If I told you that this blog would be about homeschooling, you probably might run! Parents have been called to not only be parents with jobs, but now teachers. You have been given online curriculum along with so many things to do with your children. You have viewed the relentless advice and tips on Facebook, received advice from other parents and educators, plus a plethora of tasks related to how to survive teaching your child while school is closed.
These times are extremely unusual and, after week 2 of trying to be the best homeschooling parents around, I have to tell you as an early childhood educator, I am happy to see all the planning for schooling quickly turn into basic survival for a little while. As parents realize their best intentions to handle all of this perfectly are unraveling, this is part of the journey for both you and your children and it’s OK to let go a bit.
You are doing amazing work with your children just by encouraging imaginative play. Yes, you must also get in schoolwork as required by your child’s educational system, but please know that the time your child spends playing, imagining, and using his or her creative brain is critically important, too. As an early childhood educator, I hope this is a very large part of your day.
It’s OK to give children plenty of time to expand on their play. It is not time wasted, but quite the opposite. This is the work of a child and builds their brains in ways sitting in front of a computer or sitting doing paperwork cannot. It’s the natural part of a child that so much research supports and this “shut down society” time is the perfect opportunity for them to reconnect with expanded play to develop their brains and grow. This is how young children birth to age 8 learn best, according to current research and NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
I understand that testing is the measure by which we learn how much a child understands and exactly where they need support, and it definitely has its place. However, I am a little thrilled that children will not have testing at the end of this school years and I’m sure there are a few parents on board with that, too. Children have an extraordinary opportunity to actually be allowed to be the natural person they are – children, and play is their work.
So here is my homeschooling advice for all of you incredible parents and caregivers:
- Be outside whenever possible.
- Know your time together is what children need, especially now
- Schedules are a good thing for all of our sanity, but flexibility is important, too. It’s OK to decide on a whim to get out the water hose and be silly.
- Make space and time for yourself when possible. You need a break, too.
- Let your children play without entertainment some. That means without you or electronics. This might take some practice and patience at first to help them learn to play by themselves or with their siblings, but you are encouraging their brains to problem solve, solution, think outside the box, communicate, try new skills, and more.
- Learn how to ask your child open ended questions. Then, truly be still and listen to what your child has to say without commenting or interjecting right away.
- Take opportunities to talk about your faith and give your child spiritual gifts of wonder, discovery, and praising God.
- This isolation time might just be one of the rare times in our lifetime where we can truly move slowly, be on no schedule, have real time to think about what is important. Take it in.
- This time can be very stressful and frightening, too, for you and for children. The more positive you see, the more positive they see. As Mr. Rogers said in times of distress, “Look for the Helpers” and be a helper, too if possible.
- Help your children stay connected with those they care about, and you do, too. This situation in our world is something we all have in common, and relationships are powerful – especially for kids.
You parents are managing work, family life, your personal life, your child’s needs- both physical and emotional – and schoolwork all at the same time within the confinements of home and without many others helping with all of this. What incredible work! Go easy on yourself and release some of those expectations. God, our Father, is with us and has given us a true gift in the midst of uncertainty. Before we know it, this will be behind us, and I hope you continue to Play!
Peace be with you all!
Weekday Preschool Director, FPC Greensboro