Strategies to Work Effectively at Home During School Closure

A project-centered approach.

Posted Mar 26, 2020

Barbara Klein
Source: Barbara Klein

Parents and children are faced with a new and complicated challenge of developing homeschooling and online learning as this is now the only option for educating their children. Schools are closed at all grade levels. Parents are now substitute teachers. Children’s friendships are nurtured online through established chats that the schools set up for their students. Extra curriculum is also online and based on the student’s interests or family projects organized by parents.

As an educational consultant with expertise in gifted kids and high-achieving children, I have been asked (on the phone or on video conferences) by parents about the most effective way to work with their children at home during the coronavirus health crisis. Obviously, children and their parents will have to learn to work together in a new and different way. Mom and dad have become teachers who need to make sure that their children are able to learn via the internet and through everyday experiences that teach reading, mathematics, computers, art, and science. Social skills will be developed in the family setting or through interactions online.

This new parent-child relationship understandably can be hard and frustrating. At first, keep in mind that the frustration you will experience is totally normal and predictable for both you and your child and all of the other family members. Establish some basic rules for your child/student and for yourself. Give your child input on what he or she might expect or encounter. Try to react calmly to small and large bumps on this new journey. Try to figure out what type of learner your child is and the learning tricks that work for your child. In my personal experience, getting discouraged will not help this new way of parent-child teaching and learning “emerge into reality” (come to fruition) in a positive way. Do not give up even if you are ready to pull your hair out or send your children to grandma’s house. Actually, keeping kids separate from older adults is necessary and certainly not a good idea given grandparents’ susceptibility to coming down with the virus.

Frustration in home-schooling and online learning is often lessened when there are rules and structure to each and every day. Of course, fun is also an important part of learning. Activities that are fun and educational will make learning exciting and make rote learning more bearable. But do not give up on what your child/student does not want to do. Add some exercise to every day and try to keep a positive attitude. Students do better when they are encouraged and praised and their motivation is increased. Negativity has the opposite effect and motivates students to give up. When something goes wrong, develop natural consequences that will make sense to your child and that reflect the seriousness of the issue that is being hopefully corrected.

Look at the bright side of this drastic change in your home life. There is a silver lining. Your child will develop a more realistic and practical attachment to you. The following school problems will be eliminated.

  1. Your sons and daughters will no longer be exposed to bullying from other children in their classes.
  2. The stress and pressure of getting everybody out of the house and on the road with their lunch and homework will be removed.
  3. Dealing with other know-it-all parents will no longer be on your radar screen.
  4. Getting notes at home from teachers about what went wrong will be eliminated.

On a more psychological and philosophical note,

  1. All children need to have their thoughts and feelings acknowledged, which is hard to accomplish in a large classroom with a boring standardized curriculum.
  2. Children learn best by doing. Now is your opportunity to present interesting and challenging school work that inspires them to explore and discover and to learn.
  3. You can make time to understand more deeply what your child is interested in learning and present material that will accelerate their thinking.
  4. You can also observe his or her learning style and try to work in that style. In other words, what helps when your child is frustrated about learning new things? What can you do to help your son or daughter understand consequences for misbehavior, including not listening and not following directions? What are the rewards that motivate your particular child? Find motivators and use them.

In conclusion, there are unstated and misunderstood rewards for the school closure emergency. If parents and children can see the advantage of this health crisis, we as a community will be able to find new methods to educate our children. Parents can be extraordinary teachers if given the chance.