If you’ve never been a homeschooler with schools around the country going to distance learning; you are now a military family homeschool. You may be lucky like I am with a school that anticipated a scenario where students would be at home and fully implemented a digital school plan. We finished regular school the week before and started distance learning the following Monday. Many aren’t so lucky. So here is a guide to help you out.
The most important thing to know is that a homeschool day is much shorter than a normal school day which is what appeals to those that homeschool full time. Most children work well independently and can complete their schoolwork by lunchtime. Create a schedule and if you want the school day longer you will have to plan for it. Consider adding art, music, virtual library time and P.E. to extend the day.
Create A Schedule
This is the number one most important thing you need to do. Treat each weekday as if it is a school/work day and follow a set routine. Children function much better when they know what to expect each day. Plan the day to mimic a school day. A simple routine:
Early morning – Wake children up at their normal weekday time. Have everybody get dressed, eat breakfast and complete any morning chores such as making their beds.
Morning – School begins at a set hour. Make sure you review requirements from your children’s school. They may have requirements to be online at a certain time. This is a good time to review what work they must complete for the day.
Lunch – Everyone in the household takes the same lunch break. Have time to eat and then have the kids get outside for a bit.
Afternoon – Finish up any work not completed in the morning. The afternoon should be devoted to electives like art, music, PT etc.
Evening – Free time, evening chores homework and then a set bedtime each night.
This routine is super simple and sometimes that is the best. Lindsay Power, @NoShameParenting has some great advice on Raising Kids During the Coronavirus and not being so stressed about being the perfect homeschool parent.
Military One Source is a great resource for military family homeschoolers because it also lists resources available on military installations. Here are their suggestions for planning your homeschool week:
- Consider your child’s age. Transitioning to home-based learning will be very different for a preschool student than a middle or high school student. Discuss your expectations for learning at home and go over any concerns so you are on the same page.
- Set and follow a weekday schedule for starting and ending the school day and going to bed. All children benefit from structure, even if they try to resist it.
- Build in flexibility to accommodate your own work and other responsibilities. You may be teleworking, for example. See if you and your spouse, partner or another adult in your household can share some of the teaching. It might also help to set aside time in the evenings to check over assignments or work together on reading and other skills.
- Take breaks. Schedule time during the school day for lunch, snacks and age-appropriate breaks. Think physical education, recess, etc.
- Build in time for creativity. Make time for music, art and other creative subjects. This may include time for your child to practice an instrument, draw, paint, try their hand at drama or develop other skills. Have younger children practice counting by stacking blocks, or build a fort from sheets.
- Help your child safely connect with friends and relatives. Connecting with friends and family members outside your household is important. Work with your child’s school, their friends’ parents and others to help them stay in touch. Consider taking turns leading virtual lessons or hosting virtual play dates. Have your child write letters to people they care about while practicing handwriting and grammar.
A note on preschoolers. This can be a real challenge as not every state has preschool as part of the school system. The National Head Start Association which specializes in preschool education has a wealth of free resources to Learn at Home. I found their information on Noggin from Nickelodeon to be very helpful. They are offering three months free and have hundreds of read-aloud e-books, games, songs and other content geared to preschoolers. The platform also has a weekly series of play activities to do offline. Perfect for getting out all that toddler energy.
School Age Children
Make sure to tap into all the resources available through your child’s school. Most schools are going to digital learning with virtual lessons and online assignments. Help your child log on and if needed read instructions together to help them understand the requirements. Reach out to teachers or counselors for any help you may need. Also keep in touch if you have any issues regarding technology or if your child falls behind in the work that is do.
Integrate the arts and physical activity into each school day. You may also want to consider offering life skills and teach your children how to cook and do laundry. I once worked at a wilderness education program and we taught children math by planning and cooking meals.
Each installation has homeschooling resources. Reach out to the school liaison officers to find out what is available on your base. If you are stationed overseas check out the Head Start/Sure Start programs . Did you know Military OneSource has Education Consultants? Call 800.342.9647 to make a one-on-one session to discuss your child’s education. They can help you find resources in your area.
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library has tons of free online resources for children, teens and adults. In addition to e-books there are educational resources such as ScienceFlix which has hands-on projects. Videos and other interactive features to help teach science concepts and ideas.
Art, Music and Physical Education
Art can be anything from simple art projects. Pinterest or Michael’s are great resources for ideas. Look for your favorite art museum online. While they are closed many are offering special activities for children. The National Gallery of Art (NGA) kids app for iPad is an immersive experience giving children the opportunity to explore more than 300 years of art history. Animation and audio features make learning fun. The app covers: Portrait, Landscape, Seascape, Still Life, Action Painting, Exploring Color, Color Field, Collage, Sketchbook, and My Art Gallery. This is a great resource. A fun activity is to have children pick a favorite famous painting and recreate it for sharing on social media.
Many music teachers that have military family students offer virtual lessons so a student can continue with the same instructor even after they move. Gen Mayo, is a veteran homeschool mom and a music teacher for over 25 years. On her blog, Music In Your Homeschool she shares Six Ways to Teach Music in Your homeschool. A very good resource. If you don’t want to get too technical, have an afternoon dance party. Introduce your children to different genres of music and explain what you like or dislike about each one.
Physical Education – For many families the military member is working from home now too. What a great resource to lead family PT each day. This is a good opportunity for the service member to connect with their children while giving the spouse a break. Mary Ann Kelley, has managed a homeschool website for more than 20 years. Read her Ideas for Homeschool PT. Childcare Extension has some useful tips on integrating motor development and fine motor skills into play and learning. They also recommend a variety of resources.
The QNS website offers so many websites and resources. The COVID-19 Shelter in Place rules will be lifted before you have checked out everything listed on this site!
This is a tough and challenging time for everyone.
Most importantly, Be Kind to Yourself. And…
Enlist your spouse to assist with homeschool duties. What are your favorite homeschool tips which are helping you get through being a homeschool teacher?
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com