Ways to Ace At-Home Schooling: A Guide for Parents and Kids

Parents: I am about to help you out. A LOT.

I know social distancing and a quarantine lifestyle is hard on everyone, for one reason or another. But parents, you’ve got a big job on your hands. If you’ve got kids in school, you are now taking over as their full-time, at-home teacher. Phew. I know, it’s a lot.

With you on my mind, I reached out to SIX amazing people — former, current, and future teachers — who graciously offered to share their insight with all of you, providing immensely valuable expertise on how to navigate this unprecedented time in home education.

This guide is chock-full of of their wisdom and teeming with tips, resources, and encouragement, so you can feel at peace (and confident) in your new situation.

Whether you’re a homeschool expert or a newbie finding yourself suddenly thrown into the intimidating role of teacher, insights from these six teachers will enable you to have meaningful, memorable, (and painless) learning experiences with your family.

What tips and tricks can help make at-home schooling more manageable for parents?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

Structure and routines are the basis to help both the parents and the children. Establish some rules and routines individually with each child, let them participate in establishing those rules, and come to a compromise.

Fixed hours for home-schooling, maybe even mirroring the same hours as in school.

Take a good look into your children’s course books, look at the topics they have already completed and what is next to come. (In German course books the first few pages are dedicated to a kind of syllabus that the grade has to go through, all the topics as well as a short summary of their content/grammar/etc. are listed there. Maybe there is something similar in your course books as well. Personally, I think those pages really help get a grip of all the stuff that’s important in each grade.)

Try to have as much fun as you can while still being strict enough. There’s no fundamental ‘recipe’ to this; you have to get to know your children, their learning and studying behaviors and routines, and adapt to each child individually.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

In my experience working with children, most students THRIVE on structure and established routines. When they know what to expect from their teachers and what’s expected of them, everything just runs more smoothly.

Any elementary teacher will tell you that the first month of school is always the most exhausting, not because you’re teaching complicated content but because you’re trying to establish classroom routines and counteract adverse behaviors. It’s tempting to jump head-first into instruction, but if those routines aren’t established first, it’s going to be an uphill battle the entire time. Don’t worry about losing a few days of content to establish a structure to your day that works for your family; in the end it will be so much less stressful for you all. 

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Have a schedule. Write down what needs to be done, but have your student finish it in the order they want to finish it. Don’t argue, let them do what work works best for them.

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

Don’t be afraid to do what is best for you! Every family is different and every situation is different. Form a schedule that works best for your family, and try your very best to stick to that schedule. Yet, know that these are uncertain times and it is okay if students/children need some extra love during this time. 

After a certain time, try and stop school for the day. Children’s minds need to rest and they need to just have fun. Make sure to have fun as a family. I know when it is “mom” or “dad” teaching it can be frustrating, so make sure to have fun rewarding experiences together, too. 

When you are having your “homeschooling” time, try and avoid distractions. Every student is different, some do well listening to music, some need silence. Overall, make it a place where they can easily learn. 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

This is a challenging time for everyone! I do believe that students and kids thrive off of normalcy and so that is why there as been a push for students to still learn at home.

In addition, I do also recognize that taking on this role of homeschooling is completely overwhelming! There’s technology to learn and going over concepts that you might not be familiar with. One tip I have is to remain in contact with the teacher. Most teachers will be checking their email very frequently and it brings us so much joy we we know that you are trying to help your child learn during this time!

Another trick could be to break up the day to include other things besides school time. It can be very overwhelming for kids to try to complete all of their school tasks in one time frame. You can outline a loose schedule that includes going for a walk, art, quiet time, reading time, school time and family time. A routine can be helpful but as parents we shouldn’t feel defeated if one day we don’t follow the schedule.

What resources are available to help families?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

There are so many blogs or internet sites out there that provide material for the classroom as well as for individual and independent learning, and can also really help adults get into or revise the curriculum and topics.

