School’s out for… an undetermined amount of time.
The COVID-19 outbreak has deeply changed our lives over the past few months. You’re not only confined to the limited living space of your own home, you’re confined to your own home… with your kids.
It doesn’t matter if they’re energetic preschoolers or brooding teenagers—it’s hard to keep them entertained while you work or check items off your daily to-do list. Add the challenge of continuing their education at home, and things may start to spiral out of control.
Some good news though: You can find reinforcements online, and we’re not talking about hiring a tutor off Craigslist. As a way to collaborate with parents as we wait out the pandemic, a handful of online platforms, services, and publishers have made their content available to keep students learning while in lockdown. Some have even created material specifically to guide parents and teachers during the transition to homeschooling. Best of all, they come with no price tag attached.
Using online resources to help your kids learn at home doesn’t mean you get to press “play” and let the magic happen by itself. The 21st century version of hiding comic books behind a biology one is way more elaborate—changing between tabs and desktops on a laptop takes less than a second—so you’ll actually need to get involved and monitor what they do.
If you feel unprepared for this challenge, don’t worry—COVID-19 didn’t give anybody time to do research ahead of time, so your wavering confidence is not only normal, but expected. Fortunately, we have some tips to help you cope.
There’s a lot of pressure to be productive in lockdown—people are posting on social media about taking the quarantine as an opportunity to learn new skills and languages, and how you should do the same. But these are stressful times, and just as you may not feel like teaching yourself how to play guitar, students need a little leeway too.
“We have to be realistic, and it’s important that parents be sensitive to kids,” says William Jeynes, a professor of education at California State University, Long Beach, and an expert on homeschooling. “This is not the time to be a helicopter parent.”
Jeynes underscores the importance of remembering that kids are under a lot of stress right now—like you, they’ve had their routines interrupted and may be scared of what’s to come. He recommends parents step back a bit and, instead of trying to get their kids to cover as much material as they normally would in school, look for assignments that are not quite as demanding.
One of the first things your child may have lost was their schedule. Maybe they’re now going to bed late at night and waking up at noon. That’s normal, and if you want them to keep studying or doing homework, it may not necessarily be a bad thing.
“It’s good to have a discussion and give the child room to say, ‘It’s too much for me,’” says Jeynes.
Having realistic expectations is especially important if your child was preparing for a standardized test, like the SAT, that has been canceled. If that’s the case, try to balance test prep with their schoolwork so they don’t get overwhelmed.
Listen to your kids and ask them directly what works for them—some may not be at their best in the afternoon or may concentrate better in the evening. Once you agree on a schedule you both can work with, try to stick with it, but don’t be strict about it—these are not normal times.
In general, stress makes it harder for kids to pay attention and move from one activity to the next. The unexpected change of being locked down at home, plus the uncertainty of living through a global pandemic, will definitely affect their learning process. Be patient—the fact your kids are not playing Animal Crossing all day is already a huge win.
When you’re in lockdown, you may feel your whole world has been reduced to the space within the four walls of your home, but know that you’re not alone. Lots of parents are freaking out and may be asking the same questions you are.
It’s time to team up. Organizing with the parents of other students in your kid’s class, or anybody with children the same age as yours, can facilitate not only moral support, but actual, practical help.
Once together, you can allocate responsibilities like researching and sharing the best educational resources. Other parents might also be able to relieve you from homework duty every night. Jeynes suggests that if one or more parents are fluent in different languages or particularly well-versed in history, math, or any other subject, they could make themselves available in shifts to help children with their homework over platforms such as Skype or Zoom.
Try it out and see what works best for you and your children. If you need even more help, well, look no further.