With many school districts around Texas closing for at least a few weeks, parents may feel the task of taking over their kids’ education mid-year is daunting.
Schools may provide lesson plans and online instruction for some classes, but parents may soon find that school at home is much less time consuming than a full day of classes at school, leaving free time and children uttering those dreaded words, “I’m bored.”
So what to do to keep parents sane and children meaningfully engaged, occupied, and out of trouble?
Elizabeth Huffman, a homeschooling mom of three in Southlake, offers some timely encouragement for parents who are suddenly thrust into a homeschooling environment.
Her first bit of advice is that structure and a schedule is key for success. “Whether they will admit it or not, your kids (no matter the age) are looking to you for leadership, structure, and reassurance that everyone can do this.”
Choosing a starting time, taking breaks every hour to stretch and run off energy, and wrapping up at a reasonable time every afternoon are all part of her suggestions.
While parents may need to utilize screens to some degree, especially if the school is sending online assignments, limiting screen time is important. Make sure kids aren’t spending too much time on computers, phones, and tablets. These can be helpful tools, but they can also be a distraction from learning.
When screen time is appropriate, there are many educational ways to engage with it. Virtual field trips are available for viewing famous places like Yellowstone National Park, San Diego Zoo, and The Louvre in Paris. Free art lessons and activities are also being made available through websites like Kitchen Table Classroom for students to practice their creativity.
A little known but important fact: children at home want to eat constantly. Stock up on snacks and plan for lunches. Have your children help with this. Measuring ingredients is math for younger students and older students can determine the cost of each serving.
As a business owner, Huffman knows it is possible for parents to work and still oversee their students’ lessons.
She works while her children work, checking in with them as they move from subject to subject. She utilizes planned crafts and audiobooks to help keep them engaged in a worthwhile activity while she has work to do.
Parents can also look at the time off from school as a chance to work on other skills.
This time can be used to engage children in household chores. Allow children to see that they play an important role in helping to meet the family’s needs by helping cook meals, do laundry, and clean the house.
Not every moment of the time off from school must be scheduled. Take walks. Encourage your children to enjoy free time pursuing interests in music. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing by writing grandparents. Practice sport skills in the backyard. Plant a garden.
“I want to encourage all of you who don’t normally homeschool but are freaking out about your kids being home for an extended period of school time that I promise you can do it!” Huffman added.
Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.