You've probably seen the memes by now. You know, the plethora of tongue-in-cheek shareables dotting social media feeds and poking fun at all these new "homeschooling parents."
Saying things like:
"If school closures last much longer, parents are going to find a coronavirus cure before the scientists."
"Homeschool, Day 3: Trying to figure out if I can transfer a kid out of my class."
"Been homeschooling two kids for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week."
And you've got to love the ones that tout: "All these kids who've been learning Common Core math, 'bout to learn how to "Carry the One" from their new homeschool teachers."
Of course, when you're part of a Classical Christian School and you suddenly find yourself in a virtual learning environment at home, you get the pleasure of learning Latin alongside your Grammar school child, as well as all kinds of songs and chants!
All joking aside, for many of us, this is new territory. Those moms who always said there was no way they could homeschool (you know, because we're just "not called to it," right?) are now finding ourselves doing some semblance of, well, "home schooling."
And while we are so blessed here at Veritas to have fully-staffed virtual learning (shout out to our incredible teachers who are instructing our kids online every day!), we as parents do still have a big part to play in helping our kids thrive in this new environment, however long it may last.
To be sure, Veritas kids are still being fully taught by their Veritas teachers, thanks to our new online PreK-12 school. Their lessons, assignments, interaction, and more come from their teachers and classmates. But now, their classroom is at home...and, for the most part, so are you. So even though we're not actually "homeschooling," parents are helping to execute school at home.
I reached out to a good friend who has Classically homeschooled five children - three of which who are now in college - to get some tips for parents to make virtual, at-home education not only work, but soar, for your family.
I've divided the list into two parts: the first part offers a few simple, practical steps you can take, and the second part provides some mental, spiritual, and emotional guidance to help parents stay in a healthy mindset.
Practical Tips for a Successful Home School Environment
1. Get Dressed for School
Yes, I know: when you don't have to leave your house - like, ever - it is so easy to just stay in your pajamas all day. But you (and your kids) shouldn't.
Not saying your kids should wear their school uniforms (but hey, if the jumper fits...just kidding), but students should at least put regular clothing on and be ready for the day. It's amazing how the clothes we wear can affect our mindset. You want attentive, engaged students? Dress for the occasion. You want sluggish sleepyheads? Stay in those jammies.
2. Carve Out (Common) Space
I've heard this from more than one person over the years: find a place (or a few places) for school time that is located in a relatively public, "common" area of the house. The kitchen or dining room table, a nook in the family room - someplace where you as the parent can monitor, help, encourage, and just keep a watchful eye on what's happening.
When kids are up in their rooms doing school work, they actually can get more easily distracted. For older kids, it's a lot more tempting to spend your lecture time texting with a friend, or drift over to social media, when no one else is watching.
Outfit your child's school area with everything they need: devices, pencils and paper, headphones, etc., and keep it free from other clutter. You can be cooking or working quietly nearby, but still be on hand to help and check in when needed.
3. Have a Place To Put Work Away
When school takes place in a common area of the house, you want to be able to easily transition that space from school to its' other uses. You don't want to be shuffling binders and textbooks along with your dinner plates if the kitchen table is being used for school.
To make the transition from school to home life easier, give each child a crate, large tote, or other storage solution that can easily hold all of their school materials. At the end of the school day, everything gets packed back into the box or bag until the next morning. Stow the container out of the way, and viola, you've got your table back without losing your sanity or stacks of important assignments!
Mindsets and Mental Preparation for Parents
4. Be Prepared for Glitches and Tech Trouble
Technology can be a magnificent thing, and we are blessed to have so many tools at our fingertips to help up stay connected and productive even while we're apart. However, we all know that even the best programs and plans can go awry with one poor internet connection, one glitchy button, one downed server, and so on.
Be prepared for the fact that sometimes the technology just might not work. Your student won't be able to access that Zoom classroom during class time. You can't download a worksheet. Whatever the issue, as the parent, commit to yourself that you will remain calm. You won't freak out when things aren't working right. You set the tone for your student, and therefore you can ensure that tone is peaceful.
Remember, all classes are recorded, and all teachers are accessible. Take a deep breath, and just try again later.
