Thriving During Distance Learning
Updated: May 19
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Marcus Tullius Cicero
There is a beautiful sentiment of simplicity behind this quote and perhaps, in today's digital age, the "library" could be replaced with the "internet" though many would still shudder to think so. But now that we are being temporarily stripped of our usual luxuries and even confined to our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, this ancient quote is being put to the test.
Children are having to practice "distance learning" since attending school is not an option and parents who never planned to homeschool are struggling to figure out how to ensure their children stay on the educational path while juggling everything else on their plate, possibly even working from home.
Plus, we have a lot of questions:
Can we really find satisfaction without our restaurants, movie theaters, and shopping excursions?
Are books and outdoor exploration really enough to educate a child?
How are we going to get through this unfamiliar territory in one piece?
As a former-public-school-teacher-now-homeschool-mom, I hope I can offer a bit of encouragement here, but not alone. My friend (and veteran homeschool mom of four now-adult children) Jane and I worked together to compile a list of tips, tricks, resources, and encouragement for parents who are now faced with the seemingly daunting task of educating their children from home.
We hope these insights prove helpful and encourage you to THRIVE through this unique time, not just survive it!
So, get ready, we've got three weeks of help coming your way! Grab a beverage; here we go!
A Few Points to Remember
1. School at Home is NOT the Same as School in the Classroom
You don't have to recreate the school day. You might want to find a way to occupy your children for 6-8 hours a day, which is a different topic and we'll have some helpful resources for that as well, but first, please release yourself from the idea that you have to be teaching or your child has to be "actively learning" for 8, 6, or even 4 hours each day. It's simply unrealistic.
Public school is designed for many children in a classroom setting. At home, learning goes much faster one-on-one.
A few things to try:
Set realistic expectations including shorter bursts of learning, frequent breaks, and motivate with rewards.
Remind your child that you're in this together. If you both can put in effort to get through an assignment, then you can both enjoy a reward (make a fun snack, take a walk, watch a movie, etc) together afterwards.
Check out this site for some great free printables and resources for covering subjects at home.
Remember that worksheets are "busywork" and might be necessary in the classroom so the teacher can assess everyone's knowledge; but at home, if your child can answer a science/math/social studies question orally, they don't need to write it down (unless you're assessing their writing skills, too). And if they can complete six math problems quickly, efficiently, and correctly, then they don't need to do 16. That is exasperation and will lead to burn out. More practice is needed only when more practice is needed.
2. Focus on the Basics and Keep It Simple
It's important to note that most of what our kids learn for science and social studies is repeated year after year in public school. So if you are also working from home, or you're short on time, don't stress over those subjects. Science can be really fun to do at home but if you're not a science person or the thought of social studies intimidates you, let it go.
Reading and math are the foundational skills kids need to "keep up" in school so give yourself freedom to focus on those, especially if your child needs extra practice with either.
3. You are Not Alone
As a former public school teacher, I can imagine teachers everywhere trying to figure out what this classroom hiatus will do to the rest of the school year or the start of the next. If you can remind yourself that everyone is going through the same new situation, you can take some pressure off yourself to do this "right."
Reach out to your teacher friends and your homeschooling friends. Seek advice when needed (the digital socializing will be welcomed, I'm sure). But avoid comparing to what it looks like your neighbors are doing. Every family is unique and gifted in different ways. You are the right parent for your child and you do have the ability to teach them!
So, HOW Do we Thrive While Learning at Home?
Set a Goal. Ask yourself, "What do I want to be able to say about this experience when it's over?"
Sarah Mackenzie, author of Teaching from Rest and The Read-Aloud Family, and host of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast said in a recent episode that if we are not intentional about setting a goal to a desirable outcome, we are probably working towards an outcome we might not favor.
When your kids go back to school, you might say something like, "Well, we finished all the work the district sent home" or "we 'did school' for 4 hours a day" or "it nearly killed us, but we survived." But if you're intentional about setting a desired outcome, you will be able to say so much more.
In the coming weeks we'll chat more about realistic goals and resources to help you not only survive distance learning, but to thrive!
Bethany Dattolo | Bethany is wife to Randy, Mommy (and teacher) to Abigail, Noah, Emmalyn, Elijah, and Logan. She's a homeschool mom, home cook and baker, recipe writer, homemaker, blogger, runner, and wannabe photographer. She is constantly trying to impress God's truths onto her children. On the occasion she gets an inspiration worth sharing, she writes about it on her blog. Otherwise you can find her on Instagram.
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