And most of the class teachers are happy to help if you’ve got any specific questions, or you can try a video call session with other parents and children to talk about school stuff and maybe even try to do homework together. This way the children as well as the parents can support each other.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

Edu Tech is in its PRIME right now. There is so much amazing content out there for families to access that can support their child’s education. My favorite literacy resources are Epic!, NewsELA, Readworks and NoRedInk. Epic! is an online library that has tons of children’s books. The first 30 days are free for parents and then it’s $7.99/month after that. Accounts are free for educators so you can also ask your child’s teacher if they could set up an account and share the link with their students.

NewsELA is generally more appropriate for children grades 3 and up. NewsELA does a fabulous job posting regular news articles that cover a variety of current topics and subjects. Each article is available at multiple lexile levels so you can adjust the content to fit your child’s reading level. Readworks also has articles across subject areas that are published at a variety of reading levels. These articles include vocabulary sections and comprehension questions at the end.

NoRedInk is a website for practicing grammar skills. You can set up lessons to target particular skills with sentences that include characters from your child’s favorite literary and video content. Some of their lessons are only available through a paid subscription but they’ve expanded their offerings in light of the pandemic.

For free math resources I like Prodigy, Khan Academy and CK-12. Prodigy provides math practice for students in grades 1-8. My elementary students loved it because it’s designed to play like a video game with bosses and levels to beat! I love it because you can create assignments based on specific math standards to address students’ individual needs.

For students of all ages Khan Academy is amazing. It includes instructional math videos and short knowledge checks so your child can learn new content and then check their mastery. They also have similar instructional videos for social studies, science and grammar! CK-12 provides online access to textbooks in a variety of subjects. Their activities are most detailed for math subjects with practice activities embedded but they are adding to their science and social studies resources by embedding relevant videos and including extension learning activities. 

If you’re looking for lower tech stuff, search for printable math and reading games on the website Teachers Pay Teachers or from former teacher bloggers like The Measured Mom and This Reading Mama. No printer? You can always just pull out an old deck of cards and use it to practice math facts or create your own math games!

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Join the teacher’s online presence, like Remind or Dojo. They put a lot on there that they need you to know, and the more they have the easier it is for them and they don’t have to do a million things trying to get ahold of every parent. It will also help you because chances are the teacher is looking at one more than the other, so if you have an urgent question, they may answer faster on one platform than the other.

So resources –  xtramath.org, prodigygame.com — these are some extra math activities that their students may enjoy. Nitrotype also is super fun. Try to get the teachers on Google Classroom, it is the best resource. I can watch my students work, and also I can have quick conversations with them.

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

A lot of websites that we used for school unfortunately are subscriptions that were paid for by the county. However, A lot of those websites also have free trials that you can use for a week or two. Aside from those websites, there are also a lot of other websites that are useful for educating kids. 

Teachers Pay Teachers is the website I used the most in my teaching. This is a website where teachers can sell the lesson plans/activities they have created. Luckily, there is an extensive free section. Just type in something you’re looking for, look on the left menu and scroll down until you see “prices”, then click on free. 

Pinterest: There are so many wonderful resources on Pinterest for parents and teachers alike. 

National Gallery of Art for Kids. This website offers an entertaining and informative introduction to art and art history. 

Scratch. This website allows you to program your own interactive stories, games, and animations.

National Geographic Kids. Fun games and online videos from National Geographic geared towards kids.

Code Academy. Kids can learn how to code on this fun website.

Khan Academy. On the Khan Academy website, children can practice sequential math and science skills in a fun and interactive way. 

Scholastic. This website has great games and learning resources broken into age levels. There is also a great section for parents and teachers with some great learning resources. 

Squiggle Park: This is a comprehensive list of games that are effective in building mastery of foundational reading skills through practice and play. 

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

There are SO many resources out there. Sometimes it overwhelms me to be honest. Especially right now, companies are being super generous and offering deals or free items during this time.

These are some of my favorite resources:    

Audible. (Free subscription for students right now!) Probably because I am an English teacher, but this is a great way to read new books, especially while libraries are closed!    

