Seen the posts by stressed parents who, in addition to getting used to doing their jobs via Zoom, are also now part-time teachers? Being thrust into homeschooling or a homeschool hybrid can cause a lot of anxiety. Just what you need in the middle of a pandemic — a whole new (unpaid) job, right? If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed as a result, please know it’s a perfectly normal reaction.
If you’re lucky, your school system is providing virtual instruction or creating work packets for your child. But children — even the most diligent, focused ones — need support. These needs get heightened in a time of crisis. When normal life is disrupted, children can react by becoming more needy, clingy, and irritable, as well as having a shortened attention span. These are typical stress reactions and can make children even less available for higher order thinking and learning than usual.
What should you do?
Dial back your expectations of yourself and your child. Do not worry as much about teaching parts of speech as keeping the mood in your house as calm, predictable, and safe as possible. You are stressed; your child is stressed. No one is doing their optimal learning right now.
Tips for Managing Homeschooling
Give yourself a break.
You are new to this and no, it’s not easy. You do not have to be a perfect teacher. Focus instead on providing love and constancy and modeling good stress management.
Remind yourself that learning does not have to come from a textbook.
Instead, create learning opportunities from fun activities like baking (fractions, reading, chemistry). Design boats to float in the bathtub (design, buoyancy, science experiments). Just because an activity is fun does not mean it isn’t educational!
Set up a couple of stations in the morning.
Rather than feeling like you have to direct all of the learning, allow your kids to “discover” crafts or an activity when they get bored. You can accomplish this by placing new items around the house that simply appear by morning. Your child will love to see what the activity-fairy has brought in the night. Rotating toys and activities can help decrease boredom, too.
Make a bingo card of positive activities.
Rather than needing to control every moment, create a chart of activities you would like your kids to do. Examples include walking the dog, playing outside, setting the table, doing an art project, etc. When your child gets 5 activities in a row, give her a reward, like picking the next family movie or getting dessert.
We turn to stories in times of stress because telling and re-telling a story helps us to process trauma. Depending on your child’s personality and temperament, look for stories that involve good triumphing over evil (think superheroes conquering big, scary forces). Also, find selections that are comforting and familiar and reassuring. Pay attention to what your child seems to crave in terms of themes and what will make her feel safe and comfortable.
Get outside and get moving.
Physical activity helps both you and your child to work off stress and bonus, there are many lessons to be learned from the natural world, especially in spring! Think of incidental ways to teach about the world around you, while you are letting your child explore a creek bed or the two of you are biking by your neighbor’s glorious garden.
Here are some great online resources for homeschoolers.
Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op: This site gives discounts and offers low prices on curriculum and materials for homeschooling.
Cathi Duffy’s Reviews: Get reviews of homeschooling curricula so you can choose good options for your child.