschool days.
I have four kids learning Pre-k through 6th grade material. I work part-time, and I’ve found that daily rhythms and structure are essential to keeping us sane!
Daily Structured School-Time Tips
1. Space. You don’t need to create an elaborate school room (much of our school day happens at the kitchen table). You do want to make sure you have a space where supplies are easily accessible and students can work without being distracted. Turn off whatever screens you can. If creating this space seems difficult in your home, give them headphones with classical music to help them focus.
2. Schedules. Many of you will be working from home and will need to find creative ways for you and your kids to get work done. Routines and consistency will be your best friends. Decide on the best time of day for you to give your kids 1-2 hours of attention, (note: most kids learn best in the morning hours) then stick to it daily, even if it means waking them up in the morning. Your older students will be able to work independently for much of their school time, but your younger students will need your help. My kids love to use this timer as we move through our school day.
3. Rewards. It’s okay to offer them some motivation! Make it simple – chocolate chips for math problems, stickers for completed work, extra outside time if they finish early, a learning game on the iPad, or more of anything that motivates them.
4. Recess. As you plan for your school time, make sure to include some breaks. Give them snacks and make them move their bodies. Send them to the backyard or download a workout app to use when they need to get moving.
What about the rest of the day??
Finding a few hours a day for structured learning still leaves us with lots of hours with kids stuck at home. While there are plenty of ways to spend unstructured time (creating, cooking, cleaning, reading, playing, pretending, exercising, educational apps, playing instruments, listening to music) most of us will need consistent time each day to work when our kids don’t need our attention. Here are two daily essentials in our home.
1. Outside time. Give your kids significant time outdoors. Bundle them up if it’s cold. Give them an umbrella if it’s raining. Send them to the backyard. Let them ride their bikes around the block. Tell them to collect leaves or pull weeds.
2. Quiet (alone) time. I can’t stress this one enough. Plan in at least an hour when you send everyone to a separate space. My kids devour audiobooks during this time (download the Libby app to check out free audiobooks from the library). In our home this is a no-screen time, but they can play with Legos, puzzles, draw, knit, read or anything alone and quiet. We keep it simple and consistent.
Lastly, let them get bored – without a screen. It might be painful for a day or two, but you’ll be surprised how quickly they start coming up with ideas on their own.
My prayer is that none of you find yourselves exhausted and overwhelmed. Spend some time this weekend creating a plan with your kids. Developing a daily rhythm that works for your family is key! Reach out to teachers with questions. Ask me or a friend for help. Then go ahead and find some good movies on Netflix (Planet Earth, PBS programs, or movies based on classical literature are a great place to start) and relax!
This too can be a time to learn the true, do the good, and love the beautiful. Feel free to reach out with any questions.
Kelly Haanen, Director of Homeschool Enrichment
Ascent Classical Academy