Families have been suddenly thrust into homeschooling as a result of COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic causing school closures nationwide. After spring break came and went in March 2020, students from pre-school through college remained at home due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Some schools were able to provide online learning, but not all homes have been able to participate because of the digital divide.
The Digital Divide
According to the International Telecommunications Union, in 2019, “while 97% of the world’s population lived in areas with some internet availability, either mobile or wired, only 53.6% are connected.” Forbes writes that “while the digital divide is greater in developing nations, developed countries see the divide run through rural and low socioeconomic status (SES) communities. In the US, households making under $30,000 are less likely to have internet than their wealthier counterparts, let alone the computers or smartphones to access it.” In other words, learning from home is a privilege that not every student can afford.
This crisis has forced our nation to acknowledge that some families and regions lack basic internet access. This digital divide is not only due to the cost of internet service, but also due to a lack in the necessary infrastructure for internet connectivity: cell towers and broadband. Montgomery Public Schools is addressing this very issue by parking “six local school buses to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots for MPS students.” Starting Wednesday, April 15 students can go to six locations that include the Alabama State University Football Stadium parking lot, a YMCA, and a Boys and Girls Club to access the internet for their studies.
A Shift in Education
COVID-19 and the social distancing laws in place because of it has drastically shifted our school systems. Many teachers at all levels are implementing online instruction or providing paper packets with lessons to be completed and returned for grading. To help facilitate this kind of instruction, ZOOM and Google have become new friends for many instructors. Furthermore, these drastic and abrupt changes has caused people to wonder if we have entered a new normal in social distancing. Parents and guardians have even developed a deeper appreciation and respect for teachers and schools. And some are even realizing that teachers and administrators were not lying to them about their child’s behavior or attitudes.
I am a teacher by profession since 1981. God impressed me to homeschool our two children when my son entered 2nd grade and our daughter since infancy in 1993. With my husband being a pastor and a chaplain we were able to travel with him without missing lessons. Daily life experiences became an integral part of our classroom. Our journey concluded after high school graduations as both headed to Oakwood University.
The Blessing in Homeschooling
I loved homeschooling in Michigan, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Tennessee. To be honest, we sometimes received criticism from other Black families for daring to educate our own offspring. However, that did not deter us because for us homeschooling is a conviction and not a preference. This makes homeschooling is a lifestyle. In using this system we’ve found that children learn how to learn and develop a passion for learning. For that, I am grateful to God. It’s not a fit for every family, but it was a blessing to ours.
The truth is, many find themselves homeschooling without any resources or experience. This sudden homeschooling demand is making many parents and guardians overwhelmed, and even many students stressed out. I’d like to provide newly homeschooling parents with a few tips that I know will help you and your child during this sudden educational shift.
12 Tips for Homeschooling Your Children
1. Get Organized
Gather all your learning materials into a designated area. With items like their computer, tablet, paper, pens, pencils, notebooks crayons, markers, scissors, glue, calculator, rulers, etc. all in one place it improves students ability to focus.
2. Follow a Schedule
If your child’s school is using direct instruction via an online format, you will need to follow it. Feel free to set up your own schedule if children are not required to view designated lessons at specific times. In order for maintained success, students will still need to get adequate sleep and eat breakfast in the morning. Try to limit wasted time during your school day. For example, do not allow children to spend the day playing games or watching non-educational video clips. Garbage in is truly garbage out.
3. Read and read some more
As the United Negro College Fund says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Read to your children and have your children read daily. Even though subjects are classified separately, they are deeply connected. Look for overlapping themes in Social Studies/History, Science, Language Arts, English, other languages, and Math. In helping your kids to locate these connections you help them develop an even deeper love for learning. Also help them identify and learn new words to expand their vocabulary.
4. Memorize basic math facts
Stop depending on counting fingers and toes to obtain answers. Help your kids memorize basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Multiplication is simply adding over and over. Division is subtracting over and over.