Newsela.com. This has MILLIONS of articles about a variety of topics. I use it a lot in my class, but is a way students can gather true informative news/information. I know they also have a deal going on right now, but I love using this source in my classroom!

The App: Breathe. I LOVE meditation. I do it with my students (though some laugh) but most of them love it. It helps calm their mind, especially kiddos who struggle with anxiety, depression, etc. There is a free version that gives you a myriad of meditations to listen to. 

Storyline. For younger kiddos, this is a website of famous people reading beloved children’s books. 

GoNoodle. It is a website designed for younger students to get up and move. They have different ways to get out energy such as dance moves and Zumba challenges all designed for kids. 

YouTube. Sounds cliche, but there are so many resources on there! Especially if you need to help your student with Math, there are videos for EVERYTHING. They also have free videos for kids doing exercises or yoga, more meditation sounds, TedTalks for kids. It really is a one stop shop. Obviously, parents need to make sure control settings are on if their students are searching, but if parents are needing instructions for topics it is a great source. 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

There are so many resources available and many of them require technology. Students may be able to check out laptops from their school so that they can have access to that technology. 

There are so many websites that can help your child learn material: Khan Academy is a VERY popular resource that includes so many topics.

You can also use YouTube to find educational channels to help you and your child learn something new! Many schools have resources available on their school or district website so be sure to check that out.

Many schools are using platforms like Google Classroom and if you aren’t sure on how to use it, there are many tutorials on Google (haha) and you can always reach out to your child’s teacher. Another huge resource could be other parents who are trying to learn similar information. Reach out to your childs’ friends’ parents and see if you can get help. Furthermore,  start a group chat for moral support for all of those math lessons that are taught in ways you did not learn! 

What physical and mental habits help kids have a better experience with learning at home?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

Try to follow a strict routine/structure that you stick to every weekday. Let them take the weekends ‘off’ just as they normally would in everyday school life.

Visualize your established schedule or lesson plan as well as the topics and content you need to work on — maybe some kind of magnets on the fridge, flash cards with pictures, written structure on a chalkboard/poster hung on the wall — depending on the grade your child is in and what works best for you.

Let them have breaks: drink something, maybe have a little healthy snack and let them free their mind for a little bit (running around in the garden/park, get in some fresh air by opening windows).

Don’t stress your children too much, but set a specific amount of work you want to get done each day and visualize this.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

Any elementary teacher will tell you that the winter months of school are the worst because kids don’t have the opportunity to go outside for recess and run off their energy. Take advantage of the spring weather and spend time as a family outside! If it’s raining or the kids just need a quick break, try GoNoodle! It’s a wonderful resource for fun videos that get kids moving and thinking! Pro-tip — if your kids love a particular video from Youtube, you can add it to your GoNoodle videos using the “Added from Youtube” channel. It eliminates ads and keeps all your videos in one place! 

In addition to high energy activities, GoNoodle also offers a number of “mindfulness” videos, like yoga and guided breathing. These may be helpful for getting in the right mindset for classwork each day or for dealing with stress.

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Breaks. All students need breaks. This could be a run around the room. A GoNoodle! break, a recess break. Take them outside to some fresh air — they need it. They also need small rewards. Give them a skittle every time they are quietly working. You may think that would never work, but it does. You will be amazed at how much more work you will get out of a child for a small reward.

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

Children’s attention spans are not very big, as we all know. A good rule of thumb is to count one minute for every year they’ve been alive to find out about how long their attention span is. For example, a 6-year-old will have about a 6-minute attention span before they start getting bored; this applies mostly to instruction time.

To help maximize the amount of learning time for children, teachers employ the use of “brain breaks.” These are pauses in the learning when you can tell the children have zoned out or are getting restless. There are many different activities that you can do. Some of my favorite brain breaks are movement based. Gonoodle.com, “cosmic kids yoga” videos (YouTube), and “Just Dance” videos (YouTube) were a hit with my students.

