In my home today, we are all working from home: my husband is on telework, I’m working on things for the Preschool while we’re closed, and our sixth grader is suddenly homeschooling. And we are trying to figure out how to make it all work. It’s a process right now, but our homeschooling friends have encouraged us, and I will encourage you the same way: You can do this! You will get through this time with your children at home. You are already equipped to help your children learn; you were already your child’s first teacher. I won’t tell you it will be simple, just that we can all do it.
Friends, I won’t lie – I wasn’t prepared for this! So as a mom rather suddenly thrown into a period of homeschooling, I had to do some research for myself. In this post I will offer some ideas that I gained from my own research, and I hope these ideas might help your family.
One of the first things I did when I learned we would be out of school for a few weeks was to create a weekday schedule. You might benefit from the same. Here’s why, and how to do it.
What does a schedule do for your family right now?
It helps you identify your daily priorities. It helps your child keep some sense of normalcy while we’re out of school. It helps you set up times when the grownups in the house can work. It helps you maintain a learning environment for your children. It lets you enforce boundaries with kids who might default to iPad or TV all day (that’s mine). It helps your child know what to do and do it independently when that’s developmentally appropriate. You can let the schedule drive the day rather than spending your whole day being the enforcer of limits. It helps you make more intentional choices throughout your day.
Start with some goals for yourself and for your child.
Simple goals for your short-term homeschool life will help you decide how to arrange your days. For example, maybe you’d like to create enough structure that your child isn’t on the iPad all day; maybe you’d like to make sure you read one book with your child twice a day; maybe you’d like to build in outside time each day. Maybe your older child should work on a project for their Scouts troop, practice an instrument each day, or do something creative each day. Make some intentional decisions about what you’d like this time to look like. Don’t forget to consider your own needs for work, household tasks (you must enlist your family on this), and self-care; include your child’s needs for downtime (and a nap, if they still do that).
Plan to do some activities that you’ll receive from your teachers.
TPK plans to send out regular ideas for learning activities that you can really do at home, even with some supply shortages. We’ll be planning those activities based on our existing curriculum, and we’ll also include some curated items from around the internet. We know lots of parents are feeling overwhelmed right now – I am, too! – but we are committed to providing you with some practical and doable ideas to help keep your child learning and engaged.
Identify your own “centers” at home.
In preschool, your children rotate to different stations throughout the day. Think about the activities your child does at home with a similar viewpoint: reading, toys in their own room, blocks/Legos, coloring/drawing, reading, schoolwork, etc. – these are all centers you can define at home and add to your schedule. Rotating from activity to activity will give your child an opportunity to vary their activities a bit and will help keep the day from getting too stale.
Add in some special things.
In our home, we don’t always have a lot of time to bake together, watch movies together, work on art projects, and so on. Now is a great time to add those activities in. It’s also a great time to find some things that will engage your child’s interests – maybe your child loves the zoo and would like to watch daily broadcasts from the zoo, or maybe your child will enjoy watching favorite authors read books on camera. To alleviate the sense of isolation during social distancing, you can use FaceTime or Zoom or another video meeting platform to enable your children to see each other on screen – maybe you’d like to have lunchtime chats with your child’s friends and their moms while we’re all staying home.
Now that you’ve identified your daily activities, plug it into a schedule that fits YOUR day.
Now you have identified activities you would like to engage each day, including some intentional preschool learning activities provided by your teachers.
Try to create a routine that you can follow. Think in broad categories: reading, schoolwork, creative time/art, music, outdoor time, and play in different zones of your home. Think in 20-30 minute blocks, but be a little flexible in case your child is particularly engaged (or not) in a particular activity.
You can make a grid in Excel and color code it, or you can print something ready made off the Internet. But my best advice is to make it tangible (this way you can put it on your fridge and refer to it throughout the day).
Here are some examples:
A grid style schedule from mommyismyteacher.com
A visual schedule printable from naturalbeachliving.com
My own flexible schedule for my sixth grader.
It includes academic time, creative time, chores, educational screen time, free screen time, Girl Scouts badge activities, and screen-free optional activities – plus time to connect with friends over their screens.
Now do the best you can with it and give yourself grace.
We are on our fourth day of our homeschool protocol and we have not yet been fully faithful to our routine, but we have done pretty well. We are giving ourselves permission to do the essentials and let some things go when we need to. We are making sure to build in time for rest, fresh air, and self-care. Even your preschool teachers adjust their schedule for the day when it isn’t working well on that day – you can too, and it’s fine. But keep trying.
For us, one big difference between homeschooling as a choice and homeschooling because of a pandemic is that we are doing this very suddenly, with little preparation, and with the added stress of social distancing and some feelings of isolation. It isn’t easy right now and in my house, we are figuring things out a day at a time. But the schedule helps us when we aren’t quite sure what to do next, or we can’t quite decide what to do, or we disagree about what we should be doing. We get to that moment, and we just go back to the schedule and say – what haven’t we done yet today, what didn’t we manage to do yesterday, what can we prioritize right now for everyone’s benefit? The schedule helps us make better choices.
Embrace the unplanned.
Teachable moments exist all around us. Simple literacy, math, and science learning can come right out of your everyday routines. Taking notice of the weather, identifying smells and tastes and sounds, telling time, drawing things you see, watching the animals in the yard, seeing the trash truck go by or hearing the airplanes overhead, picking up leaves and sticks in the yard — for your preschooler, there is learning in all of this. If nothing else, just take a moment and breathe and look around you to see what you notice, and invite your child to do the same. Find something to be thankful for in that moment. We will all get through this one day at a time.