5. Write and/or Keep a Journal
COVID-19 has forced definite changes in our lives. This presents a great opportunity for students to document the events leading up to our new normal. For example: Basic research seeks out information on who, where, when, why, and how. Well, we know that coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and has since spread throughout the world. Create a timeline. Find pictures of the virus. What’s happening with testing? How many confirmed illnesses and fatalities are there? What’s PPE (personal protective equipment)? What’s social distancing? Why are people wearing masks? Hand washing is essential to kill germs. (By the way, didn’t people know that they needed to wash their hands?)
Students can actually create documents, diaries, and journals that chronicle we managed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Who knows, their insight and perspectives could be essential in the years to come. By writing about this pandemic, their feelings, their activities in daily life, and even creative pieces like poetry, stories, and songs, they will simultaneously grow their critical and creative brain muscles. For this reason, encourage your students to write in complete sentences and to use proper capitalization. This process can also help to teach them language, improve their vocabulary, along with teaching them the grammatical rules to writing.
It’s so important that your children get outside and begin to see nature, and ultimately the world, as an incubator for knowledge. Have them examine seeds that are inside of foods such as sweet peppers or harvest seeds from the deadheads of marigolds. You can even purchase a plant. Let them explore the glory of God’s natural world. Plant flowers in your yard or on your balcony and record the weekly growth. Have them draw or take pictures. Describe the growth process to them and have them note what was required for the process to be successful. In other words, nature is a perfect way to learn new things.
Even though we can’t get outside, we can still use your local library’s online services. Some libraries like the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System give members access to digital comic books, music, audiobooks, eBooks, videos, and even research databases for High School and College Students. So make sure your child has a library card so they can get access to these awesome online amenities, and of course so they can get even more learning opportunities once the libraries open again.
8. Internet & Explore
Use the internet to explore! Dig deeper with online Google searches for information. It’s acceptable to view educational programs and documentaries during your designated instruction time. Get in sync with your child’s school for specific times designated if a teacher is providing direct instruction, but outside of that use every opportunity you can for learning and instruction. A word of caution: Be sure to check your child’s internet history. Try to keep them safe from shady characters, scammers and unsafe websites online.
9. Cook and Bake
Maybe you have cookbooks or favorite recipes. Cooking and baking is a great way to teach your child math and measurements, but also a necessary life skill. You can even locate additional recipes and instructional videos online. By cooking and baking together, you bond as a family but also reinforce academic lessons, inspire new interests, and encourage learning through life experience.
Moving the body is an important aspect of growing the mind. Exercise with your kids. Jumping jacks, stretches, and sit ups are basic exercises that get the blood pumping and the brain engaged. Just don’t give your neighbor who lives downstairs a headache. Use your back yard if you have one. Take a walk while practicing social distancing. Fresh air is still important. Even though most parks and playgrounds are closed during this time, exercise and play are essential in student’s academic development and growth.
11. Trips & Extracurricular Activities
Field trips are a critical piece to a child’s learning experience. While social distancing has prevented us from being able to travel, several museums, zoos, aquariums and more are offering virtual tours. In fact, We Are Teachers has compiled over 25 educational virtual field trips students in quarantine can take. Even though you can’t get outside don’t see being homebound as a handicap, see it as an opportunity.
12. Bible Study
Reading the Bible with your children is a great way to stretch them academically. Encourage them to read verses aloud and ask them what they think the verses mean. Teach them about the importance of reading verses in the context of chapters, individual books, and even within the context of the Old or New Testament. This will not only increase their critical thinking skills, but also give them the tools to develop a relationship with God for themselves.
These are not exhaustive, but they are a few tips to assist you in homeschooling your students. While such a task can most certainly become overwhelming, try seeing this time as an opportunity to help your kids love learning and to discover their passions. While this is a stressful time now, we won’t always be in this situation. Try being intentional with the time you have and how you use it. You don’t have to fill in every minute from 8 am-3 pm as though they are in school. But instead, try to find ways to make home life something that encourages and inspires learning. And most importantly, enjoy this season in life when your family is blessed to spend more time together.