For Parents Who Never Expected to Be in this Role!
If you’re like me, you probably never envisioned yourself having to teach your kids at home. However, if the COVID-19 crisis has taught us nothing else, it’s reminded many of us never to say never…even when faced with something as intimidating (and terrifying) as homeschooling.
In weighing the options of classroom instruction, remote learning, or homeschooling for my two middle schoolers, remote learning felt right for my family. However, if you think that I’ve got it all figured out and feel 100% confident that we can pull this off, you’re sorely mistaken. So, I did some crowdsourcing and reached out to some experts in the fields of education and mental wellness for some tips. Here is what I learned.
Preschoolers and Early Elementary Levels
Routine For little ones whose life has been turned upside down by the adjustment to home learning, routine is key.
Michelle Romo, a local preschool teacher, has some words of wisdom on easing young children into the routine of learning from home.
Romo recommends reaching out to your kids’ teachers for a copy of the school routine so that you can mimic this routine at home. This will not only be a familiar routine for your child, but might also make the eventual transition back into the classroom easier. Romo added, “Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers for help. They want [home learning] to be as successful as you do.”
Take Lots of Breaks
Romo recommends that young children work for no longer than 25 minutes at a time and take lots of breaks. Romo suggests frequent “Brain Breaks,” which include silly music and dance time. She often turns to the website, www.gonoodle.com, for fun exercise, dance, and meditation videos that kids love.
Having a dedicated space in the home for learning is also important for young children. Romo suggests yoga balls in place of traditional desk chairs or simply allowing children to stand while working to help them focus.
Remember that children take their emotional cues from their parents. Home learning might often be difficult for both the parents and the kids, but it’s important to continually offer words of affirmation and assurance that they’re doing a good job and are supported.
“Don’t stress too much about your child learning to hold scissors the correct way or their penmanship during this time,” said Romo.
“We [the teachers] can fill in the gaps, and the kids will catch up,” she added.
Preteens, Teens, and College Students
I was a bit surprised to learn that, from preschoolers to teens, the advice is very similar for creating a home learning environment that is as stress-free and successful as possible.
For tips on helping the older kids adjust, I reached out to Jennifer Soos, MA, LMFT, a family therapist at The Institute for Couple and Family Enhancement. Soos is well-versed on the topic since she also happens to homeschool her own teens.
“Our household runs by prioritizing the ‘Fundamental Five’ of mental wellness,” Soos explained. “Those include: sleep, nutrition, movement, connection, and mindfulness.”
These acts of mental wellness include daily dog walks, meal planning, and even guided meditation.
Soos is a proponent of meditation for both the teens and adults in her home. “Five to ten minutes will do the trick,” said Soos. Soos recommends the YouTube channel Mindful Movement for guided meditations.
Also, “screen fatigue” has emerged as a real issue among teens and college students. Nichole Vincent, a staff psychologist at a local university, said that hours spent looking at a screen is taking its toll on their students. So, implementing frequent “screen breaks” is a good idea to save one’s eyes (and sanity).
Soos stresses the importance of holding regular family meetings. In her home, they hold a daily check-in every morning and discuss what everyone’s day looks like. In a home where everyone works from home, Soos has found this beneficial to ensure that everyone gets the quiet time and space often required for important Zoom calls during the school and workday.
Don’t Neglect Yourself!
As a parent, it might feel impossible to keep tabs on the kids’ schoolwork, manage to get your own work done, connect with your spouse, and care for a house that has people in it all day, every day. Consider enforcing dedicated “couple time” with your partner–even if it’s just a grown-ups-only dinner outside or an evening drive with no kids bickering in the backseat.
“It’s healthy to create boundaries around your relationship and protect it from the 24/7 intrusion of children and their needs,” said Soos.
Lastly, some sage advice for the primary homekeeper that might serve us all well during this time: Soos reminds us to delegate responsibilities and not try and do everything yourself. In fact, Soos’ mantra in her own home is, “If you can work an iPad, you can work a dishwasher.”
I don’t know about you, but I foresee using that line often in the coming months.
BY: JENNY JURICA
Article originally published on SanAntonmioWoman.com and in the Sept/Oct 2020 Issue of San Antonio Woman Magazine.