Keep kids happy and motivated to learn during temporary homeschooling. Parents and teachers share their tips and tricks for what really works best.
Temporary Homeschooling: Tips and Tricks to Motivate
Coronavirus school closures and lockdowns have changed the environment of learning for all of us. Many of us are becoming teachers in our own homes. How to keep your kids motivated during temporary homeschooling can be challenging.
I am actually a certified secondary teacher, I didn’t spend a lot of time in a traditional classroom, but I have found there are many different tactics that can work well with keeping your children motivated at home and finding a routine to work for you.
After receiving a long list of questions that many of you are dealing with I decided to open up a Q&A to some parents and teachers to get their insights. There are so many tips and tricks that you will need to check out these other two additional posts: Creating schedules for homeschooled kids and Rewards and breaks: How to homeschool your kids. Let’s get started with motivation.
How can I as a parent create an environment that feels like school for them?
One thing I know for sure is that no home, child, or parent is a one size fits all. Temporary homeschooling is not going to look the same for everyone. Let’s see what our other parents and teachers think about this topic.
Meagan says, “Do what works best!”
“I am a huge proponent of school at home DOES NOT have to or even should feel like school in a classroom. Do what works best! I cannot stress that enough! Your version of homeschool does not have to look like your best friends, sister in laws, or the Karen on your elementary school. Some days we sit on the floor picnic style and tackle the day. Some days we sit together at the kitchen table. And on the hard days the kids take a different room and I cry in the kitchen.” ~Meagan
Tristan says, “Don’t”
“Don’t! Create a routine with learning times and play times and chore times.” ~Tristan
Nicole says, “set aside a place”
“Your home needs to be both home and school. Be sure to set aside a place where it is possible for them to complete their work, make sure you have supplies and things that are conducive for learning. Some students like to sit at a desk or table, others like to sit on a couch or in a comfy chair, some students need it to be super quiet others like to listen to classical music in the background. As you work with your child let them be a part of the conversation— you’d be surprised how many kids know what they need to help them learn best.” ~Nicole
Jennie says, “I specifically don’t want my homeschool to feel like public school“
I don’t know if I can answer them because I specifically don’t want my homeschool to feel like public school. But if you plan to send your kids back to public school, you might want that consistency in which case I’d say a written schedule and a desk to sit at.” ~Jennie
Jessica says, “set up individual desk spaces“
“We have set up individual desk spaces (in separate rooms) for each child, their space includes all of the things they would need throughout their school day (pencils, papers, books, etc)” ~Jessica
Rachel says, “aim should be a calm, quiet learning space“
“Well, unfortunately we can’t create a complete school like environment for them. They are in their home with all their comforts, toys, family and belongings. In a classroom they don’t “own” anything. That is a great learning space because it isn’t as familiar and they have no home distractions. Children are usually much better behaved in an unfamiliar environment.
However making home feel like school is less necessary then making the time and space feel more condusive to learning. For instance, choose a room in your home free from lots of distractions. We’ve chosen our dining room. There is very little in the room to pull away from learning, no TVs, no toys, no snacks, no gaming consoles. Then make that time in the day more routine. Start with math, reading then writing (spelling, grammar). Then move on to science, history, art etc. Have the room quiet and calm. Don’t vacuum, listen to loud music or have the TV blaring in the other room. Try to stagger computer learning for the kids, then you can aid who needs help on a more individual basis. Invite learning. Give them their own place to store their school books, have school supplies accessible to them. Have a list of their schedule visible for them.
Your aim should be a calm, quiet learning space free from distractions.” ~Rachel
How can I keep my child focus with temporary homeschooling
They are kids trying to learn in their home full of all the fun things they love. I suggest keeping your expectations in check and allowing for flexibility is key for sanity. Here are some great answers to to check out:
Meagan says, “use attention grabbers“
“Focus is a HUGE struggle for us. Honestly we are still figuring that one out. Haha. I use attention grabbers, like “Hocus Pocus… everybody focus” and that seems to help. I explain that what we are doing is important and if we can’t focus we will have to start all over again.” ~Meagan
Nicole says, “there is a “know that there is an “end in sight”
“It will be easier for kids to focus if they know that there is an “end in sight“. If you structure your temporary homeschooling day so that they know when they can do the other preferred activities, that will help keep them focused. Every child is different and as you work with your child you’ll figure out what works best for them. Timers are really great for all activities that require focusing.”~Nicole
Tristan Says, “Start the Day with PE Outside”
“Start the day with PE outside. When kids want video games: make it the rule that no screens happen until 3pm, and if school isn’t done by 3pm, no screens happen that day. I like 15 to 20 minute breaks.” ~Tristan
Rachel says, “It’s a must we all work together to get homeschooling done.“
“This is so hard. Being home with all their fun things and having to do school is not something they are used to. And to top it off, we can’t go anywhere, see friends, or family, burn off energy at a park, or explore museums, libraries or any other educational visits. Their entire life is in that home, school time and play time.
