Do you know how you will work from home and keep your kids engaged during coronavirus?
Many states are closing their schools and workplaces are encouraging employees who can to work from home. Because coronavirus affects older people at a higher rate, you may not have as much support from extended family as you normally would with kids out of school.
Will there be pandemonium in your home?
Will you all survive this challenge (queue your favorite superhero theme music)?
You’ve got this.
While the current situation presents more challenges than you would normally handle, you can do this, and even have fun with your kids.
We asked teachers, educational experts, and workplace leaders for their top tips to make this easy on you and productive for your kids. These tips are based on elementary and junior high-aged children. Younger children will need some modifications.
1. Know your school’s plan.
Many schools have the capability for remote learning. Your school may also send home materials or a curriculum to follow. Connect with your children’s teachers and make sure you have their email addresses. Do test any links they send to make sure you can login and get them to work, as needed.
2. Create structure.
While it may feel awkward in some cases, this step may bring you the most sanity. Remember your kids have a set structure at school. There’s a time they are in class, recess, and lunch, as well as other activities like PE and Computers. You can create a similar structure for your kid. The teachers we talked with recommended a list with checkboxes for each activity, including breaks. They also recommended a set start and end time. This can help you plan any work meetings you have around this, which is good for both you and your kids. We provide a sample one at the end of this article. As a rough guideline, go with an 8 a.m. start time and 2 p.m. stop time—adjust as appropriate for your child. You’ll want to do this planning before your first school day, and have a printed schedule to start their day with.
Do pick something they can transition to and from easily. We recommend staying away from screen time here, as it can be difficult to start and stop so quickly. Where it makes sense, join your child on break.
This situation is stressful for you, too! If you can be goofy and/or active with them during this time, that can be helpful. Anything from a tossing a Frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, a quick game of tag, or even a dance-off can help add a little fun to both of your days.
4. Know your child’s learning modality.
In general, we all have a preferred way we like to learn—visual, auditory, or hands-on. While we have a primary preference we are born with, we are all also a mix of these modalities. That said, if you only use auditory instruction and notice your child struggling to follow directions, consider visual or hands-on instruction as part of your mix.
5. Expose them to a mix of topics.
For your short-term homeschooling, we recommend a mix of topics and activities to keep your child engaged. A good mix will include age-appropriate math, reading, writing, and science.
In some cases, you can print it out, and in others, it will be online. Encourage your kids to think about projects to demonstrate their new knowledge—this can be a short play you capture on your phone’s video camera, a short book they create, or other creative ideas you come up with.
6. Use these sources for content and materials.
Modern parents, you are all in luck, as there’s a long list of great online sources for your child. Your school may already have some of these. Our recommendations came from specifically from the teachers interviewed. You may also find other ones you add into this mix.
Prodigy Game is used by over 50 million students in grades 1-8, and has a free starter program for parents.
Reading and Writing
Storyline Online reads along with your child. Books are a variety of levels and times from a few minutes to longer (free)
Bomomo – fun drawing tool for kids of all ages (free)
Toy Theatre – kids can build all sorts of toys and drawings (free)
Cosmic Kids Yoga has a variety of fun yoga for kids with stories (free)
Moe Jones has a fun 15 minute workout you can do with your kids (free)
Mystery Science has K-5 science for remote learning (free)
Teachers Pay Teachers – for fee, all sorts of lesson plans, worksheets and topics
Sites With Multiple Subjects
Khan Academy has online tools for science, history, math, computing and more (free)
Education.com has worksheets you can print out for a variety of topics for K-5. There’s a daily limit at the free tier and you can buy a subscription.
IXL has K-8 online tools for math, language, science, social studies, Spanish and more ($19.95/month)
For screen time, PBS Kids has a lot of kid-friendly games (free)
Nickelodeon also has kid-friendly games, although some have ads (free)
Youtube Kids – kid safe and friendly videos (free)
Remember your local library. Often you can browse and reserve books online, saving you time. Many libraries include digital books and movies.
7. Connect with friends.
If you cannot safely have your child connect with friends after “school” time, plan time for them to use Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom (all free) to visit with their friends.
And yes, parents too, plan on connecting with your friends this way a bit as well. This will help you feel less isolated if you have to quarantine for a bit, and give you something to look forward to.
8. Have choices for after-school time other than screen time.
The easiest thing to do here is let your child spend hours on their devices or watching TV. We get it. You’re tired and want a mental break. Your kids may be used to hours of screen time. In addition to this activity, consider adding a few things.
Have your child earn screen time by doing a few simple chores around the house. You can use the added help right now and they can dust, put away the dishes, or other appropriate tasks to contribute to your family. You can also offer playtime with neighborhood kids (as appropriate), crafts, toys, books, drawing, and other activities as alternatives.
9. Plan time for yourself.
While being at home allows you some flexibility in what you wear and relieves you of your school and work commutes, it will rob you of some of your downtime. Make sure to put a few 15-minute breaks on your schedule to escape work and kids. Do a different activity—breathe, write, read some humor, do pushups or squats—just do something different.
Make sure to congratulate yourself, and your kids, for doing the best you can in this situation.
Whenever possible, practice empathy with your kids right now. They don’t yet have a fully-developed brain and critical thinking skills. This can be scarier for them than it may seem on the surface. Even if it seems silly to you, make sure your kids feel heard.
The first few days of this adjustment may seem a little awkward, but then you will all settle into it. This structure of activities will keep you all productive and appropriately challenged. You may even find your relationships grow because of this.
Be kind to yourself.
You’ve got this!