These four tips from an expert will help you educate your kids—and talk them through their new homeschooling routine.
School closures have thrust many parents into the role of homeschoolers for the first time in their—and their kids'—lives. If you're wondering how to manage working from home and helping your kids learn, how to maintain a routine around homeschooling, how to calm kids' anxiety about learning from home, or how to supplement your child with special needs' services and supports from home, Craig Selinger, the owner of Themba Tutors and Brooklyn Letters, both in the NYC metro area, a learning specialist and licensed speech pathologist, has expert tips for you!
Before you begin homeschooling, talk to your partner, or yourself, to work out a schedule. And keep your kids on it!
If you're in a two-parent household, it's important to talk to your partner about how homeschooling will work, Selinger says. Does one parent need to work remotely with no distractions for part of the day? Is one parent more flexible? Scheduling your days as a family needs to start with the caregiver(s) carving out time to work, teach, and do the dishes. If you're a single parent, have this conversation with yourself: when do you need to work, and when can you take some time to help the kids learn? When can you take time for yourself?
Step two is bringing the kids into the picture.
Before you begin homeschooling, establish a routine that includes getting up around the same time each day, getting dressed, and eating a good breakfast, Selinger says. If kids have to get dressed in real clothes, parents can't stay in pajamas all day either. Sleep hygiene is also very important: social distancing is not an excuse to let the kids stay up late.
"Sleep is crucial for learning. Even if a child loses an hour of sleep…you’re compromising their ability to learn," Selinger says. "Sleep is also crucial for attention, memory, emotional regulation. Do not compromise your child’s sleep."
Adjust your expectations, both for your ability to be a teacher and the amount your child will learn now.
"In China, when they were doing remote learning, they were covering a third of the ground [online] that they would in the classroom," Selinger says. "The productivity level of your child will not be as high. Adjust those expectations." Also understand that teachers and administrators are working hard behind the scenes to figure out remote learning, and every school will have a different onboarding process and learning curve.
If your child has a learning disability or intellectual or developmental disability, his services and supports might have been interrupted. To teach your child with a special need, you'll have to be more than a teacher: you'll have to be a specialist, Selinger says.
"It's going to be very hard," he continues. "I don’t think parents should expect to become experts in that field overnight. Managing those expectations is important as well."
Before you even begin teaching, help your child with a special need feel safe and comfortable in this new environment. Help him understand why his routine has changed. He won't be able to learn if he is anxious. (Check out this piece for more tips on easing anxiety in kids with and without special needs.)
"I would advise parents to read up on mental health experts’ information online for that," Selinger says. "It has to be explained based on the child’s age and developmental level why they’re not going to school."
One thing that might help is a visual schedule for all seven days of the week, Selinger suggests. (This goes for kids with and without disabilities.) Allow your child to shape the breaks in her day, as well.
Give your child the opportunity to visually connect with someone outside your home every day.
"It’s really important that every day, children and parents are connecting with others, whether it’s family or peers. The kids are hopefully having some sort of live experience with teachers too. If they can visually connect with others through video chat, and it becomes a routine, it creates a connection and decreases anxiety. Now is a good time to pick up the phone and talk to people," Selinger says.
When you begin homeschooling, lay the groundwork for open conversations with your kids.
Remember that kids don't necessarily want their parents as their teachers, Selinger advises. You might get backlash because you're attempting to teach unlike their teachers usually do, and it can get emotional. Your child should be allowed to have input in his new homeschooling routine (especially tweens and teens). If your child is continually getting upset, take that as a signal to adjust what you're doing.
Try to explain to your child that no, you're not a teacher, but you're trying to help her. Ask how her teacher normally explains certain subjects. If she's a math whiz, let her lead you. Offer to contact her teacher to get teaching strategies and learn the ways of her normal classroom.
Most importantly, remember this is a learning process for everyone involved.
"There’s a lot of learning that needs to be done on the parent end to learn, from the kid’s perspective, how things were done at school," Selinger says. "Kids don’t want parents being their teachers. It’s the parent’s responsibility to explain to their child or children what their role is. And once you make that clear, you’ll get less defiance from the child."
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