With millions of children attending virtual school this fall, parents are strategizing about how to teach their children at home.
Two mothers who have been homeschooling for several years now — Monica Olivera, who writes Mommy Maestra, and blogger Latonya Moore of Joy in the Ordinary — offered some insights and tips on how to manage and eliminate some of the stress of schooling from home.
Living outside Fort Worth, Texas, with her three children, Olivera believes homeschooling is attainable even for families with working parents.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions centered around homeschooling, that it's very expensive,” she says. “But I know quite a few families who are making it work using either free curriculum online or other budget-friendly materials and curricula that are available.”
Over in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, online math and art teacher Moore began homeschooling her two children in 2009 during the Great Recession. Her husband, a Marine Corps veteran, lost his job, so the family survived through unemployment and the G.I. Bill.
“Being someone who started homeschooling at a very low point in the economy, I do believe that it is possible,” Moore says. “I would suggest parents not compare themselves to homeschoolers who have been doing it forever, but remembering that they're at the starting point.”
Tip #1: Know the difference between distance learning and homeschooling
Many parents attempted to teach their kids at home back in the spring when schools closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. But Olivera emphasizes that most parents were attempting distance learning, not homeschooling.
With distance learning, educators remotely provide materials and oversee the students’ education, she says. Homeschooling can include distance learning and online classes, but a parent or caregiver oversees the process.
Most homeschooled kids take three to five hours on their classwork because they can go at their own pace, she says.
“You don't have to have your kids sitting in a chair from eight o'clock in the morning till three o'clock in the afternoon with a break for lunch,” she says.
Some parents who work during the day homeschool their kids during the evening or weekends, she says.
Tip #2: Working toward independence can help parents balance teaching kids of different age groups
At 2-years-old, Moore’s younger daughter asked for her own books after seeing her 5-year-old sister doing school work.
She encourages parents with children of various ages to remember middle-schoolers can do assignments by themselves without constant supervision. This gives parents time to play with the younger children in the family.
When the youngsters take a nap, parents can pivot back to working with the older kids, she says.
“For the elementary learners, I believe that we should always be working toward independence,” Moore says. “That's one of the reasons why I homeschool, because I want my kids to have a little more control over what they learn and how they learn so that it makes sense for them.”
The schedule doesn’t have to look the same every day, she says. Some days a student might tackle a certain topic or subject on their own, while another might require more parental support.
Tip #3: Take virtual field trips
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Olivera would take her kids on virtual trips to faraway places such as the Eiffel Tower or the moon. Live webcams can take students all around the world.
Tip #4: Let kids explore different interests
Moore loves to let her daughters explore things that many traditional classrooms don’t such as sewing and cooking.
“Definitely allow them to go down the rabbit hole with that thing,” Moore says. “It's amazing how much they learn when they're doing things that are interesting to them.”
Letting kids explore their interests also includes outside activities, Olivera adds. Her 14-year-old son does Civil Air Patrol on Tuesday nights because he’s working toward his pilot’s license, something he couldn’t do at a traditional public or private school.
Most homeschool families were active outside the home as well prior to the pandemic, she says. Now, homeschoolers are learning to be flexible and adapt their perspective.
“At least with my kids, we talk about how this is just a small moment in time considering the big picture,” she says, “and we're looking forward to being able to do those activities again.”
Tip #5: Don’t sweat the clock
“Don't worry about the time. There is no set time for you to start homeschooling,” Olivera says. “What you need to do is take your time and find the materials or the curricula that you're going to use and take the time to look through it and prepare yourself so that when you start, you don't feel rushed. You don't feel stressed about it.”
Tip #6: Take a moment to breathe and set goals
“Give yourself some goals. What do you hope to gain? Maybe we want to be better communicators with our children because we're usually like running past one another,” Moore says. “And whatever the goal is, whether it's academic or not, let that be the guiding force.”
This segment aired on August 4, 2020.