A lot of people are turning to homeschooling resources these days and not just those who are homeschooling. Large swaths of the country’s student population have been forced to school virtually or participate in some kind of hybrid program which puts them in a brick and mortar school some days and at their dining room table other days. While schooling at home or virtually is not the same as homeschooling, there is some great crossover. If you are schooling at home in any fashion, try some of these ideas and your schooling is more likely to be a home run.
Home Room: Schedule yourself in with your student like a homeroom
If your student is required to school at home some of the time or all of the time, you may not be delivering the material or grading it, but that doesn’t mean you are not an important part of your student’s “staff.” Set up a “homeroom” style time when you can check in with your student, stay abreast of what is going on and provide some assistance. Schedule it in before school starts or at the end of the day but make it a regular part of your routine.
Home Phone: Create and maintain a connection with your school/staff
Homeschoolers typically have intimate knowledge of every iota of school because they are designing and directing them all, but as parent of a virtual schooler you are not the primary teacher and so not privy to the same level of detail. Add to the challenge there are fewer opportunities to connect face to face with your child’s teacher, and it is clear it will take a little extra effort to initiate and maintain effective relationships this year. The key is to establish a rapport before there’s a problem so take time early in the year to introduce yourself or even better, send along a compliment. Later when there is a more difficult situation, you will have already created some positive vibes and familiarity. Even homeschool families often farm out certain subjects to others. We should all be establishing and maintaining connection to those who influence our children.
Home Court: It may not be your curriculum, but it is your environment
Creating a positive learning environment at home can be as simple as designating space to work and space to play. You may want to provide resources like a desk, a proper chair, a white board or a screen larger than your laptop to view virtual school or recorded lessons. Consider lighting, bathroom access and proximity to distractions as well. Save most of the house for non-school time. There may even be benefit to having a “school” space and a “homework” space both separate from the majority of the “home” space.
Home Economics: open your student’s eyes to an old subject
In a typical school schedule, your student may be away from the house for 40 or more hours per week. A lot of home life goes unobserved by a full-time student at a brick and mortar school. The refrigerator seems to magically refill. Trash disappears and clean clothes reappear. Dinner preparations, mail sorting and a host of other common adult activities often happen out of sight of students. Since we are developing future adults, however, you might capitalize on the opportunity to engage your student in some home economics. Perhaps it is time for them to learn their way around the kitchen, take on some chores they would not normally be around to do and appreciate the daily task juggling a parent must master. Bring them into the process and give them some responsibility to maintain the home.
Home inspection: protect your student by keeping an eye on your household
Virtual schooling opens up some opportunity for mischief, privacy issues and distraction. These issues can be especially challenging for parents who are working outside the home most of the school day. Here are a few strategies to consider.
- Be intentional about what others can see. Online platforms give others access to your home. Consider what the rest of the class or teachers will see when interacting with your student. There have already been stories in the news about issues with things in the background of a zoom meeting. You may also wish to shield personal information, family activities, valuables and perhaps even whereabouts. Select as non-descript a background as possible to avoid prying eyes.
- Spot check rooms and internet usage. If it’s in your house or happening in your house, it’s your responsibility. With a lot of extra time at home, there may be temptation to abuse online access or fill time with activities of which you would disapprove. There are a number of resources out there which can help you monitor the house and if your child knows your plan and intentions, they are likely to respect the process.
- Don’t hesitate to listen in, observe for a few moments or look over a shoulder. Awareness not policing is the goal. You can explain to your student how interested you are in what is going on and your sincere desire to support and protect them. Set up your camera view so that you can access the room without being seen. You can drop off some clean laundry and hear a few seconds of what is going on in class. You can deliver a snack and get the same benefit. Don’t hesitate to sit in on a class if there are some challenges. You don’t have to be in view to gather a lot of information which you could use to support your student.
Just because your school is taking the responsibility to provide curriculum and instruction doesn’t mean schooling at home is the same as sending your child to school. Schooling at home, like homeschooling, is its own category of education with unique opportunities and challenges. There are undoubtedly opportunities to learn in both directions. Learn and share, but don’t assume things will take care of themselves. It is your home after all.
Nathan Manley is a certified teacher and coach with a masters degree in education. He has taught multiple subjects, every age group and from Jamaica to California. Between his three children, his family has experience with public school, private school, charter schools, hybrid programs and full time homeschool. He believes music and film produced after 1989 is “meh.”