Online school? Homeschooling? Another “anything but normal” situation for most of us. School closures around the country are redefining the way children are learning. Although the concept of “homeschooling” has been popular in recent years, it has now become the reality for students and parents across the nation — ready or not.

First of all, a HUGE thank you to all of our educators ❤️,  who quickly switched gears to provide online lesson plans with a homeschool curriculum AND a hearty round of applause to all the parents and grandparents who have taken on the challenge of becoming teachers. We have the time (now) and we have the willingness, but the challenge…? The SPACE!

We get it, not every family was geared up for the ideal classroom setting. While this is temporary, it needs to work. It does not have to be perfect, but it needs to set up our children for success. So let’s get creative. Let’s make the most of the situation.

Through this process, we are discovering the different ways that our new-found students thrive. Different ages require different environments to learn, and it really depends on each child.  Younger children need more supervision, engagement, and breaks.  While older kids are able to work on their own for longer periods, the types of environments that motivate their learning may vary.

The good news is that there are a lot of resources to help out with ideas for engaging your kids, while keeping you sane 😉 We would love to share a few tips from our Terracotta family including some of our own “lessons learned” with our own children through this process…

Tools for success. Do your best to find dedicated space to study and participate in video calls.  While this space is in the family room, it has the ingredients to allow for focused learning: plenty of storage, task lighting, a book shelf, and a pin board.  Students can pin up their schedule and keep on track as the school day progresses.

Study Buddies. It is increasing difficult for students to be isolated from their friends and social activities. For Isabela, having a best friend by her side helps her feel less secluded from her classmates.  In addition, she has taken over the basement as her school zone so that she can retreat to her bedroom for down time.

Bedrooms for both school and hobbies. Suddenly after-school sports and activities have come to a complete halt.  With more time on their hands, we are finding our children are returning to their interests. Recognizing a passion for music, Sofia created her study zone surrounded by musical instruments in the comfort of her room.  Sofia needed to create her own music space, so we simply ordered guitar hooks and hung all of her guitars in her room. Now she can “jam” in her room (with headphones of course) without her brothers bothering her.

Settle into a routine. Set up a designated time and place for lessons. One or two designated areas will provide the space to focus on learning. Have a schedule and stick to it! Shoot for two to four good academic hours. Benefit from the window of learning opportunity by being prepared. Initiate the most challenging subjects early while they are fresh. If possible, keep this space organized and free of distractions. In their home office, Carter and Everett are sharing a desk but wear headphones in order to participate in their separate assignments.  Mom is also right behind them on her work computer and able to help them when they need it.

Take breaks and go outside. We need to build in recess for our children. Since their typical school day included recess, home school should  be no different.  Schedule time to step outside for some fresh air, stretching and physical activity—learning happens outdoors too. Explore nature as it correlates with science. Carter discovered that the creek reveals many science lessons.

Zoom.  For the little ones, school work does not take up most of the day as it does for the older students.  We as parents/teachers are having to find ways to inspire creativity and keep young minds occupied.   There are many website that offer classes for children to participate in that can supplement their school work.   Wilder enjoys a Zoom meeting with fellow classmates for the daily craft and story time.

This is a good time for passion projects. Gracie made a stain-glassed heart to hang in the window for first responders. Prioritize your kid’s interests and passions, and look for online resources that keep them connected to their real life community like piano lessons, Sunday school and local dance classes. It’s also a good time for kids to pursue interests they haven’t had time to focus on in the past, like cooking, building in Minecraft, or painting. There are a lot of museums giving free virtual tours as well as fun videos of a featured animal from local zoos everyday. Choose the path of least resistance… if it’s something they are truly interested in, you won’t have to bug them to do it.

These are very stressful times, so at the end of the day don’t be too hard on yourselves, do the best you can — “and know they love you” (graciously borrowed from Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young).

Many thanks to all of the dedicated parents and grandparents who shared their images and tips. —Also special thanks to Ana Homayoun, an educational coach for shedding some light on a realistic approach during these tough times.

Love Life at Home & Love Learning at Home!

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