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In these uncertain times of Covid and quarantine, many families are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory with online or at-home schooling. As a homeschooler for the past ten years, I am no stranger to the challenges of learning at home. Whether you have made the switch to homeschooling or your child will be learning remotely through public school, you may find yourself and your child struggling with the change.
The best advice I can give you is to put yourself in your child’s place. When you are working, would you want to sit at a desk in a hard chair and work for hours without a break? Or would you rather sit in a comfortable, calming place with your favorite drink and take plenty of breaks to stretch and de-stress? Help your children through this transition by creating a learning zone in the home that works for them.
Your child does not need to sit at a desk to learn! Try a tent set up in the living room decorated with fairy lights. Or a corner in the dining room layered with comfortable cushions and soft throws. My son prefers to sprawl out on the floor while my daughter likes to snuggle with me on the couch while she learns. If your child has sensory issues, autism or ADHD, try letting them sit on a balance ball or swing in a hammock chair or an organic cotton hanging crow’s nest. Or maybe even let them learn outside in a cozy nook on the deck or in a tent in the yard. Choose eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton if you can.
A lot of kids learn best if allowed to doodle or color while listening. Keep some colored pens or pencils and blank paper on hand while your child is watching their virtual class. Encourage them to sketch a picture related to the subject matter – a picture of a pyramid while learning about Ancient Egypt or a doodle of their own constellation while learning about astronomy. You can also give them a coloring book or print out coloring pages – there are a lot of free options if you just search online for “free coloring pages” and whatever subject matter you want.
Make sure your child keeps hydrated. If kids are dehydrated, they will suffer physically and mentally. If your child is acting moody or lethargic or is unable to focus, ask yourself whether she has been drinking enough water. One way to make sure you and your child stay hydrated is to fill a large bottle with water each morning and keep it close by throughout the day. Try to avoid plastic bottles because they can leach unsafe chemicals into the water. I recommend something like the Hydro Cell 40-ounce stainless steel water bottle. I like that it has a wide mouth, making it easy to clean. And it is dishwasher safe.
Another way to encourage your child to keep hydrated is to try something like hot or iced tea or infused water. My kids like to pick fresh mint or lemon verbena from the garden and put it in their water bottles the night before. They also love things like apple cinnamon hot tea or Honeybush, Mandarin & Orange iced tea. Flavored sparkling water is another fun option.
Provide your child with access to healthy snacks. Nothing leads to grumpiness and lack of focus quicker than hunger. And if you are trying to satisfy that hunger with sugar and carbohydrates, then the problem will just get worse. My daughter suffers from extreme hangriness (angry hunger). So I try to keep healthy, easy-to-access snacks available for her while she is learning. When I have my act together, I will prepare a platter of chopped fruits and vegetables along with some nuts and crackers that my kids can munch on throughout the day. For the other 364 days of the year, I keep easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables, like apples, bananas and carrots, in the fridge. If your child has a favorite snack, reserve this for the most difficult subjects or for the most-stressful times of the day. I have used brownies and cookies many times to motivate my kids though a difficult topic.
Finally, schedule frequent breaks for your child, especially if they are doing most of their learning online. Not only should they take a break from staring at a screen, but they should be moving their bodies around. Lead your kids in a round of jumping jacks. Do 10 minutes of yoga. Have them run loops around the house or jump on a trampoline. Stream a kids exercise video.
And most of all, remember, you can do this. Jumping into at-home learning can feel stressful and overwhelming, but try to see it as an opportunity to more fully experience this moment in your child’s life.
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