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Tips for Educating Children at Home

During extended school closures due to health- or weather-related emergencies, families across West Virginia might need to begin educating their children at home.

Though, how your family approaches learning from home will largely depend on whether or not your child’s school has provided schoolwork for them to complete while schools are closed.

No matter the situation, here are a few tips from WVU Extension Service faculty and staff to help make the transition easier on the whole family.

Forgive them and yourself

These are uncharted waters for you both. Don’t expect it to be smooth sailing for a while. So, cut everyone some slack, do your best by taking the following steps and adapt as needed.

Make a workspace for each child

Set up a place that is theirs and put everything they will need in that space. This will prevent them from hopping up to grab a pencil, then their crayons, then their notebook, etc. If you have multiple kids, separate them, if possible, to prevent distraction. Once the day progresses, kids may find they read better on the couch or prefer to color sprawled on the carpet. This is fine, but always require that all supplies return to their workspace at the end of each task. This will save hours of frustration when you try to round up assignments from across the house.

Set a schedule

It may be hard to set a subject-by-subject schedule at this point since teachers may not have shared how they plan to deliver their instruction. But, set a daily schedule for how you want your life to run during this adventure. Include and maintain wake-up time, meal times, study times, exercise and outdoor time, chore time, free time and bedtime. Depending on how specific your teachers are in their assignments, you may also need to add reading time. If you have older children, let them be involved in creating this schedule.

Take breaks often

Kids have short attention spans. Breaks do not have to be long or cause a complete breakdown of order. They can simply be an intentional ordering of subjects so your child goes from doing math at their desk, to coloring a picture on the floor to writing spelling words at the kitchen table and then running around outside the house for a few minutes. Change is a good thing when it comes to kids and focus.

Allow movement

As I have mentioned before, let your kids move. Trying to keep them seated at their workspace all day will make everyone miserable. Just remember to make sure all schoolwork returns to their workspace when a task is complete.

Help only when they truly need it

Allow them to try, fail and try again. This is an approach that is difficult for everyone at first. Your children might initially want you to figure out the assignments for them, get them started on the work and even read along with them on the questions. Resist this.

Instead, set them up at their workspaces and make sure that they either have their assignments in front of them or have access to the websites where these assignments will come in. If your school doesn’t have a time to check in to do a particular subject together online, help your child schedule which subjects to do when. Then, let them tackle the work on their own, as long as their reading level allows them to read their teacher’s instructions.

If an assignment has been sent home that you or your child do not understand, try to reach out to their teacher for support. If your child gets frustrated that they don’t understand something, don’t push it. Have them set the assignment aside, work on something else and come back to it later.

Expect responsibility

Be sure your kids know up front what you expect of them. This is especially true for parents that are going to be out of the house at work while the kids complete their schoolwork. Make sure your kids know that their job during this pandemic is to do their schoolwork so that you can do your important job and keep everyone safe and healthy.

Be prepared that they will have some questions for you, but make sure they know that they can and should try to address those by contacting their teachers during the day. If appropriate, you can allow your older children to work virtually with a friend. They could connect via phone, video call or other virtual method and work through the assignments together. This is especially helpful if your child is struggling in the subject.

Reward progress

Learning at home is not going to be an easy adjustment for anyone. Reward your kids for the things they do get right, even if there are also many things they do not. If you are away at work, it may be even more difficult to see the small victories your kid has over the course of the day. Look for these successes and acknowledge them first, then discuss ways you can help your child succeed at the tasks they found more difficult.

Adapt

All families, work schedules, activity and maturity levels, learning styles and experience levels are different. So, make a plan, see how it works for a few days and then adapt. Trust yourself to know your child and your situation.

If your child’s school hasn’t sent home schoolwork, or you’d like to supplement their learning during this time at home, you might have to adapt a little more. But, there are plenty of options to help them stay on top of their education.

If you have internet access, even if just on your phone, several attractions, such as museums, zoos and aquariums, offer virtual tours and educational lessons. Take the time to explore these virtual experiences with your child and learn together. When you show interest in a subject, your child will pick up on your enthusiasm.

Get outside. Fresh air and sunshine are great for health and morale. Since the local playground may be off limits, stick to your backyard, which can host many learning opportunities. Learn what types of trees and bushes you have.  Bird watch and then identify the birds. Play “I spy” games to identify colors and shapes.

You also can cook together. Cooking is a great way to engage learning, including vocabulary when you read the recipe; organizational skills when you collect all the ingredients and tools; math when you measure; and science if you discuss how leavening agents make cakes rise or how butter browns food.

Select a book the whole family can enjoy and do a daily read aloud. This is great if you have elementary and middle school age children who can enjoy a chapter book. You also can listen to audiobooks online. Audiobook narrators often use different voices for different characters, which can be very entertaining for the entire family.

Watch nature shows together as a family. You can learn about different parts of the world and discuss them as a group with your children.


By Kerri Carte, WVU Extension Service Agent – Kanawha County, & Sarah Owen, WVU
Extension Service 4-H Youth Ag Program Coordinator