By Aixa Perez-Prado
Although home learning may not have been your choice, it may provide an opportunity to encourage your children to nourish their personal interests and passions and help them thrive during this crisis. You, as the parent, can provide guidance, resources, and encouragement. However, you do not need to provide all of the answers. Give your children the freedom to experiment, fail, and try again. The best teachers encourage learners to ask interesting questions and discover the answers with help and guidance. Creating a flexible climate of thinking and learning in the home, you will strengthen family relationships, increase quality family time, and learn things that go far beyond the classroom.
Here are some tips for those new to learning at home:
RULES, ROLES, and GOALS
- Be present with your children as much as possible. Consider working side by side with a clear statement of how we can best work separately.
- Try to stay off of social media and TV during learning time.
- Answer their questions while being honest with what you don’t know. Investigate unknowns together, encouraging them to question and problem pose, exercising their critical thinking skills.
- Do not set unrealistic learning goals, start out small and build rather than the other way around. It is better for encouraging learning to start out with small successes than to overreach and start by experiencing failure.
- Be flexible thinkers, every family is different, you do not have to follow what any other family is doing. Do what works for YOUR family.
- Allow children, when possible, to decide for themselves where they will do learning activities. They should be comfortable and happy in their space, don’t force a space that does not work for them.
- Allow children to choose topics they are interested in to explore can instill a love for learning and inspire a curiosity that is not always available in a highly structured and pre-determined school day.
- Allow children to have a voice in determining their own schedules. Doing this gives them ownership and a sense of empowerment over their own learning, thus cutting down on resistance and conflict.
- Some families thrive on routine and structure, others do not. Let your children show you how they learn best and be willing to keep trying new ways of getting through the day until you find what works best for each child.
- Take play and rest breaks. Unfortunately, many schools have eliminated recess even though research indicates that children truly need it. Let your home schooling time include recess.
SEEKING IDEAS AND INSPIRATION FROM THE WORLD AROUND YOU
- Collaborate and communicate virtually with other families and educational organizations in order to maximize resources and provide the best educational and social experiences possible.
- Be creative, imaginative and innovative with your learning days so that children remain interested, engaged, and curious about the world around them. Mix it up, and let them choose some of the activities they do, even if those seem silly or unimportant. Just the fact that they get to choose is empowering and encourages them to take responsible risks.
- Encourage them to explore their surroundings using all of their senses and to respond with wonderment and awe to the world around them, even when that world is temporarily limited to the household and what can be found online.
- Art is everywhere, encourage kids to be artists with any and all safe and disposable materials you have in your home, not just crayons and markers. Create an art gallery and an art opening if they are interested in displaying their work, including snacks, drinks, and conversations with the artists.
- Music is everywhere, encourage kids to listen to different kinds of music and create music on their own, possibly sharing music as a family for a part of each day.
- Science and Math are everywhere, use cooking to teach counting, measurement, proportion, chemistry, physics, how to follow directions and more. Cooking with kids is also teaching them a life skill they will need. Let them choose some of the recipes. Limiting ingredients to only those already found in the home and using substitutes encourages critical and creative thinking.
- Literacy is everywhere, encourage children to read whatever they want to read (even if they are reading the same book over and over), and read aloud. Share your favorite books and stories, you are sharing something with them that is important both to their literacy and to your relationship. If you have older kids, encourage them to read to the younger ones. Both are learning.
- Movement is everywhere, let kids build obstacle courses to go through for exercise, and let them put parents through exercise routines they create or find online.
- History is everywhere, especially your own family history, Take this time to explore your heritage, share family stories, recipes, languages, traditions, songs, poems, sayings and all those other things that make each of our families unique.
- Use online resources, story read-alouds by authors, science experiments on YouTube, and more. A simple Google search will provide thousands of free and excellent resources that can be used at home, including the ones listed below.
HUMOR AND REFLECTION GOES A LONG WAY
- Keep a sense of humor! Implementing a daily family joke exchange or watching funny videos together that kids choose can add some lighthearted fun and relieve some of the stress we are all feeling. They can also serve as great writing and journaling prompts.
- Finally, remember to take the teacher hat off at some point every day and just be a parent. Give yourself and your kiddos a break, not every day will go as planned and that is okay!
Aixa Perez-Prado is a writer and teacher educator as well as a homeschool mom of twelve years. She teaches cross-cultural communication, diversity studies and critical and creative thinking skills to homeschoolers, their parents, and university students learning to become teachers. For more information and activities for teaching at home through creative and critical thinking approaches, check out her book: Habits of Mind for Homeschooling: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.