Since the pandemic began way back in March, millions of parents have been homeschooling their kids and helping them learn virtually. Many didn’t think they’d still be teaching their kiddos nearly eight months later. Yet, here you are.
At this point, you may be struggling to keep your little ones engaged. Everyone’s patience is wearing thin and attention spans are short. Luckily, a few effective strategies can help your children stay productive and focused, regardless of how long they have to learn at home.
At school, students have their own desk and know where the art corner, music room and library are. These spaces signal learning and demand their attention. However, at home, you may not have the space to establish a classroom-sized learning space.
Regardless, you should still dedicate a specific area of your home to school. This way, when your kiddos show up at the kitchen table or desk in the spare bedroom, they know it’s time to learn. Plus, there will be fewer toys and other distractions present, allowing them to focus.
Establishing a routine and sticking to a schedule can help keep your kiddos engaged and focused on the task at hand. At school, your little ones rely on bells to signal the beginning and end of class and when to go to lunch or recess.
You can create a similar experience at home using a timer and an hourly planner. Section off your child’s classes or workload into hour-long time blocks. Remember to schedule in time for lunch, play and rest to break up their day and give their growing minds time to recover before starting another lesson.
Once you lose your kiddo’s attention, regaining it can be difficult — if not impossible. Therefore, it’s important to grab their attention and maintain it from the very beginning. You can accomplish this by using a captivating hook as you begin each lesson.
Begin with a warm up to spark deep thinking and active learning or share an interesting fact that will naturally lead to an educational discussion. Starting your classes with a teacher-student appropriate conversation, — or a parent-student conversation — encourages proper communication. Ultimately, this two-way channel between you and your kiddo will make it easier for them to ask for help and voice their opinions.
National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day may seem like a strange holiday to celebrate on its own. However, embracing weird holidays like this and turning them into spirit days can be a gateway to learning about plastic production, conservation and other important topics.
Take cues from the list of national calendar days or create your own holidays to match the lesson plan each day. For instance, if you’re teaching your kids about sentence structures, you might declare a Punctuation Day and make a show of using exclamatory sentences all day or drawing quotation marks around your mouth. Even the most mundane-sounding holidays can become exciting and help your little ones see the world from a new perspective.
Elementary and middle-school students are used to taking a midday break for recess. Whether they’re climbing on the jungle gym outside or playing games inside, kids need a movement around lunchtime. Even just a few minutes of play can effectively boost focus, cognitive functioning and memory retention. Plus, moving around will allow them to release their wiggles and reduce disruptive outbursts.
Besides recess, you should also integrate movement into daily lessons to promote mental clarity and keep them engaged. Assign a movement-oriented task that corresponds with whatever topic you’re covering. Make up a dance to help them remember equations or lists. Encourage stomping, clapping, jumping and other movements to make lessons fun and engaging.
Many parents worry that schools don’t focus enough on liberal arts like music and painting. Well, now’s the perfect time to incorporate these subjects into your lesson plans. Let your child get artsy and use their imagination and creativity in new ways. Use YouTube tutorials to teach your kids to draw, pull out the legos or learn a few notes on the recorder together.
Incorporate both process-focused and product-focused art experiences into the day to help your little ones develop different skill sets. For instance, process-focused projects that are open-ended and don’t include instructions can help them express their feelings and problem solve. On the other hand, product-focused art may help them explore new ways to create and follow instructions.
Depending on where you live, the weather may be nice enough to take your lessons outside. If this is the case for you, consider exploring your local parks or scouring your backyard for bugs, plants and other interesting things. Turn the world into a science lab and learn all about the living creatures around you.
During the winter months, you can still draw inspiration from the outdoors and keep your students engaged with nature-centered projects and experiments. Grow your own herbs indoors, study the science of snowflakes, go ice fishing or set up a bird feeder and observe your feathered friends. Even when it’s cold outside, you’ll find there’s no shortage of outdoorsy experiments to try and topics to explore.
When it comes to keeping your kiddos engaged during the long winter months — or however long this pandemic drags on — catering to their interests is key. Figure out what kinds of topics they’re interested in and incorporate them into your lesson plans. Whether they love baking, building snowmen or tending to the garden, finding ways to encourage their passions and pique their interest is sure to keep them engaged and learning until summer arrives.