I’m very upfront with my kids. This has been hard for me too. It’s hard to have so many things that distract me, housework, laundry, meal prep, my own hobbies, etc. I’ve had to learn to control my mindset and set aside time for school and time to get my list done. It’s a must we all work together to get homeschooling done. We’ve negotiated on schedules, I’ve given a little, they’ve given a little. We’ve talked about how in this Corona world we aren’t in school, but in normal world we would be in school and those school days are long plus we have homework. So doing school from home actually gives us more free time.” ~Rachel
Should I just let them learn on their own for temporary homeschooling?
Definitely depends on the age and the individual child. If I left my first grader to do his own work, he may not get very far. If you have teenagers, they will most likely do well with more of a hands off approach. Let’s see what our other parents and teachers are saying.
Tristan says, “check in daily“
“In high school, sure, but check in daily. Younger kids need to check in after each subject they do independently, and they need you to work with them on subjects they don’t love or ones they struggle in.” Tristan
Meagan says, “one bad day doesn’t mean you are failing“
“This season of life is HARD! So hard. Your kids have been taken from their norm and thrown into something they’ve never done…
They are away from their friends, their teachers they have learned to trust and love, and they have to spend ALL DAY with siblings and a Mom with coffee breath, bags under her eyes and the same pair of leggings from yesterday. This is not normal for most of the world and that means there is no right way to do it! I am even more grateful now for our decision to homeschool as it is one less thing we are trying to navigate right now. Give yourself and your little humans some grace. Some days are going to be awesome, like you are totes going to kill it. Other days are going to suck, like dropping your Churro at Disneyland on your last day as you leave the park.
But one bad day doesn’t mean you are failing. We’ve been at this for a while and I still struggle to find what works best. Anyways, hope that helps!” ~Meagan
Brittny says, “it depends on the activity“
“At our house we have let them do their own learning and their have been times where I have to sit down with them, it depends on the activity. I would say that if they can do one or two activity’s or assignments on their own it’s great for them, they need to know how to work independently and ask for help when they need it. On the flip side this is a different way of learning for everyone so sometimes they need us there to sit with them and walk them through a new process or skill they are working on. For example my teenage does his zoom meetings tells me what he needs to do and works in it and when he needs help he will ask. My 1st grader can do his computer math/reading mostly in his own, when it comes time to do science, writing and some of his reading from physical books I sit with him and guide him through it.” ~Brittny
Nicole says, “you do you what you can to interact“
“Although some kids are super independent and can do their work on their own, all of our kids need more personal interaction than ever. So even if they don’t need you, make sure you do you what you can to interact with their academics. It will help them feel less alone and they’ll know that you value what they are doing.
Then alternate between academics with either a physical or mental break all daylong children usually focus better in the morning so you will want to deal with the more difficult subjects towards the first of the day and not leave them for the afternoon.” ~Nicole
Jennie says, “Probably not“
“Probably not… because they are accustomed to a traditional school setting and they might not like the freedom. It could be potentially very overwhelming for parents and students. If you plan to stick to homeschool and are interested in unschooling or child-led learning… then you might need a deschooling time to break those traditional school habits. But if you plan to stick to a traditional school, I’d say you will want to guide the learning but definitely leave some room for rabbit trails (that’s the best part of homeschooling when your kid asks a question you can’t answer so you research and you both learn!!)” Jennie
Jessica says, “learn to work independently“
“I think it is important for them to learn to work independently. If they are getting instruction time from their teachers online each day, I do think that you can step back and just monitor that things are being finished.” ~Jessica
Rachel says, “parents need to be more involved with the learning“
“I personally think parents need to be more involved with the learning. They are learning in a very different way then they were in a classroom. While 60% of the childhood population will do ok with the new type of online learning. There are going to be few kids that even thrived in a school environment that start to struggle. It is a lot of work in a different way. But if you can spend a few minutes a day just monitoring how it’s going, helping them organize what needs to be done and be available for questions, you will see you have a better grasp on what’s happening, where they need help and make sure it is all getting finished. Then when you notice a discrepancy in what they should know and what they do know, you can help correct it.
If your child is learning to read you need to be a little more hands on. You should be making sure you are reading with them daily, practicing their vowel sounds or letter practice. They need guidance and constant supervision to help aid in the phonetics of learning to read.” ~Rachel
Thank you to all of the parents/teachers who contributed to this article! Meagan Barrow, Rachel Bott, Nicole Jones, Jennie Rippey, Jessica Brock, Tristan Rowlee, and Brittny Lopez.
Time Out For Us
Looking for more ways to connect with your child and grow your personal relationship? Check out Time For Us, a five-ten minutes a week membership that invites creativity, connection, and love. Our kids will forget the day to day things they learned this time but they will most certainly remember how they felt. Focus on love and taking it a day at a time and you’ll be just fine.