The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has resulted in mass school closings. Parents throughout the country are not only dealing with their own anxiety about the outbreak, but also navigating how to provide homeschooling to their children. For many parents this means taking a teaching role with their children while also working themselves. Jennifer Triolo, a childcare and music educator in Long Island, NY, offers some of her best tips for how parents can effectively home-school their children
Ask children how they feel.
Elementary-aged students (K-5) are the least informed about what is occurring right now. At the same time, they are very likely to remember how they felt during this difficult time. Maintaining composure in front of younger children, therefore, is crucial. Explain to them what is happening using age-appropriate language, but emphasize that you as the parent will protect them during this time. Homeschooling may be the most challenging for this age group, so it is recommended to take an active role in their education.
Middle school-aged students (6-8) may also struggle with this transition to homeschooling. They may feel happy to be out of school and resist doing virtual assignments. This age level will want to socialize with friends. Allow them to schedule electronic and social media time to stay in touch with peers, but keep it limited to specific hours. This age group is likely to have had experience with online avenues of learning. They may resist doing work or need the distraction. Ask them if they’re struggling with school work and offer your help as much as they are open to it.
High school-aged students (9-12) understand what is happening the most and are likely to exhibit the highest levels of anxiety. For some high school students, school closures take away special opportunities like sports, socializing with friends, and special once-in-a-lifetime events like prom and graduation. It is important that they feel understood by you. Listen to them, but don’t offer advice or say it’s okay: it might not be, and they need to be heard.
Ask for their help with cooking, laundry, and other skill-building activities.
Involving them in your everyday tasks will not only give them a sense of purpose during these uncertain times, but will teach them important life skills. Emphasize to them that this is not a punishment. Frame daily chores as something that we all have to do during the day to distract from what’s going on. Praise them for their help and laugh when they make mistakes. Ask them to come up with a fun project, such as making cookies. They may not remember reviewing fractions at home, but they will always remember learning how to cook during the quarantine.
Allow them to work with friends virtually.
The social component of school is especially important for middle and high school students. Missing out on seeing friends will be most devastating for these age groups. Find a time where your children can work with friends on homework assignments or collaborate on a project outside of school using virtual means, like the telephone, video chat, or Zoom.
Create a structured homeschooling schedule for everyone.
Between adults working from home and children doing school assignments, it is easy to fall into negative habits. Compromise on a wake-up time for everyone in the house, eat meals together, and set time frames for work and leisure. Post the schedule on the refrigerator and follow it on weekdays. This sense of normalcy will help you and your children cope with the changes. While each family has its own necessities, below is a recommended schedule:
7:30 AM: Wake up and cook breakfast together
8:00 AM: Eat breakfast
8:30 AM: School/ Work
10:30 AM: Snack break
10:45 AM: School/ Work
12:00 PM: Lunch and leisure
1:00 PM: Active time (Family walk, playing outside, workout, etc.)
2:00 PM: School/ Work
4:00 PM: Leisure
5:30 PM: Cook dinner together
7:00 PM: Eat dinner together
8:00 PM: Family leisure time (Watching movies, board games, video games, etc.
Listen to and create music together.
Music can be utilized in many ways by children of all ages. With your young children, give them opportunities to sing or play instruments as a family. Use nursery rhymes, singing games, and finger play activities to engage them in fun learning. Songs for Teaching is a good resource for some ideas.
Ask your middle and high school children what music they are listening to for pleasure. Show an interest in their music, even if you don’t personally like it. Music is a form of expression, especially for older children. Ask them why they like the song that they are listening to; what about this song helps you feel relaxed? Listening to calming music can help lower children’s anxiety. During school hours, play quiet music in the background to help improve your child’s focus. Involve yourself in their musical taste and share your favorite music with them. Create a family playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, or another music sharing app. Music can help bond your family during this difficult time.
If your children were previously involved in music, encourage them to continue playing their instruments and singing. Lack of regular instruction can be detrimental to your child’s musical progress.
These are very uncertain times for parents, children, and educators. Your children may not always remember what they learned from their virtual assignments, but they will never forget how they felt. Creating positive experiences for them will help them cope with their own feelings, while also allowing family bonding opportunities.
Jennifer Triolo is a K-12 music educator in the Herricks School District on Long Island, NY and the Executive Director of the Long Island Children’s Choir.