It wasn’t a complete shock when our schools closed because of COVID-19 just over three weeks ago. As the weeks dragged on I realized that this homeschooling thing might be a long-term situation, but I knew our family wouldn’t be able to keep up with distance learning for the long-term.
I do recognize that what we are doing at home isn’t traditional homeschooling. I didn’t search for a curriculum or budget our finances for materials, textbooks, or extracurricular courses. However, I do have a background in elementary education and I felt fairly confident creating my own curriculum off of what my children had been learning in school and their learning plan for the few weeks that we were scheduled to be out of school.
However, as the temporary homeschooling situation became more of a permanent homeschooling situation, I started to see parents who had made the choice not to do any sort of school work with their children. They were using this time as an opportunity to reconnect with their children and their families. Memes started coming out about kids sitting on iPads or in front of the television all day, and parents joked that homeschooling was impossible. I was genuinely excited when my daughter’s school finally set up distance learning as I thought I could hand the baton off to teachers who actually knew what they were doing and had a learning path to follow, whereas I was just floating along with whatever my kids said they were in learning in class when schools closed and what they seemed interested in (which including a research project and presentation on vampires).
Many schools across the nation have done a fantastic job of setting up distance learning modules for their students. From elementary school up through college, students are able to connect with their teachers and their fellow students. Some teachers are giving full lessons or reading stories via video chat while others are assigning digital work. We cannot give enough credit to the teachers who have been working tirelessly during this unprecedented situation to ensure that their students continue on their learning path.
However, as soon as my child’s school introduced distance learning into her daily schedule I have felt even more stressed about homeschooling than I did before. I found myself frantic to fit in her daily class meetings in between lessons we were doing at home or homeschooling her two younger sisters. She would even fight me on doing the class meetings because she felt uncomfortable with them. And with her only being in second grade with little typing experience, she found it increasingly frustrating to type out her to submit for assignments.
So we stopped.
As a former elementary school teacher, I was skeptical that distance and online learning would work for children under third grade. So much of the classroom experience is interacting with the students, and younger school-aged children need that physical connection to continue to be engaged. Online learning is difficult for young students to follow, especially those who have little experience with computers. These early years are more than just about learning certain concepts, but its also a lot of social skills and hands-on learning. Even teaching techniques for keeping kids engaged in a lesson rely quite a bit on social interactions. They simply aren’t old enough to keep themselves on tack and focused without an adult present, constantly giving engagement clues to kept students focused. Unless you have an outgoing teacher that is willing to set up her home as a classroom, sing songs, and give full lessons like this amazing teacher, distance learning probably won’t be beneficial for your child. And even then, your kindergartener or 1st grader probably won’t be able to sit through the whole thing.
Now our family sticks to the curriculum and learning plan set out by the school district, but we don’t participate in the distance learning. I create lessons around what she was learning in school and we build on those concepts in a way that works for her and works for our family schedule as we continue to homeschool her two sisters.
If you find your child struggling with distance learning, you may want to consider nixing it out of your schedule and finding ways to teach the concepts at home. There are plenty of worksheets, lesson plans, and online resources available to you to help you curate lessons for school at home, or you can simply ask your child’s teacher to supply lesson ideas and worksheets that you can print out and work on from home instead of using an online classroom model.
Note: If you are looking for an example on how this works in our home, this is our basic schedule:
Our basic schedule (for three girls- one in second grade, one in kindergarten, and one in preschool) includes math, reading and guided literacy, writing, social studies, science, and extracurriculars like art, foreign language, computer, and music. Since I have children on different levels, I have to section our homeschooling where my oldest does independent work while I work with her younger sisters, and then the two younger ones either have a brain break or play while I work with their older sister. We come together again for science, social studies, art, and foreign language and I level the concepts according to their grade level. Computer and music are done independently. In addition, art, foreign language, computer, and music are only done once per week on alternating days.
Our family has continued to forge our own way through homeschooling. We made a routine early on in the quarantine process so that our kids would know what to expect every day, and I stick to that to help make lesson planning easier. We complete assigned work from the school, but we also expand on concepts that they show interest in or try to integrate certain concepts into topics they enjoy learning. I have found that homeschooling this way, instead of forcing distance learning or assigned work from their school, has made a more enjoyable experience for all of us.
The beautiful thing about this temporary homeschooling situation is that my children have explored topics that they never would have been able to do in their traditional school. We are learning concepts in different ways that makes them excited about learning once again. Although we love traditional school for our kids, and they miss going to school, I hope that this temporary homeschooling experience ignites a fire in them for learning and for teachers and educators to approach teaching in a new way- a way that focuses on children’s love of learning versus their educational standards.