We never had to homeschool our children. Kathy would agree with me when I say, “We’re glad.” It’s not easy running a home and business and then, on top of that, having to teach your kids at the same time. My hat goes off to all of those thousands of new homeschool teachers.
I realize that educators will be giving lots of help to parents as they assign students’ lessons to do at home. Parents will be the supervisors, the counselors, the nurses and the teachers. Parents’ new role as homeschool teachers will not be a tip toe through the tulips but I am confident parents will rise to the occasion. Here are three tips that may be of help. Each one begins with "R."
Develop a routine. It’s a good idea to do this with your kids. A routine or schedule might include breakfast, followed by making their bed, followed by lessons, followed by doing something fun, followed by lessons and so on. Do make changes depending on what seems to work best for your child. Rather than have 45 minutes for a science lesson, they may need 60 minutes or two 15 minute sessions. Be flexible with your schedule. Try to match the interests and needs of your child to the routine. Remember, you know your child better than anyone. Once you settle on a routine that seems to work, post it on the refrigerator and try to stick to it.
Don’t forget about rewards. Adults need rewards and kids do too. Rewards don’t have to be tangible things. They can be verbal, which are often better. Try to make your praise specific. “You did those math problems exactly the way you were supposed to do them.” “You completed your online assignment and answered all the questions.”
For most kids, learning at home will be challenging. Many kids are not good independent learners. They have never done it before to this degree. There are lots of distractions. Limiting learning time to short sessions followed by rewards helps. You might even try saying something like, “When you complete this assignment, you can do this.” Whatever you do, be sure and hold kids accountable for doing something and then praise them for doing it. Use expressions like, “Be ready to tell me . . . “
Find time for relaxation. This goes for you, as the teacher, and your child. Whatever kids do to relax may be the carrot you are looking for when trying to reinforce kids. But they have to earn it. Relaxation takes many forms. Kids are good at it. Relaxation may be time to just sit. It may be time to use the cell phone. It may be time to bake something or go outside or take the dogs for a walk. This would be a good time to do something together.
Developing a routine, using purposeful rewards and relaxation may occur in the morning. You might do an abbreviated plan in the afternoon or even in the evening. Kids put in about 5 to 6 hours of learning per day in school. Can you duplicate this at home?
Have you thought about how coronavirus might change education?
On the plus side, every student will have perfect attendance. I wrote a column last year suggesting that the community become the school — this now has become a reality. This way everyone has perfect attendance. We have been doing it for at least a couple of decades with online college classes. As any educator will admit, kids learn just as much outside of school as they do inside. Some learn more. Maybe, just maybe, we can use this experience and build upon it. Do we really need school buildings as they exist today when the community is the school?
We will record our highest graduation rates ever in 2020. How so? Because this whole experience is so new and there was no time to give teachers, parents or students any orientation as to how this would all work, many students will be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of earning credit towards graduation. Rather than fail a student, a teacher might just give a student a "D," which is a passing grade. In this day of drastic change, students deserve the benefit of the doubt. Who is to blame for this mess we are in? Certainly not the students.
We are going to learn that bells and strict times for classes no longer are relevant. Kids will still learn in spite of schedules based on specific times. Do all kids need 60 minutes of math? Some may need only 30 and some may need 90 minutes. Educators have never done well in trying to build schools around the way kids learn. Parents now have the opportunity to build a “schedule” that works for their children without bells.
Some students will do better than they would have if they had remained in school. We learned from the post secondary option program that high school kids can succeed taking college classes. We learn through the business academy programs that kids learn more by getting out of school to experience the world of work. We know from our charter schools and alternative schools that many kids do better in a smaller learning environment. What will we learn when all of our students now have to use their kitchen table as their school? If we look closely, we can learn a great deal about how to restructure our educational system. I hope that we can build upon this and make needed changes in education to reflect on how our kids can learn when not in "a school building." Let’s use the coronavirus experience to make our education system even better.
Riddle: How does a monster count to 14? (Answer: On his fingers.) Even in the midst of bad things, we can discover good.
Thanks to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, our numbers continue to grow for those businesses and agencies that support the 100% graduation movement. With parents spending more time with kids, now is a good time for parents to make graduating from high school the norm in their family. How? Just keep relentlessly reminding children they need to graduate.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.