If, however, you want an even simpler brain break, easy P.E warmups (jumping jacks, stretching, etc.), Simon Says, and singing a song are also good options. 

Another habit that helped me in teaching was giving students choice. This allows them to feel in control of their learning while allowing you to teach them. A good way to do this in the home is to let your child pick where they want to do their schoolwork. You can also let them choose which subject they would like to do first. Something else I’ve found that helps students is posting a schedule. That way, students know what is expected of them rather than wondering how long they will be stuck doing work. 

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah 

Give them a schedule! Wake up in the morning, have breakfast, and have them get dressed for the day. Even if they just change to different clothes, the act of feeling they are moving to a different part of the day from sleep can help so much. I know I am a more effective teacher when I shower and put a little make-up on for the day! 

Along with breakfast, make sure they are eating properly! I know the days are blurring together, but making sure they have whole meals can help focus A LOT. Their brains are using so much energy to think, they need to refuel.

 Move their bodies! Honestly, I don’t think students move their bodies enough during school, and so that is an advantage of homeschooling. Go for a walk, play “Just Dance”, do some yoga moves. It helps their overall comprehension of material. Especially if you have a child who struggles to focus, getting some energy out before starting “homeschooling” will do a world of difference. 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

Helping our students to have a positive learning experience at home is important to this process. It may be difficult for your child to learn with music blasting or the TV on, so it might be best to limit those distractions.

You could also use a routine to your advantage to contribute to your childs’ educational self-efficacy. For example, you could say: “You are doing a great job with this, and in 15 minutes we can take a walk for a break.”  Allowing your child to take breaks could help them mentally during this time — we all go a little stir crazy! Fresh air and enjoying the sunshine can do wonders for our mental health and that is important to remember. Could you reward them for having a good attitude with their school work with a new book or art supplies? Teachers use incentives ALL the time and that could be an excellent way to motivate them!

In what ways can parents best support their children’s schooling at home?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

Structure and routines. Visualize them (chalkboard, poster, fridge, planner, etc.)

Set specific times designated for doing school stuff (schedule).

Set a designated place just for school stuff and home-schooling (e.g. clear a table/desk that is normally not in daily use and let your kid have their own little study place.)

Motivate and encourage your children, stay positive, and praise good work.

Don’t work yourself/your kid up into their mistakes. Take mistakes as a guideline and basis for future learning. They help you understand your child’s train of thought and might help you in supporting your child individually.

You might need some kind of system for rewarding good behavior or visualizing undesired behavior. Try to work out what’s most suitable to you and your child.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

At this point, parents can best support their children’s home education by staying in touch with their teachers and keeping themselves well-informed of what their children are being asked to do. This is new for all of us and every district is changing policies daily, trying to find the right solutions. It’s very important to  follow up with teacher emails and district announcements to stay up to date.

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Help them, read to them, work on the work with them. Show them how you solve it.

Sometimes the way one person teaches doesn’t reach your child, but maybe the way another teacher (you) teach will. There is no one way to learning something! Remember that and it will help. Let them show you how they do it. Be a support, not a roadblock.

Also, don’t do it for them. They won’t learn and yeah, they might be super frustrating at times, but those are the times you need to sit down and figure out what you can do to better help your student learn…this is what teachers do all day long.

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

I think one of the most beneficial things that parents can do right now is to reinforce and practice concepts that the students have already learned. Many students forget even simple concepts if they go a long time without practice. So, if your son/ daughter learned how to do 3-digit subtraction before schools closed, your child’s teacher would be very grateful if they came back from this time with having retained how to do that. 

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

For younger children, you may have to be a little more hands-on in the beginning, in helping them log on and figure out online learning. Don’t be afraid to be patient and teach them how to log on. Even at young ages, you can help them be self-sufficient! 

