How to Start Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Shutdown

Homeschooling is usually associated with the United States or rural Australia, but with the schools closed due to Coronavirus, a version of it is something that we need to consider starting over this period. Here are some tips:

#1 Not Holidays Yet

It is such a novelty being off school for two weeks, but it is important to remember that this is not holiday time. Schools are shut until March 29 and if they reopen then it is a week to the Easter Holidays. This could be a long shutdown. So, don’t treat it as holidays but term time in a different location.

#2 Get Organised for Homeschooling

Organise your materials, time, and tasks.  Consider keeping a daily journal and work folder so that you can keep track of what you’ve covered & with whom. If you are homeschooling more than one child, it can be easy to get mixed up. Plus, the kids will use every means at their disposal to distract you from work they don’t want to do, so having something to keep you and them on track will be invaluable!

#3 Kids need Structure

These are unchartered times for most of us and there will be difficult and sad times ahead for some people. This can cause anxiety amongst children and a good way to counter this is to have structure. Keep them in a routine. This includes schoolwork. Teachers may have prepared for the shutdown and will have recommendations/work schedules to help parents during this time.

#4 Mix it Up

Forget having to exactly duplicate a classroom environment, exact school schedule, and curriculum when you’re homeschooling. There’s nothing sacred about sitting at desks, having set amounts of time per subject, or using only textbooks. For example, baking uses maths and reading but you get something yummy at the end of it & can have fun doing it together.

#5 You can Homeschool

Don’t think that because you didn’t like school, didn’t do well, or you don’t have a college degree that you can’t teach your children. During this period your role will be as a facilitator to your child’s learning.  There’s no need to lecture, and very often you’ll find yourself learning something new too.

#6 Technology helps Homeschooling

If you are lucky enough to have decent Wi-Fi, then use it to your advantage. By this, I mean to use technology that can facilitate online meetings. Hook up with other families & have a ‘virtual school’. Perhaps one adult could do a maths class, another Irish etc. all on a laptop or phone with face to face online interaction. There are lots of online apps available, but this could cause confusion. Keep it simple, textbooks & teachers worksheets will be fine.

#7 Get Outside

Send the kids outside to play – even if it’s raining! They can dry off at home because they are at home! Cabin fever could creep in once the novelty of no school wears off. You need the break as much as they do.

#8 Study Area for State Exam Students

The group that the shutdown will impact most will be Junior & Senior Cycle Students. We need to support them as much as possible and this will be different to dealing with younger children. Designate a specific study space. If possible, keep this separate from their bedroom, as they need a place to relax & unwind in. Schools have contingency plans in place and many teachers will be remotely working. Structure is vital at this time and students need to stick to their schedule. There will be a temptation to resist and to do their own thing. Parents need to be firm and ensure that school & course work is being completed and online classes attended. Start with getting up at the same time, getting dressed and having breakfast. Gather up & put away distractions such as mobile phones, Xboxes, iPad, laptops etc unless they are being for schoolwork. Set break times and rest periods. Encourage social interaction during these periods and get them out into the fresh air & take some exercise. While most sporting activities have been cancelled or curtailed, we can still go out for a walk, jog or run. The endorphins released through exercise will really help with studying and stress relief. No need to study late into the night – having plenty of rest & sleep is important not only to aid studying but to fight off illness too.

We are in unchartered waters, but we will get through this, albeit with heartbreak for some. However, as a nation, we have the concept of the Meitheal engrained in our psyche. Ar scaith a chéile a mhaireann na ndaoine.

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