The world changed a few months ago—suddenly, all children were being educated at home. Whether this was already your norm, or you were forced into this situation because of the school closings, educating at home has become everyone’s reality, and it may continue, either by choice or force. You may have felt apprehensive and ill-equipped to handle this new “challenge”. You have been either solely responsible for the actual teaching or you have had to play gatekeeper and ensure your students were actually participating in their virtual classrooms with their normal teachers. Either way, many families have had to pivot their lives for the sake of their children’s academia. As a veteran homeschooling mother, I want to offer my “two cents” worth to hopefully help both parents and teachers as we continue to face uncertain times.
- 1Technology: No doubt you’ve discovered that there are some great online platforms to create a high-quality learning experience. Zoom, Blackboard and Adobe Connect are three such examples. All have great online, built-in training for teachers to skill up. I am not techie, but I have done my share of webinars, online conferences and my College Prep Genius “Ace the SAT/ACT” program is now being taught through our online virtual boot camps. So if tech has been a struggle for you, here’s some relevant professional advice for online teaching.
- 2Don’t Sweat It: I hope finishing out the school year did not have bring added stress under the guise of “getting it all done” or “finishing what was started”. It’s quite likely that when you switched to a new system, there were some teething problems that may have affected efficiency. However, students probably didn’t fall behind (excessively, if at all) by not being in a classroom for the last three months. Instead, you may have found that there was less time wasted at home because of valuable time lost in a school environment for students to move from class to class, and the natural time it takes to wrangle a big group of people to pay attention and focus. You may have even relaxed more; perhaps you allowed them to breathe and spend more time on a hobby or talent that they wanted to start or already excelled in. Their more enjoyable experience became a less stressful one—especially in a confined space.
- 3Gained an Edge: The quarantined time may have allowed your children or students to regroup, catch-up or even get ahead in their studies. There have been no limits to them being held back and they may have even chosen to go at a faster pace. This could have been the major motivator for them, and this grace period could have also pushed those high achievers to excel beyond what they would have accomplished when limited to a classroom. For struggling students, having had extra time may have helped them catch up and gain some confidence for the next year.
- 4Multiple Grades: It’s possible you had several students in different grades, and you were either teaching them or overseeing them on their computers or TVs, while they learned or worked. You may have been more efficient than you thought you could be, and were able to simultaneously keep your children either occupied in parallel, doing work online at the same time, or by staggering teaching times along with extracurricular activities.
- 5Kept Your Students Accountable: An honor system has been very much in play in the online teacher/student relationship since you were unable to see your students or their actual work. Following up all the homework by encouraging prompt uploading through the online platforms or possibly through the students’ cell phones.
- 6Relationship Building: You may have also realized that this lockdown has given you the most incredible opportunity to create a good or better relationship with your kids. You can’t rewind the clock, but you’ve focused on improving things between you and each one of your children. Seizing the chance to get to know your child during the best hours of their day has been an added benefit of everyone being at home. The great responsibility—and gift—of a parent is to raise kids they want to hang out with, when they become adults. Hopefully, you have relished the luxury of this extra time, cuddling and reading to them more, even the older students by finding the gift in these extraordinary times.
- 7Free Resources: Almost everyone has been affected monetarily during this pandemic, so no one should have been financially burdened when it came to providing additional educational resources, especially trying to finish out the rest of the school year or prepare for the fall. Fortunately, I have compiled hundreds of free home educational resources, segregated by grade, class and website from various sources. They are available for free, for new or existing families who need help at home. See them here.
- 8Children at Play: An unexpected quarantine has been a great time to put away technology and encourage students to discover screen-free play again. Consider what the technological geniuses in Silicon Valley do with their own children. First, they have not allowed any screens in their kid’s bedrooms—no TVs, phones, computers or games. They not only know the benefits but also the dangers of these devices. Next, they also understand that technology stops boredom by distraction, but more importantly technology stifles creativity—especially of young impressionable minds. Did you know that their school of choice—The Waldorf School of The Peninsula—does not allow any technology at school and they discourage it at home? In a time where numerous schools have been clamoring for more technology in the classroom, this fact alone should have you sitting up and paying attention. Hopefully, you can continue to limit instead of encouraging the use of technology.
- 9Engagement: Since many of you have been teaching online, you may have discovered it is important to interact and keep the students engaged. One idea for the future is to create polls throughout the teaching process. Most online platforms allow a dropdown menu with either multiple choice or write-in answers. By participating, your students will be more apt to pay attention. More importantly, is the power of engagement: most students love to share information about themselves to their fellow classmates. You could have three types of questions:
- Get to Know You Questions
- What did you eat for breakfast?
- Describe your room in one word.
- Are you in your pjs?
- What’s the craziest food you’ve tried?
- Fun Questions
- If you could time travel—future or the past?
- What is your dessert vice?
- Which superpower would you like to have?
- What would you like an unlimited supply of?
- Classroom Questions
- Did you understand the concept of X?
- What date did X…?
- Who did this?
- How many…?
- 10A New Norm: Post COVID-19, everyone will return to a different world, for better or for worse. Most students will likely be overjoyed to be reunited with friends, teachers, principals, and school staff. But there have been those who thrived at home because the environment was non-distracting for them, stress-free, bully-free, and without peer-pressure. These students have decided that homeschooling suits them better than conventional schooling. Current polls have noted that as high as 40% of students do not plan on returning to a live classroom. Maybe you as a parent have noticed how your child came into their own, worked harder, flourished, felt better about themselves and enjoyed the whole process. For many, they were able to finish their academics early and have more free time than ever. There may be surprising decisions that, together, you have been inspired to make. If you’re one of the teachers who have poured out your heart for your students virtually, don’t take this personally.
Regardless of the role you are in—parent, teacher, or both—your children have learned the biggest lessons in life, about flexibility and endurance, from you. Hopefully, they have been resilient, adaptable and blessed beings that you wished them to be. When this pandemic is in our rearview mirrors; if we all have played the best hand we can of those cards dealt to us in this difficult time; if we’ve seen the opportunities for our loved ones and not just the inconvenience; if we’ve chosen to build on our relationships; then, your children and/or your students, will have been more appreciative of you for the guidance you provided them, because of your dedication and love.
My desire for you is that teaching your children online or at home has been an extremely valuable and rewarding journey. You may not be able to do this for the entire school-life of your child or children, but you have had a wonderful chance (like a limited-time-only offer) to extract the best parts of this perceived drama and have turned it around for memorable and amazing results.
CPG Founder | Author
Jean Burk is the author of the award-winning College Prep Genius program and has written numerous articles about the SAT and PSAT tests, high school prep, college prep, and how to get free college. She is a Fox News Contributor and has been featured as an SAT and Educational expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, TXA21, CW33, WE, Forbes, UShop TV and The Homeschool Channel.
She currently travels and speaks about the importance of college preparation at conventions, book fairs, schools, libraries, etc. She has taught her revolutionary, award-winning “Master the SAT” Prep Class all over the United States, mainland China, India, Hong Kong and Thailand. Her program is now also online at www.collegeprepgenius.com .