Updated: May 21, 2020
ONE THING determines whether working from home has been the most amazing thing that has ever happened or the absolute worst situation you could have have ever imagined yourself in: Having School-Aged Kids.
As a Middle School teacher myself with friends who have school-aged kids, I've experienced and heard horror stories from both sides of this catastrophe. It took me all but a day to decide that this situation is simply not ideal for any party involved. All complaints aside, it is what it is. We (teachers and parents) have been collaborating on children's educations since the system began and now more than ever, we need to unite in accomplishing our #1 goal: educating our kids.
I promise you, teaching from home is no small feat... especially math. I spend hours creating supplementary videos to help explain content that would have taken me 20 minutes to teach in class. Then I post it to Google Classroom and 30% of my students can't open it, 20% don't notice it, 40% find it useful, and 10% haven't even joined my Google Classroom yet. Then I open my emails and have 36 unread messages... all requiring a response. Now its 2pm and I haven't even been able to start planning the next lesson much less go through my 40 open tabs to grade last weeks work. All of this to say, I CANNOT imagine doing all of this AND having my own kids to regulate. So the least I can do is provide some helpful tips.
1. Stick to a Schedule
I know this sounds ridiculous the younger your kids are, but the single most important thing a school provides is structure. A schedule will create this structure-like feel for your kids. And don't just tell them the schedule out loud, WRITE IT DOWN. Kids need to be able to see a visual of this schedule at all times because lets be honest, they will forget what they are supposed to be doing every 5 minutes without it. Break the schedule into subjects. Give them a block of time for each subject. If they feel like they have a time constraint, they will absolutely work more efficiently. The quicker they can get through their work, the better their spirits will be and the better attitude they will bring tomorrow. Also, schedule BREAKS. Your kids should not sit and work for more than 1-2 hours at a time or their productivity will plummet (unless your child is one of those dream cases of those in possession of an overdeveloped attention span). Have them finish 2 subjects, then take a break. 2 more, then have lunch. Schedule their HARDEST subjects FIRST. Knock them out while they are energized and fresh. Save their favorite subjects for last, even though they will naturally try to do the opposite.
2. Create a "Learning Space"
Try to create some sort of space that is free from distraction that has a "productive" feel to it. What I mean by this create a space that feels similar to what their work space would feel like at school. Make sure they have a clear table or counter with nothing on it but the supplies they need. Somewhere with good lighting (natural light if possible) makes a world of difference. You may be thinking "wait... the nice clear table with the natural lighting is where I work everyday." Well, you chose that spot for a reason. Consider switching places and your child might even be excited to use mom or dads workspace and be extra productive. If this is just not possible, the key is to limit distractions. A quite space with minimal objects around.
3. Go for a Mid-Morning Walk
After your child has been working for about 2 hours, make sure they take a break and preferably GET OUTSIDE. If you can't join them for a walk, send them to the backyard and give them an idea of something to do. Sunlight and fresh air is scientifically proven to work wonders on productivity and emotional health. And getting outside early in the day will set them up for success.
4. Set up Work-Dates
Ninety-nine out of a hundred times that I have given my students the option to work in a group rather than alone, they choose a GROUP! Kids love to work with their peers and are proven to retain information better this way. Set up Facetime dates with their classmate friends and let them complete their work together! This will not only boost moral, but provide them an accountability buddy other than you. Two minds are always better than one.
5. Keep Everything Organized!
The toughest part of Distance Learning for my students has been staying organized with their work across the board. They forget everything they need to complete, they don't remember to turn it in, they can't find where they just saw it, they forgot their password to that site, and the list goes on. Teach them how important it is to stay organized, and slowly transfer the responsibility over to them. Create folders on your browser to save all of their most used sites (Google Classroom, Khan Academy, Pearson, Kahoot, etc.) so that they are all in one place and easy to access. Create a Doc or Sheet with all usernames and passwords. Write down assignments that are due in the future so they can't forget to turn them in. Create a folders in Google Drive for each subject and make sure to give a title to every new document so you can actually locate it when you need it next.