Home becomes homeroom: Tips for parents on how to do school

Georgia educators offer guidance for parents-turned-teachers due to COVID-19 pandemic
Advice to parents trying to get kids to do schoolwork from Georgia teachers: ‘Schoolwork is not the most important thing right now. Mental and physical health are the most important things.’

Advice to parents trying to get kids to do schoolwork from Georgia teachers: ‘Schoolwork is not the most important thing right now. Mental and physical health are the most important things.’

A team of experienced Georgia educators -- Stephanie JonesFran StansellShervette Miller-Payton, Joyce Butler, Eric HastyVirginia Suggs -- created tips for parents trying, as they describe it, "to do school a home."

Jones has written pieces for the Get Schooled blog; she is a University of Georgia professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice.

They write:

If the child or adolescent you’re taking care of loves to “play school,” then you’re probably in great shape right now, but most people are bumping up against some serious challenges and outright roadblocks to getting schoolwork done at home.

Some of you have had homework battles for years, and the current situation is making those look mild. Just remember, being at home isn’t being at “school,” and it doesn’t have to look like school, either.

If looking like school helps, great, but you don’t have to imitate a classroom to make this work. Fear not…some terrific educators are thinking about you and have some tips.

Here they are:

1. Pause and take a breath. Schoolwork is not the most important thing right now. Mental and physical health are the most important things. If schoolwork is creating fights, breakdowns, anxiety, or depression, back off of it. Let your child's teacher know that you and the kids are struggling. Teachers (at least all of us and most of those we know) are concerned about students' well-being right now, not necessarily if they do every math problem or answer every question.

2. Let them schedule their own day as much as possible. Give students the power to come up with a plan for what they will do, in what order, and when. In other words, it might not work if you say "do all your schoolwork first thing in the morning" or some of you might have quite a battle on your hands trying to enforce that. Give the power to the student to take responsibility for the schedule as much as possible, and be open when they say they want to change it, that's okay too.

3. Sometimes, it helps to shower and get dressed in the morning like you're going to school. However, the opposite might be better for teenagers who might prefer doing their work late at night.

4. Work with your child to create a space specifically for schoolwork. This can be a spot at a kitchen table or a chair in the living room. Try to make it different from where they watch TV or play their video games if possible. Having a special place designated for schoolwork can help keep distractions at bay – at least for a little while.

5. If you can – and your child wants you to – try to be working on something in the same room with them. Sometimes students just need to be close to someone else who is working.

6. Take brain, snack, water, and exercise breaks. This might be after a certain number of tasks are finished or after a certain amount of time. Some classrooms use the website Go Noodle for breaks, and there are others as well. Sitting for a long time is hard and not always helpful for doing good work.

7. Art, music, language, recess, and P.E. are all a part of school too. Encourage them to have some fun! Sing, make things, speak in multiple languages, play outside, exercise, dance. These are actually the things that a lot of students love most about school…so make sure you don't forget them!

8. Remind yourself and your child that we are in a very unique time. We are all feeling pretty stressed out about all of this, and that includes adults, teachers, and kids. So, take a breath, play a game, dance around, go in the yard. And when you need to, just say sorry, let's try that again.

9. Help your child stay connected with friends and family. Learning from home during a quarantine and social distancing has cut out face-to-face interactions with friends and other adults. Make sure they have time to connect by calling on the phone, texting, video chatting (Google Hangout; Facetime; Messenger), writing letters, or using their social media platforms they already use for communication.

10. Keep in touch with friends, family, and other parents for support. Helping our kids cope with these uncertain times is hard work, adding on schoolwork at home can make it even harder. Tell people when it's hard, and don't fall into an old social media trap of acting like everything is perfect. Share the struggles, collaborate on ideas, hold each other up.

11. Ask your child to do things around the house with you. "Learning" is always so much more than schoolwork! Cook a meal, plan meals, clean and sanitize, rearrange things, plant some flowers, pick some weeds, plant some vegetables, fix something, do some yard work, and anything else. You can also keep a notebook as a family to write or draw about your lives during this time and share those stories when you connect with people on the phone or video chatting if you do that. The stories we will tell from this time will be passed down for years.

12. Make snack times if that helps. Some of you might think your child is going to eat everything you have in the house. They're used to snacks and meals being at certain times during the school day, it's okay for you to make snacks and meals at certain times, too.

13. Be gentle and generous with yourself. Be gentle and generous with teachers; they are stressed too, and many have children at home. And be gentle and generous with your children as they are looking to us for a sense of security and some routine in an upside-down world.

14. You've got this. If it didn't work out today that's okay, find some positive way to have some fun with your child and try it again tomorrow. That's the way we do it at school, too.