Art by Garth Williams, 1948 from Wait Till the Moon is Full by Margaret Wise Brown
Some helpful hints for parents as you begin your COVID-19 homeschooling adventure:
PLEASE TURN ON THE CLOSED CAPTIONING FEATURE ON YOUR COMPUTER/TELEVISION!!!
It is anticipated that most families will be having a little more screen time than usual during the quarantine. By turning on this feature when your child watches a show, you are ensuring important exposure to print even when your child is not reading a book. Please! This is a small thing to do that can make a big difference...it's a great way to painlessly increase a child's sight word vocabulary and reading fluency!
YOU DON'T HAVE TO REPLICATE THE SCHOOL EXPERIENCE TO HAVE AN EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE.
Filling the days with piles of worksheets and assignments will likely bore your child and create conflict. Keep in mind, many children can get a lot more done in less time working at home, where there are fewer bathroom breaks and transitions between classes and peer distractions. Children learn from relationships. Teach your child to make scrambled eggs or walk them through a family recipe. Play board games. Work on tying shoes. Read aloud. Interview an elder. Write letters to friends. Plant a windowsill garden. Learn a craft on YouTube together. Watch a classic movie together (suggestions to come). Build indoor forts, or models, or cardboard box dollhouses. Whatever you can do is enough, whatever you have can be enough. Don't stress. This can be a positive and memorable time just by being as present as possible. Find your own flow and put the mental and physical health of your family first.
MOVE THE SCREENS WHERE YOU CAN SEE CHILDREN USING THEM AND PRACTICE CYBERSAFETY.
The internet has rich offerings during this time but also potential pitfalls. Have a conversation about screen time and phone use at the outset. Especially with older kids, come up with a plan you can agree upon and a cut-off time for phone usage to avoid conflict as the days wear on. While we don't want to isolate children during the quarantine, we also don't want them to develop poor habits. Increased unsupervised online activity can also be a recipe for exposure to inappropriate thematic content or contact with inappropriate strangers or online bullies. Check histories, activate filters and put screens where activity can be monitored.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE NEWS. In middle school library classes, we have been talking about citing sources and the credibility of what we read, where information comes from and considering the viability of who is speaking or writing. Who do we believe? What makes information fact and what makes something an opinion? Use the news that the children encounter online and on television to continue that conversation and to mitigate fears during this stressful time.
ENCOURAGE JOURNALING. Children can keep a personal diary of life during this time or make a daily family newspaper. Remember, this is an unprecedented time. Remind kids they are living the history we read about. Their stories matter and will matter.
GIVE YOUR CHILD THE RECESS WE CAN'T. Your child loves, craves and needs physical activity. Because of mandates of the way time is spent during a school day, we can't give them the long recess they developmentally deserve. You can. Long, long walks and bike rides are encouraged while keeping social distancing. It will help focus and mood. Recognizing that many parents work; do it as you're able.
IT'S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BORED. While it is helpful to have art supplies and books and resources within your child's reach, it is not your job as a parent to fill and schedule every moment. A little down-time fosters creativity, imagination and autonomy...and reading! Speaking of...
MAKE READING DURING THE QUARANTINE ABOUT CHOICE, NOT LEVELS.
Comic books are real reading. Sports magazines are real reading. Cookbooks are real reading. Books on tape are real listening (and reading, if you get a copy of read along). Picture books are real reading and promote visual literacy. Read-aloud across the grade levels is one of the most academically beneficial things you can do for your child during this and any time. Even when your child knows how to read, reading aloud with your child following along in the book (you can run your fingers under the word as you read) does wonders and also fosters positive connections with books and with you. Additional and specific book recommendation blasts from the recent past I have recommended to my own students may be found here, here and here, and on my personal children's book review website you're reading right here, but again, access to specific titles is going to differ from house to house during the quarantines and there are no wrong choices. Your assignment: read what you have and read for fun.
SET REASONABLE GOALS IN READING AND ALL THINGS. Try a Book Bingo (sample card here, but tons from which to choose). Or create a reading batting average (picture book = single, nonfiction = double, chapter book = triple, classic finished as a family = home run; use the sport of your choice and the categories of your choice). Or, how many award-winners (or any genre) can you read? Small, attainable steps toward a goal or open-ended achievements build confidence.
ADDITIONAL HOMESCHOOLING ONLINE RESOURCES below! Try not to be overwhelmed; remember, you don't have to do them all or any of them at all, they are tools to be used if needed. An "assignment" might be for children themselves to explore five a day and write "reviews."
Free Reading Websites for Kids
Starfall (good for primary, some free, some premium)
International Children's Digital Library (multilingual)
ABCYA! (online reading games)
(Whoa! Brought to us by kidsactivitiesblog.com)
(Arts courses. Ms. Esme takes a class here! Good for older kids)
(recipes and information from every country in the world!)
Homeschooling on Pinterest
AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE:
When I wrote How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, it was with the heartfelt, almost religious belief that children's trade literature and read-aloud was our best hope for equalizing education. I wanted to give every family the tools to be a supporting character in a child's reading life story, no matter what their socioeconomic background might be. It was marketed as a parenting book, but it really, it came from my lesson plan book. I have been a fifth grade teacher, a homeschooling mom and now a K-8 school librarian with the Chicago Public Schools for over a dozen years. I still know quality children's literature has the potential to give every child a solid elementary education, in or out of the school building. You can temporarily access this book for free during the COVID-19 crisis here.
Teachers, librarians and parents are all partners in education. The closing of schools is a call to cooperation. I hope this guide and PlanetEsme, which has been recommending books since 1999 and offers hundreds of free book reviews right here via this blog, will be useful, inspiring and empowering to you and your family during this challenging time.
Wishing you health and the enjoyment of books and one another from my home to yours.