Back to School--Kinda, part 2: Now what? Organizing thoughts from a former Home School Mom.
"Educating our children will look a lot different this year".
Wow, that's the understatement of the year, isn't it? I homeschooled our son with Autism for the entire 12 years of his education, and I still think this is a "what the heck?" situation....All of a sudden you might be thrown into a situation that you feel totally unprepared for--and oh by the way didn't ask for. I want to give you a LOT of encouragement...a LOT of grace, and some helpful thoughts. Borrowing from my friend Melanie Summers, a fellow organizer and homeschool mom (check out her business and FB page here: https://www.ispeakorganized.com/blog. ). Some of our collaborative thoughts are here to help and encourage you. And of course, I am always here to help with any questions or issues you have. I've been there, I get it. So for the next month my blogs will be geared toward helping those who might need a little more help in this area. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS BLOG AND THESE TIPS WITH THOSE YOU KNOW WHO ARE DEALING WITH THIS.
The challenges that parents, teachers, and students are facing are beyond measurable comprehension. You may wonder if your kids will have a school to attend. Perhaps your own school district is still waiting for instructions and procedures to address families with the information. If in-person learning isn’t an option, are the distance learning programs going to be valuable? What if both parents work outside the house? How can you guarantee that your children will get the help and attention they need? The questions and challenges presenting themselves are overwhelming. The fact is, this situation is hard and scary for many families.
I want to guide you through some valuable ways to set yourself and your kids up for success, regardless of what this year throws at you. Think of the following information as a framework to help you choose what’s right for your family:
The most important thing to remember is that things may not run smoothly, and that’s ok. Be kind to yourself. Take challenges one step at a time.
As a former homeschooling mom for 12 years, I have LOTS of experience in this area. In addition, I polled local families and spoke to other teachers to gather the most important information. This resource guide will help you gain some control over this situation. You’ve got this.
Steps to Set Up for Distance Learning + What You Need to Know
Step 1. Determine the location of your new home classroom.
Even if your child will attend some classes or activities outside your home, chances are that a lot of their studies will still take place at home. Creating a home environment for learning will help your kids associate their space with studying. Pick a space in your home that you underutilize. The dining room, playroom, craft area, or spare bedroom may be good options.
Think about how often you use those spaces for their intended purpose. If your dining room sits empty, consider reconfiguring it into a classroom for the time being. You can always stow away classroom materials in the rare event that you need to entertain in that space. I’ll share how to set up a home classroom step-by-step a little further on in this article.
Step 2. Create a daily routine and schedule it out.
If your kids will be distance learning, a consistent schedule and daily routine is paramount. Your school may have class times to join Zoom calls and office hours for them to receive independent help, but that might be it. Take a weekend to sit down and develop a routine that makes sense for your family.
Start by deciding how many hours per day to devote to academics.
If your kids are 100% online with their district, they may have scheduled “class time”for each subject. This is great, but make sure you take advantage of the breaks the classroom teachers give them. Hint: breaks do NOT mean take a break and go online to play Fortnite. They need to get up, walk around and give their eyes and brains a break. This is a great time to play with the dog, help prepare a meal, or just CHILL OUT. No TV.
B. Take into account extracurricular activities.
Add their sports, gymnastics practice, piano lessons, etc. to the appropriate afternoon blocks. Even if their after school activities are canceled, they can still practice skills from home at around the same times they did before. YouTube is a great resource for practice drills, classes, and training to help keep your kids from losing their edge.
Bonus: If your kids love art, check out Art for Kids Hub on YouTube. Their website has resources and activities related to drawing, painting, origami, and other crafts for free. They break their content into grade levels and include a few tools to enhance specific school subjects like math and reading.
C. Plan out at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
It’s a good idea to build this into your child’s routine. It’s one of the first things to fall by the wayside if it’s not on their schedule. Brainstorm a few ideas of what your kids like to do. If they like to play basketball, set them up to shoot hoops and do some drills during the day. It’s ok to just send them out to play, but kids like structure and guidance. Routine makes them feel safe because they know what to expect (even though they may not be aware of it.) Take the time to plan out 2-3 physical activities for them to focus on during the week. I recommend this in addition to recess. Think of blocking out 30 minutes for structured activities and then 30 minutes of play time. If the weather is Nasty, do some Zumba videos off Youtube or other physical activities. They can even play a game like Twister. Just get them moving.
If your kids can’t get outside, another thing they can do check out GoNoodle on YouTube. These videos are free games and activities designed for getting kids up and moving, even in small spaces beside a desk or couch. Child development specialists designed GoNoodle. The content helps children infuse learning with movement, process emotions, and is accessible to all age and ability levels. Check out their website to learn more.
D. Plan out meals and mealtimes.
Consistency is key here. Designated meal times are especially important to make sure your kids aren’t grazing on snacks all day or accidentally skipping meals. Studies the link between meal times and your circadian rhythm. Creating consistency for your child’s digestive system will give them the energy to make it through the day productively. Engage them in meal planning—this is great for Executive function. Cook a batch of chicken or hamburger up ahead of time and freeze it. Let each kid pick a “dinner” menu for a couple nights and have them help prepare it. Less stress for you (you will be tired at the end of the day especially if you are working from home), and less whining at dinner time. Plan out snacks too and have them available for breaks. Lots of water too—this is a great time to focus on general health without nagging them.
Remember I am always here to help if you need it, as an organizer I can help you set up or tweak your schooling space for each learner. Give yourself—and your student—lots of grace. This is all very new and can be uncomfortable for everyone until you get your groove going.
And remember, nothing, nothing nothing NOTHING –including education, is more important than your childrens heart. Give yourself room to breathe. You are not in this alone.