For older children, help your child advocate for themselves. If they have a question for their teacher, let them be the one to reach out to their teacher! Don’t be afraid to give them a little time to try and figure it out. Give them the opportunity to search something, before you give them the answer. Helping them to become self-learners will benefit them so much! 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

Have a positive attitude about the schooling, and it can also be best if you aren’t overly-critical of the teachers and staff making the assignments. If you are negative about what is being assigned, your child will most likely be negative about it too. 

How can families establish good routines with their children?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

Establish individual routines and structures with each child, inspired by their lesson plan from school. Let your children participate in establishing those rules and work out a compromise. Visualize those routines and stick to them. Reflect each day on how the routines worked out for your child and yourself and maybe adapt them.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

In the classroom, we are always learning but that does not mean every moment of the day is strictly scheduled! My suggestion is that at-home scheduling follow a similar pattern. Make time for direct instruction and practice but also allow for flexible time where your child can independently choose how they learn whether it’s reading a favorite book, writing a story or working on their math facts.

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Pick a routine and stick with it. If your mornings are work, then let it be work. If your afternoons are play time, let that be play time. Whatever it is you decide, stick with it. Kids need routines. Find one that works for you and your family. It may take a few tries, but once you find it, stick with it.

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

Creating and sticking to a schedule is a good way to establish a routine. This doesn’t have to be anything big. It could just be wakeup, breakfast, schoolwork or it could be a detailed schedule. It just depends on what works for you and your child.  

Another thing that I have seen help is creating a checklist. Have the child check off each thing they accomplish.

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

Even for me, I do better with a set schedule (this is something I am working on as well!)

There are actual studies that show if children (and adults) have a set schedule and know what to expect, their anxiety decreases dramatically. That is often why teachers have very set schedules or routines in their classrooms, so things go smoother, but also to lessen student worry.

Some of my suggestions would be, set timers! I think looking at all the school work children have to do can jus seem daunting. Depending on the child, I would set timer for X amount of minutes and then take a 5-minute break doing something active or giving your brain a break.

Ideas would include putting on some music, eating a snack, doing a jumping jack challenge, doing a mindfulness exercise, etc.  Again I don’t have the source, but I have been told many times it is good for us to move every 30 minutes, because it actually helps refresh our brain. Even in a normal classroom, I am doing activities that have the students moving at some point in the class, so homeschooling should be no different! 

Also, I saw this on Facebook recently, where each day of the week you have some sort of activity as a family, your kids can look forward to. For example it was “Movie Monday” where at the end of the school day they got to watch a movie together and eat popcorn. Or you could do “Treat Thursday” where at the end of the school time you make a treat together and play a game or something. We all need motivation and by having something to look forward to, can help motivate your kiddos! 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

Some parents have been writing a schedule and hanging it so it’s visible to the family. Another way is to discuss it verbally at breakfast. You can set a positive tone by explaining what you plan to work on and get accomplished that day.  Kids do like to know what they can expect and it will help them grasp their new normal. 

What other learning opportunities can families take advantage of while quarantining?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

Depending on your child’s age, try some learning apps. Encourage them to learn a foreign language (e.g. through online services like ‘Duolingo’).

Show interest in their interests, skills and hobbies and take those as learning opportunities.

Board games are a great way to stay focused, have fun and learn something and strengthen their self-awareness as well as their ability to stay calm if they lose a game.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

  1. Online museum tours. My favorite is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History!
  2. Take a learning walk. Use a trip outside to count steps and find shapes or to find examples of erosion or cumulus clouds! Make it competitive by creating scavenger hunt lists!
  3. Use art to practice math. Practice patterns with sidewalk chalk, legos or beads! 
  4. Code.org. A great website to practice the logic and problem-solving skills needed for math and coding!

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Find some fun virtual field trips. They have a bunch at different places around the world, now is a good time to just enjoy something new with your students.

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

There are so many things that families can take advantage of. Reading with or to your child is a HUGE one. Even if that means that you are listening to an audiobook as you do something else. Instilling a love of stories and learning does so much more than you can realize. Find out what your child enjoys and is passionate about. I had a student who LOVED animals. You could ask him any fact about an animal, and he would know it. He got his information from planet earth and zoo books, but because he loved it, the information stayed with him. Find what your child loves and help them learn more about it.

