Ever since Canada’s Ministry of Education closed all public schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have been hastily swapping lesson plans with neighbours and scouring the internet for resources. But at-home teaching doesn’t have to be a stress-inducing exercise.
Just ask Lisa Marie Fletcher. Fletcher is a homeschooling mom of five kids who writes about the ins and outs of learning at home on her blog, The Canadian Homeschooler. The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) estimates that there are about 47,500 to 95,000 homeschooled children in Canada; so there’s plenty to learn from veterans like Fletcher. Here, she shares her top six tips for a successful at-home education.
1. Create a learning-friendly environment
“Don't try to recreate a classroom at home,” Fletcher states. “There's no need to invest a lot of money into buying furniture or things right now.” Instead, she recommends creating comfortable work spaces for kids, like the dining room table or living room couch.
2. Minimize distractions
It’s easy to get distracted by the beeps and pings of nearby devices. For this reason, Fletcher suggests that you “keep the TV off during school hours, phones and tablets off unless they are needed for schoolwork, and no loud music playing.” One exception: Instrumental background music, played softly, can sometimes help kids focus and create a calming environment.
3. Establish a routine… and stick with it
Although many experts recommend establishing a strict schedule, Fletcher prefers flexible routines. “A schedule tells you what to do when, according to a clock,” she says. “This tends to create a lot of pressure to complete tasks within that time frame.” In Fletcher’s opinion, routines allow parents to block off time for important activities, like math or chores, without panicking if an activity takes longer than planned.
4. Make playtime part of the school day
These are stressful times for parents and kids alike. Fortunately, short brain breaks can help relieve stress, lighten the mood, and increase focus. “Set a chunk of time aside for intentional, focused learning and the rest of the day for free exploration, play, time outside, and whatever else you want to do,” Fletcher suggests.
5. Cater to your specific child
Fletcher’s kids range from preschool to high school. To satisfy these varied learning profiles, Fletcher recommends that “if you have little ones, spend some time giving them one-on-one attention first thing in the day. That often makes them happy when you need to focus on the other kids.” When possible, try to study units as a family in a fun and interactive way, such as staging a play. Another great strategy: assign tasks that your kids can manage independently so that you’re free to focus on individual needs.
6. Recharge your batteries
Like pop quizzes and playtime, your mental health is a critical component of at-home teaching. Fletcher has a few suggestions about this: “find something special for you to do in your day, like reading, writing, walking, watching a TV show, or scrolling through Facebook - whatever gives you a little break.” Stay connected with family and friends. And don’t turn every moment into an educational opportunity. “Take the pressure off each other and just spend time together,” she says.
Above all: relax. You don’t need a degree in Education to earn a passing grade in at-home teaching. Rather, a few smart strategies, plenty of patience, and well-timed snacks will ensure your children’s continued love of learning.
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