5. Know That You CAN Do This
So many parents feel utterly ill-equipped to teach. And truly, those who are trained teachers by trade have special skill sets to engage students, manage classrooms, and create joyful, rich learning environments. That said, when you now find yourself administering virtual schooling at home with your kids, you can have confidence that you are NOT doomed to fail. In fact, you are uniquely equipped to teach your kids, and you have been teaching them since the moment they were born.
And, for you parents of Grammar/elementary aged kids, think of it this way: you ALL went through elementary school yourselves. You know this stuff. For those of you with kids at Veritas, they still have those same awesome teachers to instruct them in the energetic, passionate, ingenious ways they always have, and you don't need to feel intimidated about helping your kids with questions and problems. You've got this. You've been there. You graduated sixth grade and then some.
6. Consider Your Child's Independence Level
You'll want to think prayerfully and discern the differences and needs of each child. Some kids are more independent and self-driven than others. Some relish the chance to work through school problems alone; others need a whole lot more hand-holding. Consider your child's age and grade level, and how much responsibility you can or should reasonably give him or her. Will you need to force them to log into class at the appropriate time, or have them face the consequences when they get distracted or sleep in?
Either way, you'll want to set clear expectations for your child, laying out what you will do to help them succeed and get through all their classes and assignments, and what you expect them to do in taking initiative. This can be done for the littlest kindergartner to the nearly-graduated senior. Talk to them about what you expect, and what the natural consequences will be if they don't hold up their end. But give grace, too, knowing that some kids (and yours might be one) will simply need more guidance and nudging than others. And that's okay.
7. Put On Your Spiritual Armor
Some of you who have recently embarked on this virtual schooling journey may have already caught onto something uncanny and unsettling. Here's the truth that my longtime homeschooling friend laid out: any area of struggle that you already have with your child will be magnified in this endeavor.
Prepare your heart and pray hard over and against this, for it is a battle that ultimately must be fought in the spiritual realm. Both your child's and your own natural bent toward certain sins and annoyances can easily be exacerbated when you're both walking this sometimes arduous school journey together - in the same house - day after day. And to be sure, you will both grow immensely through it as well.
Pray over your child daily, calling out the strengths and the goodness you see in them. When you feel the frustrations with the "same old struggles" rising up, remind yourself to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:5)
When you're ready to snap at your child, remember that Proverbs 15:1 tells us "a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Or, as I always like to tell myself: "Be the grown up here.")
And above all, sink your roots deep into Christ, because He says that apart from Him we can do nothing, but when we abide in Him we will bear much fruit. That fruit, of course, which we so desperately need, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Amen to that.
So, put on your spiritual armor, abide deeply in Christ, and pray fervently that the enemy will not allow the fleshly desires to triumph.
8. Have Fun Learning With Your Child!
This is a unique opportunity for you to experience something truly great with your child, so enjoy it! Take advantage of the fact that you can actually learn together for this season. You may find that you enjoy their subjects just as much as they do!
Read the Omnibus books they're studying so you can talk together about them. Listen in on your child's science lesson, be fascinated by God's design and creation, and work on the experiments together with joy. And, Veritas parents, by all means: go ALL IN on those history, grammar, and geography songs! Let your child teach you the words and motions so you can have a family "history song dance party.".
Your kids have a blast learning when they're at school. We see it every day in the classrooms - vibrant discussions, intense concentration, and sometimes raucous laughter. Yes, it's a different environment at home, without the constant classmate interaction and teachers right there in the mix at all times. But the joy in learning is still planted deeply and ever present...so now is your chance to catch it, too!
Are you looking for an opportunity for your child to experience a solid, engaging, joyful education experience...even in the midst of physical school shutdowns? Or are you considering school options for next year that will instill a lifelong love of learning and powerful critical thinking skills to equip your child for success as they grow?
We invite you to check out Veritas Academy! Whether you sit in on some of our current online classes (we're fully operational as an online school during this COVID-19 shutdown), or you take a virtual tour with our Admissions Director Jill Trimbath and teachers, we welcome you to get to know Veritas and let us help cultivate your child into a loving, serving, thinking student equipped for Christ's calling on their life.