As a parent and an educator, one of the hardest things about a dramatic change in our daily living is the lack of structure and predictability. When the news rolled in from our home school district that schools would be closed for the next two weeks, I began to mentally prioritize what might be helpful for my own children amidst this new reality.
My husband and I briefly sat down to outline our script for the kids, shared our “right now” needs, and promised each other to be a united team in guiding our family through the days ahead. We then sat down and explained a few essentials to our two older children, ages ten and nine, and encouraged Tess and Nathan to ask questions. Naturally, most of their questions were around how they might miss friends or recreational activities. These were relatively simple to address. Afterall, there is Facetime, Google Hangout and Skype.
These initial conversations were necessary and contributed to a sense of calm. But they didn’t quite get at the larger issue I feared could derail all of our best intentions around learning from home. How could we all make sure that there was something we could count on, at least from Monday through Friday, in the coming weeks?
What our family did next added both some joy and direction to the unknown. I sat down at the kitchen table with our children and asked: “How would you like your learning to go in the next few weeks?” From this conversation, we gathered our thinking on a notebook page and added to each other’s ideas and interests. Some ideas were activities while others were topic based.
Next, we brought up an old oversized white board from the basement and decided on the length of our learning/working blocks. We all agreed that thirty minutes was a good start that we’d revisit if needed. I can imagine there will be days when I’m the home learning point person; then there will be days when I continue my consulting work, either in person or virtually. On my work days, our childcare can easily follow the outlined schedule and support Tess and Nathan as needed. The schedule includes variety, with times set aside for specific activities, such as “packet time” when they’ll work on their district provided materials or “library” when they’ll read independently. Each night, we’ll decide what areas need adjusting and what might be added or removed based on our interests and the possibilities outlined in our initial family brainstorm.
Our last step was to think about the kinds of books, activities and online experiences that might help us with our learning. We added some books to our Amazon shopping cart and started online folders, where Tess and Nathan can compile links, photos, readings and more as they settle into a home learning rhythm. For next week, Tess will be exploring an author study of Jacqueline Woodson, and Nathan will be learning about all things World War I and II. These are their self selected focuses that will drive their reading and writing work.
Creating clear steps helps our family feel more excited and certain of what is to come in the weeks ahead. In designing our upcoming home learning with an eye on choice and interest, we know we are doing more than simply passing the time until school re-opens. Together, we took the time to decide how we want our learning to look and feel. These small steps have ushered in some much needed order, along with smiles. Happy learning, one and all!