By Hollie McAfee, Assistant Marketing Director, F.A. Peabody Insurance
If you’re like me and millions of other parents, you have suddenly become a “teacher” on top of your regular job. When my 3rd-grade son left the school building on Friday the 13th back in March, I thought, “Ok, I can do this for two weeks.” My Facebook newsfeed was suddenly full of online resources to keep my son’s brain actively learning and to make things “easier” for me. Soon we were inundated with emails and calls from the school telling us what needed to be done and when. It didn’t take long to become a little overwhelmed with the expectations and to doubt whether I was capable of teaching even for two weeks, let alone the rest of the school year. Day by day, my expectations have been whittled down to the following survival tips.
Don’t worry about what others are doing.
I think the number one advice, that cannot be overstated, is to do what works best for your family. I tend to feel guilty if I’m doing it differently than a friend might be, but that is not a helpful thought. Nobody knows your kids better than you do. If one of the many tips for homeschooling fails miserably with your kids, cross it off and move to another one. If something works great, do it over and over until it doesn’t, and don’t worry about the other tips for a while.
The teachers are still on the job.
“Remote learning” is the more accurate term than “homeschooling.” The teachers at our children’s schools still have a job that they very much want to keep doing, so I don’t feel as much like a homeschooler as I do a teacher’s aide. My son’s teachers have made countless videos of themselves reading, making art projects, singing songs, and teaching math and science lessons. Our top priority each day is to check the teachers’ lessons and then do the assignments. Any extra learning that we do is only for reinforcement, and we usually don’t get to any extra learning at all.
I’ve found that teachers love communication from parents. There have been times that my son had trouble sitting through video instruction and I could see that he understood the material. I emailed the teacher and asked if he could skip the video and just do the work. She was fine with that. I so admire the teachers that are working to make sure ALL children have the instruction they need and admire the flexibility they have with families as we work through this crisis together.
Let kids be independent.
Since I am at home and work part-time, I have time to teach and guide my son. Many parents, including our teachers who also have kids at home, are too busy working full-time jobs and/or out of the home to effectively teach their children. Many kids are great at learning independently! Perhaps just check in with an older child each night to see how much work they have completed, or make a checklist with incentives for completing work. My third grader will suddenly understand all of his lessons and complete the work in double-time if it means he can get some extra Fortnite time with a friend online.
It’s ok to relax standards.
I’d also suggest cutting kids (and yourself) slack for the rest of this school year. Many kids who excel academically are feeling cheated because schools have relaxed their grading standards. I was that kind of kid, and I would have still tried to get the best grades, even if it was just a pass/fail situation, as many of our schools have implemented. Maybe it will stretch these kids to relax a bit about “being the best” at their school work and they can focus their intellect on a hobby that they love but have never had time to do because of their rigorous school schedule.
It’s also ok if you love all the tips!
I do love to look at Pinterest and the different ideas, even if I don’t try all of them. My coworker, Brittney Shields in Caribou, has two preschool-age daughters and shared a wealth of great ideas. My favorite is, “Put ‘sticky note rewards’ in books that they’re reading… sticky notes that say, ‘You get to pick dinner tonight,’ or ‘you get to pick a game for family game night,” or ‘movie for movie night’, or even ‘you get a chocolate kiss for finishing this chapter.’ Another idea she shared was to video your child reading a book and share it with their teacher. My son actually did this one on his own, and it was pretty adorable. Brittney also shared her favorite scavenger hunt list (see below.)
It’s true that the 2019/2020 school year may not go down in the history books as having the most academic progress in history. But, it has certainly made history, and the lessons the kids have learned about family and resilience will last them a lifetime.