Parents as Teachers: Use School Resources and Your Creativity
I recently wrote a column about the role of the parent on the academic team. In the midst of COVID-19, parents have found that their roles have significantly expanded. You may have even found that you’re suddenly homeschooling. Here are some things that parents who have suddenly found themselves teachers should know.
Don’t Be Alarmed
Parents may feel overwhelmed to be abruptly thrown in to this situation, but don’t be alarmed. Our children are all in the same boat, and they are going to be fine. Most schools will be providing some form of distance learning. This may look different by district, by school, and even by each individual teacher. You may be relieved to know that teachers in grades three and up have probably taught the majority of the curriculum by this time of year. We always have to teach a year’s worth of curriculum in less than a year in order to be prepared for the end of year testing. Your child is most likely not missing learning very many new skills. Teachers are accustomed to meeting each child at his level, and realize they may have to do some catch-up work in the fall. Trust them to do their jobs.
As a teacher, my suggestion is to start simple and build from there. The first thing to consider is how much your child’s teacher is going to remain involved. Take advantage of everything the teacher offers. Teachers are the experts in education, even if distance learning is new to them too. If the teacher offers assignments and resources, I encourage you to fully utilize each of these learning opportunities. Not only is the teacher very familiar with the standards that need to be taught, but this will also take part of the work off your plate.
Create a Daily Schedule
Another thing parents need to consider as they undertake this task is that children thrive with routine. Create a simple daily schedule. You might want to keep it similar to the schedule your child had at school. For example, I teach Reading and Language Arts before lunch. After lunch, we begin with Math and finish with Science or Social Studies. Those teachers who have self-contained classrooms are careful to schedule the most complex subjects at times when the students’ brains are most fresh. You might want to keep that in mind, too. You may also want to schedule time for recess, exercise, lunch and the arts. If you are religious, you may want to include time to learn about religion. Perhaps you want to tackle the basics of a foreign language. The options are endless.
Use Available Resources
There are a number of activities you can do with your child to promote her education. Some are very basic. If you are a regular reader of my column, you know how important it is to memorize math facts. Beginning in third grade, the focus is on multiplication and division facts. However, I frequently encounter third graders who are still using their fingers for simple addition and subtraction. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to help your child catch up. It is also important to have your child read every day. Read to them, and have them read to you and to siblings. Stimulate some critical thinking skills by asking questions like, “What would you have done differently if you were that character?” or “Which of the characters would you most want to be friends with, and why?” Provide them with a wide variety of reading materials. Besides books, you may want to include some magazines, comics and online resources.
Take Virtual Field Trips
Virtual field trips can be found for every day of the week! Kids can visit famous museums, parks and landmarks all over the world. Many zoos and aquariums also provide them. You might start with the resources suggested at www.weareteachers.com/best-virtual-field-trips/ and www.natureworkseverywhere.org/resources/filter/type/virtual-field-trip-video/.
Try some At-Home Science Experiments
This might also be a good time for some fun science experiments. I found a plethora of ideas on https://mommypoppins.com/kids/50-easy-science-experiments-for-kids-fun-educational-activities-using-household-stuff and https://blog.prepscholar.com/easy-science-experiments-for-kids-at-home. A quick Google search brings up boundless resources for simple experiments you can enjoy together at home.
Plan a Pretend Vacation
Your family might enjoy planning a pretend vacation. Choose a location, and learn about the climate, geography and customs. Decide what time of year would be the best to visit. Find out how far away it is, and determine the best modes of transportation to reach your destination. You might even want to prepare a meal from that area together. Be creative!
Think Outside the Box
This is a good time to think outside the box. There are many things that children need to learn that they won’t learn in school. Consider teaching them how to cook some simple things and how to follow recipes. Recipes are an excellent way to teach math skills. Teach your children how to do a load of laundry. Teach them how to use the vacuum and about how to keep a house clean. Take this opportunity to give them practical skills that won’t be taught in school.
Remember that we are all in the same situation. Teachers will work with families to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Work with them to the best of your ability, and remember to provide your own creative learning opportunities at home. Missing these weeks of school will not have a long-term effect on your child’s education. Enjoy this time with your child, and create some memories. It really is going to be okay!