1. Structured Time
As the school year starts and everyone works through the computer issues, scheduling issues, etc., focus on establishing a routine. One of the ways we set students up to success in our martial arts classes is by following the same sequence during each class, so everyone knows what to expect next. After we ask the parents for permission to begin training, for instance, we say the student oath, in every class, every time. If setting up your days and time schedule is all you get done during the first weeks of school, you will have done a LOT! You will have laid the right foundation for the rest of the school year. In our homeschooling experience, specific times weren’t as important as a predictable flow to the day. In other words, breakfast might happen at 7am or at 9am, but every day, we’d eat, brush our teeth, get dressed, do math, then social studies, then lunch, etc.
2. Structured Place
Make sure your family has a dedicated space just for school work. The space should be quiet and as distraction-free as possible. Since online learning will likely be a part of your child’s day, make sure that there is a strong internet connection in the school area, as well. Delays and lost connections can distract and frustrate. On the other side of that, of course, the internet itself can be a distraction, so make sure that you’re safeguarding children as they navigate that online world. For us, it was important for my sons to be on the same schedule but not in the same space. At the very least, they needed to be on opposite sides of the same room, facing away from one another. Noise-cancelling earphones were a lifesaver during their school years that they’ve continued to use as young adults.
3. Use Resource People
Teachers will certainly be in touch with their students, but also be sure you’re getting the help you need as an in-the-trenches teacher. Reach out to classroom and support teachers, school leaders and others who may have solutions to the challenges you encounter. Be quick to model asking for help – your children are watching you and will adopt the mood and tone you set for their learning. Try to show them flexibility and resourcefulness – those are skills that will help them lead good, productive, healthy lives. Remind yourself and your children that this is the first time everyone has needed to do the things we’re doing right now, and that there will be a learning curve for all of us, even though we’re all doing our best. I know as a teacher/parent myself, it was important to step back and take the long view sometimes – teaching my sons how to find the right person and ask for the right help has served them well. .
4. Intrinsic motivation and learning
One of the best gifts we give our children is self-reliance, and one of the ways I’ve seen that play out in my children is that they have taught themselves so much – languages, musical instruments, history and sociology. When children learn that it’s okay to fail and that there’s nothing to be afraid of in failure, as long as they don’t give up, their confidence grows. No one expects parents to be experts on every subject or to be full-time educators. Allowing children to try, fail, and ask for help (sometimes from you and perhaps sometimes from the other resource people, like teachers and support people, available to them) is invaluable.
Learning how to learn can help turn your child into a lifelong learner, and “owning” his or her education leads to a healthy sense of personal responsibility.
5. Morning and Evening Check-In Time
In our Advanced Leadership training last month, we talked about morning and evening questions.
In the morning, you might ask:
• What are your assignments for today?
• Which are you looking forward to most?
• Do you have tests or other assessments this week?
• What can I do to help?
At the end of the day you might ask:
• Which assignment seemed easiest today?
• Which seemed more challenging?
• What do you feel like you achieved today?
• What are you proudest of?
• What went well today?
• Is there something we should do differently tomorrow?
These short questions can help even young children begin to prioritize and organize their tasks and their days. It helps to give the day more structure, and process information and instructions they may have received from their teachers. Learning to manage themselves with this kind of executive function will benefit children throughout their lives.
6. Establish quiet time
As everyone works through this way of learning, make sure you provide time for a deep breath. Children learn differently – from their siblings, from their parents, from each other. Build quiet time into your daily routine to allow for your own work to get completed, for bandwidth issues and logistical hiccups, and for reflecting and processing what you’ve learned. As much as possible, make sure this time is low-technology. Being bored is not the worst thing that can happen to a child, and in fact, boredom often leads to creativity and innovation. Learning to entertain themselves counts as learning – it makes us more independent and self-reliant.
7. Encourage physical activity and exercise
Staying active has taken on different meanings, of course, but one difficulty for many children in a regular classroom setting is sitting still all day. In your home learning schedule, maybe you work in opportunities to get up and move around every twenty or thirty minutes. Digital workouts and games, exercising together, going for a walk in the middle of the day, playing outside can all help children gain or re-gain their focus. Maybe there’s a break after a particular subject when everyone spends a few minutes doing chores and taking responsibility for their living areas. Building physical activity into the day can help blow off steam, keep the stress level under control, and improve everyone’s physical health, as well.