Teach your child practical skills — cooking, sewing, writing thank-you cards, doing laundry, ironing, problem solving, etc. These skills will help them in the long run. 

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

My teaching philosophy is all about creating real-life learning experiences. With students at home, that is so much more manageable! If you are needing ideas, Pinterest is an amazing place for resources of different crafts, activities, etc. Some of my own suggestions include:  taking a walk outside, talking about what bird noises you all hear, talking about gardens or the effects of weather, etc.

Read together as a family (there are SO many benefits to this).

Have your kids write a journal about this time. What they are going through, etc. Relate it to how most of history is all a collection of journals. 

Do a service project! We all feel better when we help someone!

Use this time to connect with loved ones (via FaceTime or other social media). Maybe have your child interview their grandparent or cousin, Maybe have them share with their friend over the phone what they are learning about. So much of school is social interactions, and so don’t forget to encourage your child to do that. 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

I know I have encouraged my students to spend time with their family and spend time outside. There are a lot of websites that are offering free classes, or reduced rates for popular apps. I know many zoos across the country are doing fun and engaging things on their Facebook pages. You could also pick a series to read aloud as a family, come up with a list of projects you want to tackle as a family (yardwork, home organization, etc.), help your kids to learn a new skill like cooking/baking/sewing and many more ideas!  

Many parents feel overwhelmed taking over a new teacher role. How can they gain confidence and find support?

Viviane Eckermann, Teaching Student, Bielefeld University

Don’t stress yourself too much, it’s not your role to teach your child everything. If you need support, maybe go online and search some blogs on homeschooling.

You are enough. And trying/ the attempt is what counts. 

Reflect on your day and take your child’s thoughts into consideration as well, let them give constructive feedback that might help you and might boost your confidence as well.

Coordinate with your child’s teachers and let them support and guide you.

Talk about your wishes and fears with your child, voice your opinion and let them comment.

Don’t take setbacks or difficult times personally. Teaching is not something you’ve learned in the past, so try to be kind to yourself and draw help out of your own and your child’s mistakes and problems.

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

The only way to build confidence in teaching is practice. Try a routine, see what works, and adjust from there.

Go slow, and don’t try to overwhelm yourself with too many changes all at once! If you’re looking for fresh ideas, try following teachers that blog on their personal website, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter. Many of my own ideas come from inspiration I’ve seen on Twitter or Instagram and then adapted to fit my own classroom. Follow these teachers and reach out to them if you have questions!

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Ask your student’s teacher for help! They want to help, and they know that you didn’t go to school to teach. It is hard! Some days you will want to quit, but the moment your child realizes something new and catches on, or the moment their eyes light up because they learned something new will make it worth it. It is such a rewarding job! Just keep looking for the positives. There may be few, but find them!

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

It is daunting thinking that you are in charge of your child’s learning. But something that I was told in school has helped me through all of my teaching experience: “It’s okay to mess up, just let the kids know that you made a mistake and move on. We learn together when we grow together.”

I think the first part of finding support is asking for help. There are many former-educators and friends that would love to help during this tough time. Put out a post on social media and you’ll be surprised how many people volunteer to help. 

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

First off, know that A LOT of teachers are feeling overwhelmed with the adjustment to online learning. Even more, “tech-savy” teachers are still learning from their mistakes, and know that they are asking for patience, and I know most teachers will be very patient with you!

