The Key to Successful Learning at Home During Covid-19
Development & Learning
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Homeschool Schedule During Covid-19
Has anyone seen a meme about a homeschool schedule for kids during the Covid-19 School closings? The first week after the national announcement to shelter in place, the internet lit up with lovely color-coded schedules broken down into thirty-minute intervals and featuring activities like eating family meals, working on individual school subjects for thirty minutes each, setting aside time for organizing and cleaning the house, and even learning to play a new instrument via YouTube.
Those of us who have been homeschooling for a while just chuckled at the ambition of all the type-A parents who created those lovely charts. By Wednesday of that first week, the same Facebook feeds were full of questions like, “What day is today?” and “Can we just skip breakfast and go straight to lunch since no one is awake before noon?”
Fortunately, there is a good middle ground in developing a schedule for school at home and life at home together. It doesn’t have to be perfectly color-coded and managed at the half hour level. It also doesn’t have to be complete mayhem. Having homeschooled five children with an eight-year age span between them and now in the thick of Corona-schooling myself, I am here to tell you can find a plan that works.
The first and most important key is flexibility. When you have all your people at home all day, usually Mom or Dad wants some semblance of order and regularity. But you also have to realize each of your family members has preferences and personality traits that make one-size-fits-all just not possible. Yes, they used to be fed and clothed and on the bus at 7:15, but that bus isn’t coming by and the motivation not to miss it isn’t there either. It may go against your nature, but having each child set a wake-up time range and a bedtime range that works for them is a good start to having a schedule that will stick. Before this virus, we all said we wished our teens would get more sleep; now we are trying to rouse them from bed at the same hour they used to get up. As long as they can accomplish their tasks for the day, you might let them sleep in a bit.
Getting exercise is another important priority during this new shift in routine. A U.S. News review outlined the following benefits of exercise in relation to teen mental health:
- Positively impacts levels of serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate mental health.
- Releases endorphins, the body’s natural “happy chemicals.”
- Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which improves mood.
- Increases self-esteem and body positivity.
- Helps teens sleep better.
We can all see how important these are for our children, so do whatever you can to encourage your student to exercise each day.
In addition to school and exercise, what relationship-building activities can you make part of the daily routine? Family meals, cooking together, doing chores in pairs or all together, writing a hand-written note to out-of-town relatives or even a neighbor, video-chatting with grandparents. Think through what you can reasonably ask your children to do daily and weekly throughout this unusual time. A checklist for each day has proved helpful in our family. Instead of telling each child the things they have to do each day, they have a list that includes the items above. When they have checked all the items off their list, they can rest, relax, have screen time, or choose their own activities. During this unsettling time, it is important to allow for down time for each family member.
Younger children may come to you regularly out of boredom. If this is the case, help them create lists of activities they enjoy and when they are bored, ask them to choose from their list. If you have art or craft materials, old magazines, board games, or cake decorating supplies in a closet or garage, you could help them make activity boxes so they can choose a box and do what is in it.
Older kids will gravitate toward their mobile devices. Balance is key to screen time. Help them find ways to connect with friends that are interactive, not just passive like social media or mindless games. They could create a scavenger hunt to play with friends over FaceTime or Zoom. They could use an app to watch Netflix simultaneously with friends. No, it isn’t the same as everyone on the same couch with popcorn, but it still can feel more connected than each teen watching their own movie in their room. Paying teens to accomplish household chores, yard work, or things that never seem to make it off the “honey-do” list is a great way to get them out doing something, help them realize the value of hard work, and help you get some things completed that would otherwise be undone. We have even paid our children to take sample SAT or ACT tests or to read books we have found valuable.
This new normal requires creativity. Enlist your children in coming up with a schedule that accomplishes your goals and theirs, allows for fresh air and some exercise, and even fits in some family time each day. As we all adjust, we might even find some benefits in this time—like time for a family dinner together and a puzzle or game afterward.