Home-schooling hacks from real parents. (Hint: You need a schedule yesterday)
Schools may be closed, but what’s unfolding in homes across America is the furthest thing from vacation. Despite stay-at-home orders designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, most school-age children are expected to keep up with their classwork. That leaves their parents, many of whom are working from home now as well, in charge of home-schooling them, or at least making sure that they finish their assignments on time.
We asked parents from across the country about their home-schooling hacks, what it’s been like relearning the algebra they vowed to forget post-graduation and how they are remaining sane during this period of uncertainty. Below is what a dozen of them who are making it work had to say about their new reality.
Elizabeth Galvan, high school English teacher, Fishers, Ind.
Kids’ ages: 7 and 9
Home-school hack: “We made a fort with Christmas lights strung inside before our virtual learning started, so they have been excited to get in their fort and get started on work in the mornings.”
The mood in your home: “Emotional, optimistic and creative.”
Megan Gefsky, assistant general manager of a fine-dining restaurant, Studio City
Kids’ ages: 6 and 11
Home-school hack: “At 8 a.m., we do family dance parties to get our bodies moving and our brains to wake up. We have [also] subscribed to our children’s school dance enrichment teacher’s YouTube channel, which is sponsored by Fabletics.”
The mood in your home: “Tense at moments, but by and large joyful to be spending this incredible family time together.”
Crystal Toledo, stay-at-home mom, San Diego
Kids’ ages: 5, 7, 10, 13, 16; also schooling nieces and nephews 7, 14, 17
Home-school hack: “We made some STEM toy penny spinners to play around with [and we also] tried [to make] DIY play dough. ... For exercise, the kids play dodgeball in our trampoline or have a Nerf battle downstairs.”
What she recommends for other parents: “Pinterest! [There are] endless amount of ideas! Kids learning through play is fun for everyone!”
The mood in your home: “Loud, controlled chaos and full.”
CJ Johnson, branding consultant, Los Angeles
Kid’s age: 6
Home-school hack: “We meditate together and I often have her doing learning activities on her school laptop next to me.”
What he recommends for other parents: “Practice more self-care techniques like mindfulness to keep your mood and environment calm.”
The mood in your home: “Restless (at times), happy and encouraging.”
Bree DeLano, DJ/music and creative consultant, Los Angeles
Kid’s age: 11
Home-school hack: “It was important to her to involve our dog, who is a huge part of our family, so for physical education we take her for a walk and then go for a bike ride. And if the weather is funky, we head over to GoNoodle.com, which is a savior for any/every parent.”
What she recommends for other parents: “Take advantage of this time to connect and truly engage with your kids, and really evaluate their work ethic and enthusiasm to learn. We send them to school and hope and pray they are connecting with their teachers and understanding the curriculum, but now we really get to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie and how we can help navigate, and we have an opportunity to make it fun.”
The mood in your home: “Optimism, love and communication.”
Gabrielle Flowers Rader, lifestyle influencer and fitness coach, Indiana
Kids’ ages: 2 and 7
Home-school hack: “Home-schooling is a new experience for me, but I’m realizing how important it is to keep a loose schedule for everybody to follow. This allows my children to still have a bit of routine that they can depend on and isn’t too far from what they are used to at school. It also helps my husband and me by allowing us to take shifts, so that our work continues to get done.”
The mood in your home: “Playful, positive and relaxed.”
Erik Umphrey, photographer, Smyrna, Ga.
Kids’ ages: 5, 3 months and a set of infant twins; nephew: 5
Home-school hack: “The biggest hack is having a schedule. My wife totally took the lead on this and I try to help keep us on [track]. She made a poster with the schedule on it and the kids read and understand what is happening throughout the day.”
What he recommends for other parents: “A schedule, active time for the kids to burn out all their energy and allowing kids to help make some decisions about what activities we do.”
The mood in your home: “Thankful, blessed and uncertainty.”
Brandy Curry, educator at an independent K-12 school, Los Angeles
Kid’s age: 10
Home-school hacks: “We made a pact to get up and get dressed, including shoes, hair done, and makeup (for me) every morning. There is no screen/phone time restrictions at this time for anyone. If we want to [virtually chat] with friends and family in the middle of the day, we can. She eats lunch with her friends every day via FaceTime. On Day 2 of remote learning, she worked with friends for three hours; sometimes in silence and sometimes taking turns reading their assignment.”
What she recommends for other parents: “Let your child(ren) write their own daily or weekly schedule. Even if your child is in kindergarten, sit down with them and ask them how they’d like to start the day. They will surprise you.”
The mood in your home: “It changes hour to hour, [but right now it is] calm, intense and emphatic.”
Lydia Osborne, executive director of a nonprofit organization, Virginia Beach, Va.
Kids’ ages: 4, 6, 8 and 9
Home-school hack: “I organize our day around the great work left by their teachers coupled with my boys’ favorite activities. For example, to excite them with our math work we will mimic different NBA All-Star skill challenges while advancing through each skill (jump shot, slam dunk, etc.) once problems are answered correctly.”
What she recommends for other parents: “Don’t try to be an instant master of home education. Be patient with yourself and your kids. Be open to adjusted learning styles and not replicating traditional classroom settings, there is nothing conventional about this unexpected life change.”
The mood in your home: “I asked my kids what they thought the mood was (for an unbiased perspective, of course) they said; chill, loud and calm. I can rock with that.”
Tiarre Norwood, elementary school aide, Las Vegas
Kids’ ages: 5 and 11
Home-school hacks: “As most around the world, we are going with the flow. We play, we lounge, talk about COVID-19, watch press conferences and discuss possible outcomes. My kids read and pick one to two subjects/assignments daily … and they’re killing it! Some hoarded toilet paper and food, we hoarded hobbies and activities. We now have a wagon garden that the kids tend to, a mini-foosball table, a giant deck of cards, jugs and jugs of bubbles and, of course, baking supplies galore. We’re making the best of it.”
The mood in your home: “Weird, fun and anxious.”
Jason Petty, musician, and Alma Zaragoza-Petty, evaluation manager/senior college advisor, Los Angeles
Kids’ ages: 4 and 14
Home-school hacks: “A schedule was the best thing we’ve done. Putting it out front of everyone and making sure we were all clear on the times and expectations. [Also] building in time for physical activity outside, for all of us. We made that outside time mandatory. Our teen didn’t want to do it, but we make her. [We also] prioritize time [for my teen] to her to hang virtually with her friends.”
What they recommend for other parents: “We [make] sure we as a couple don’t get overwhelmed since we are a dual-income home we both have to work, so Dad gets uninterrupted work time in the morning and Mom has the kids. Then we all have lunch together, and then [switch so] Mom [can] work. ... Have a game plan and make sure that everyone gets their own space.”
The mood in your home: “Calm, joy and cautiously optimistic. We were very aware of the seriousness of this so we planned early. To be honest, between me touring full time and my wife working full time we never actually slowed down, so this has actually helped our family.”
Roland Parsons, physical education teacher and business owner, Houston
Kids’ ages: 3 and 7
Home-school hack: “Since my wife and I are educators, we try to stick to a schedule with our kiddos. [It] is actually so much fun with them. My 7-year-old is [following the work his school provided] and our 3-year-old is painting, [writing] her ABCs and [trying] to spell out words.”
The mood in your home: “Active, restful and loving.”
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