Our Top Home Learning Hacks

So you are going about your merry way and along comes a global pandemic that derails your life! Welcome to life with COVID-19!

Life has changed for many of us in ways we never thought possible. Lysol is now a rare commodity. Right after checking for our keys and wallets, we now check for masks and gloves before leaving home. A cough is a dreaded sound in a crowd of people. Yes, life is truly different as opposed to 2019. More to the point though are the changes many parents are being forced to make – the transition from brick and mortar school to virtual or homeschooling.

What is the Difference?


Homeschooling is private schooling by a parent or other full-time instructor. Curriculum can be supplied by an outside source, paid or free. The options are endless! In most states you will need to be enrolled in an umbrella school. Your base requirements for schooling will be determined in large part by your umbrella school.

Virtual schooling for our purposes is public schooling done from the home of the student. A learning coach is responsible for checking that student assignments are completed, keeping the student on track with assigned lesson plan, logging daily attendance and more. Curriculum is provided based on the state the student is enrolled in. Teachers are assigned to each grade or subject by the school but may not be as accessible as one would hope. Learning is online based. Programs utilized my vary from state to state & from year to year.

Our family has had experience in both of these learning platforms. So we refer to both collectively as home learning. Each have their pros and cons. However, there are some specific techniques we applied to both that has allowed for us to have  a good measure of success. This took lots of trial and error! Seriously, mistakes were made! Our mistakes however do not have to be your own.  Although we do not profess to be experts we do want to share what we have learned over the years in hopes that it can be of benefit to you and your family. So here are our top 5 hacks to home learning!

Remain Structured


If your kids where previously enrolled in a brick and mortar school then this is something they are already accustomed to. It is, however, up to parents to maintain this structure. This will require a measure of self discipline for all parties involved, particularly the parents. If you are a working parent this will be particularly difficult but it is possible. Set designated start and stop times for school. At our home we begin each school day by 8 a.m. On an average day, assignments are completed by 1 p.m. If not we have a hard stop time of 3 p.m. This prevents mental exhaustion of student and teacher. Trust me, once you’ve reached that point nothing good results!

Get dressed for school. It may seem simple enough but it is easy to allow our young ones to stumble out of bed, grab bowl of cereal and report to their desks in their pajamas. I mean, who’s going to see them – right? True; but consider this. Our attitude is reflected in the way we dress. Why do we dress professionally for interviews? We want our potential employers to see a confident responsible person so we dress as such. As a result we feel self assured and will likely ace the interview. It’s no different with school. If your area requires school uniforms you may try that each day or you may create your own dress code. At our home a button down shirt or a polo style shirt with slacks or jeans is acceptable.

Accountability


Accountability is defined as “the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.” Every school has a code of conduct. It outlines the rules and clearly defines the consequences if said rules are not followed. You likely already have house rules. Create a code of conduct for your home learning as well and consider it an addendum to the house rules. Follow it consistently. This may take much energy in the beginning but as everyone becomes adjusted to their new routine it becomes easier. In our home hubby serves as the “principal”. If we are having issues that I as the teacher cannot resolve with the kids, they get sent to the principal’s office. This rarely happens! Just knowing that it can is more than enough to keep the kiddos on the straight and narrow. It isn’t that you are running some military training school but there has to be a measure of order in the environment for it to be conducive to learning. The students must understand that there will be consequences even though they are at home. You will find things going much smoother throughout the year with applying this one hack!

Take Frequent Breaks


This is something that breaks the norm of conventional schooling but it pays huge dividends! Taking breaks refreshes the brain and emotional state. You can decided when and for how long but be sure to incorporate these particularly during your struggle subjects. For us these are History and Mathematics. We take 10 – 15 minute breaks. As a parent and homemaker I usually take this time to do do a quick chore like taking meat out to thaw for dinner or making a business call. Our kids will do anything from walking the dog to taking a quick power nap. We find that the ratio 1 hour of work to 10 minutes of break is much better than banging our heads against the wall! Often times when there is a problem we can’t seem to figure out, we take a break, come back and the solution just jumps out! Invaluable!

Play Background Music


One of our children has ADD. Quite sometime ago we began to play nature sounds music or some type or orchestral music. He was so young that if he recognized the song he would stop and sing along. This created even more struggle because the class was immediately turned into a concert! Thus the instrumental music. As he got older we migrated to music more pleasing to his tastes. Even throughout college he continued this practice with jazz tunes. This sets a mild and calm mood setting mind and emotions at ease to tackle the day. Studies have shown that “background music may improve focus on a task by providing motivation and improving  mood. During long study sessions, music can aid endurance.

Have Fun!


While these are difficult times make the most of the extra time you have together with your young ones. Their minds are now in your hands. While proceeding with caution don’t forget to have some fun too. YouTube some fun Science experiments on the current topic of class. Do some fun physical activities together. Create a crazy recipe that even the dog won’t eat. Laugh!

Since your child maybe feeling more and more isolated you now also have to factor in his/her socialization. We have made use of the Zoom app and had family game nights with friends. Also though the kids have created links and invited their friends to hang out & play games. Please consider age and adult supervision accordingly. Our young ones need an outlet to express how COVID-19 has changed their lives. As parents we want to be there as much as humanly possible but a real friend is also a good source of comfort. The emotional support they get from each other goes along way towards making the school day more bearable for them and you.

In conclusion, be patient with your children and yourselves. Rather than view this change as yet another complication of COVID-19 look at it as a new adventure, a new chapter in the book that is your family. Prospective is everything! Your students will mimic your negative attitude much quicker than a positive one. So even when there are screw ups and failing grades try to have a good outlook and remember there is always tomorrow!

These techniques and suggestions are from the outlook of the parent. In our next series we will interview the kiddos and see what suggestions they have to offer. That should be a real treat. I’m honestly scared!

Happy learning – from our family to yours!