Discovering Alternative Ways to Educate Our Young
Many parents are struggling with stress and anxiety amid the historic COVID-19 pandemic era as home education has been thrust upon them, forcing many to take career-altering steps back and drastically change their routines.
Focus on Connection
For homeschoolers, the change was less jarring because they were already enmeshed in routines in which they could occupy themselves and pursue their own interests and skills. Seasoned homeschoolers have habits, tools, and rituals, but new homeschoolers have to discover and create them. This will take time and continuous adjustment. Be patient and have perspective. You are the expert on your children, and no one is more invested in them than you. Focus on the connection. What will matter most will be students’ mental health, their enthusiasm for learning, and their enjoyment and confidence in being able to use the skills they have acquired.
Prioritize inspiration, foster curiosity and creativity, and nurture emotional intelligence.
This time can be an opportunity for children to explore their own interests more deeply, create self-motivated learning habits, learn at their own pace, and take a break from the stress of external distractions that can drown out internal calls to action. Prioritize inspiration, foster curiosity and creativity, and nurture emotional intelligence.
Children can spend quality time with their siblings, parents, grandparents, and those that make up their isolation bubbles. Grow something! Enlist your children in helping with chores to teach responsibility. Cooking is an opportune time to practice reading carefully, measuring, fractions, chemistry, and the rewards of their labors. Children and teens can sleep according to their biorhythms.
Flexibility for Parents and Students
Homeschooling does not necessarily have to be done at home. Small classes of students from families that band together with a teacher who is trained and actually passionate about doing this are forming all over the nation and these are called Learning Pods. These groups are either following the public school curriculum or opting to become true homeschoolers using private curriculums that are as eclectic and varied as the different types of people there are in every family. Some families have one child who thrives on structure, while another requires more freedom and agility. Learning style, whether visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc, is also specific to each child. Finding out what works for your family can take some experimentation, but allows for the gift of more specific educational paths.
This allows for a more secular approach to pursue some academic classes vigorously, and use a variety of tools, which include educational graphic novels, entertaining educational apps, excellent YouTube programs like GeographyNow or SciShow, or cultural anthropology resources such as PlanetDocs and Faces Magazine by Cricket. When children ask a question, the group might spend a whole morning researching the history of China or paper-crafting a model of a seaside fishing village, for example. Long walks outside include looking up insects or plants and exercise. The world is our teacher, and the learning is continuous.
Take the time to see what ignites your child’s interest and feed it.
Notice what your children are interested in. Motivation is an amazing instigator of deep learning. Take the time to see what ignites your child’s interest and feed it. Homeschooling can be an active exercise not done during a set time, but throughout the days, every day, even throughout the summer, because teaching isn’t the goal – learning is. Watch as they take ownership of their education.
What About Socialization?
There are no magic bullets in this unprecedented time of physical isolation, families have enjoyed virtual programming, Zoom chats, VidHug, texting with grandpa, and online party games.
Learning pods are another way for students to enjoy others their own age in a safe environment. Families vow to each other to not send their children if there is any hint of exposure to Covid19 or other illness and our facility disinfects and deep cleans regularly. Daily sign in temperature logs and masks are essential safety steps along with frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers.
I highly recommend joining local learning pod groups. Homeschoolers offer a wealth of resources and provide an overwhelming cacophony of varied opinions, tools, styles, and personalities. Use local groups to ask specific questions or to check out others’ comments about particular learning tools.
Take Advantage of This Unusual Time in History
Be gentle with yourself. We all feel the loss of friends, classes, museums, zoos, aquariums, and public libraries keenly. The instability of not knowing how long this will go on for and what an endgame will look like is wearing. We are currently teaching one of the most valuable lessons of all, which is how to endure really difficult times.
Remember evolution favors “good enough.” Some days we watch a movie and eat ice cream or just take a long walk in nature because it’s incredibly hard right now. You don’t have to have all the answers—look for answers together. Try to be joyful in this opportunity.
- Khan Academy: Online videos, self-paced exercises, and tools for teachers in math, science, computing, history, art history, economics, and more.
- High-quality YouTube channels, such as SciShow, GeographyNow, CrashCourse, and the Amoeba Sisters.
- CK-12 Foundation: Free online textbooks.
- Free language resources such as DuoLingo.
- Your public library offers many resources, including other language resources, digital books and audiobooks, and documentaries.
- Hoopla: Borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics, and TV shows through your local library.
- Kanopy: Stream free movies through your local library.
- Museums, zoos and aquariums all have excellent programming and resources.
- Outschool: Take online classes and camps. Tip: Read the teachers’ biographies to determine if they have a degree or work in the field they are teaching. The site also provides tutors, including special education tutors, in several subject areas.
- Junior Ranger Programs at National Parks: Interactive and printable activities, as well as virtual tours. For some programs, the service will send students a badge when they complete certain activities.