Also don’t be afraid to take breaks. A lot of times teachers give instructions, and then give their students time to figure it out, (it is good for them!) Also, if possible, create a space that is designed for “Homeschooling”.  Being at home all day can be tough, and so designing different spaces for activities, can really help a student be able to focus. Also don’t be afraid to give yourself a pep talk in the mirror! I have to do that a lot on my drive to work! You got this! 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

Parents are our kids’ first teachers! Have patience with your kids and  yourself — we are all learning to navigate this. Teachers know that this is such a difficult thing and just know we miss having your kids in our class learning with us! Feel empowered in that there are resources you can use to LEARN something new. Take this chance to get into your childs’ world and try to engross yourself in what they are learning. A stash of Cadbury mini-eggs to munch on alone in the pantry might also help 🙂  This is one of my ALL-TIME favorite educator quotes: 

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”- Haim Ginott

No pressure right? But seriously, have a good attitude, love your kids, take breaks, learn something new and try your best! 

In your teaching experience, what are the keys to helping kids have good experiences with learning?

Sarah Beaudet, ESL Math & Science Teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia

In my experience, keeping the content as authentic, relatable and hands-on as possible is key to building positive learning experiences.

For example, my Algebra co-teacher and I decided to relate our discussions of exponential functions to the infection rate of the pandemic. For younger children you could discuss the equator and lines of longitude/latitude while trying to find countries on a map or challenge each other to build a model of the Parthenon out of Legos when studying ancient Greece!

Using tangible manipulatives while integrating your kids passions and current events will really help them to see that learning isn’t just something that they do in school, but something that they will be doing everyday for the rest of their lives.

Tasha Langford, 3rd Grade Teacher, Truman Elementary, West Valley City, Utah

Love them. It is the easiest thing to do as a parent because you are already doing it. Ask them questions, put down your phone, work with them, and play with them. Get to know your child again as a whole new human, one that is grown and has ideas and thoughts and a million emotions that they don’t know how to handle!

Sara Leonard, Former 3rd Grade Teacher, Baltimore County, Maryland

1. Keep calm. I learned very early on that my students matched my mood/behavior. If I was having a bad day, my students could tell, and they mirrored that behavior. If I kept calm during difficult situations, it was much easier to help calm them down. I know at times it is difficult, but try your best to remain calm and to praise your kids for the things that they do well. They will respond much better to learning in a positive environment than in a negative one. 

2. Breaks. Breaks are key! Even I as a teacher need a break every now and again (thank you lunch-time) and If I need breaks, imagine how badly those children need breaks. 

3. Learning with different modalities. Imagine how you would feel if you spent 8 hours doing worksheet after worksheet. We’d all get bored doing that! If you can, don’t have everything be on paper. Utilize your TV, your phone, manipulatives, the outdoors, etc. There’s not just one right way to teach something. 

Your kids may not realize it now, but one day they’ll understand the sacrifice that you are going through and they will thank you for it!

Julia Simmons, 7th Grade English Teacher, South Jordan Middle School, South Jordan, Utah

Honestly it is all about attitude. I have had many students who HATE to read, but I know if I go in with a positive attitude about a new book we are reading, it is amazing to see their attitude change.

Also, have fun with learning. One of the hardest parts for me as a teacher right now is not being able to do hands-on lessons. Yet, parents at home totally can! You learned about an experiment in science? Try it at home! You learned about World War II in History? Have your child call and interview their grandparent about what they remember from their parents or their experiences. 

I think one of the misconceptions about our education system is that teachers teach the students at school, when really that is not the case. For it to be most effective, it is a parent, student, and teacher effort. Parents don’t be afraid to make mistakes in front of your kid, when you are trying to help them with something (as a teacher I totally do!) Also parents, just as teachers, make sure to take care of yourselves. It can be very tiring, and so make sure to do something for you to relax! 

Chelsea Rouse, 6th Grade Math and History Teacher, Northern California

Connection. Connection. Connection. I have to know WHO my students are. What do they like? How can I engage them? How can I make their learning a positive experience? What are kids interested in these days? All of it matters so much. Ask them about their volleyball game, or how their favorite pet is doing. Connection is everything. I am not perfect, but constantly reflecting on what I can do better. 

Let’s give a BIG round of (virtual) applause for all of our amazing teachers!

One comment

  1. This is so needed and what a wonderful response from the special teachers who give their hearts and abilities to help us raise our children. Amazing article!

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