Updated: Aug 4, 2020
This post is the first part of our Schooling at Home series. To see all posts in this series, click here.
Maintaining Structure (and Sanity)
Whether you’ve voluntarily ventured into the homeschooling realm, or you’ve found yourself here as a result of COVID-19, turning the home into an area of structured learning may sometimes seem impossible. While it may look quite different than the school routines we’re used to, there are several considerations that can make it doable.
Below you’ll find some initial tips on how to engage your child by providing helpful sensory supports, and some strategies for maintaining both structure and sanity.
First Things First
Explain the expectations for at-home schooling and encourage an open dialogue with your child. This is likely a new, unexpected and stressful situation for all involved. Social stories, such as this one, can help with giving clear expectations of the current situation.
Providing your child the opportunity to express themselves by incorporating opportunities for art (drawing, coloring, painting or journaling) is an excellent way to support positive, healthy outlets.
While maintaining a limit of screen time is still important, there’s no denying that these stressful times will likely lead to an increase. Try promoting the use of positive screen time, like staying active with GoNoodle or allowing for a break to socialize via FaceTime with friends or family.
Our Recommendation: Set a Schedule
A schedule provides normalcy and predictability in a time where order is scarce. Schedules can also be helpful if you have others involved in helping facilitate the at-home schooling process (whether that’s a spouse, family member or friend).
How to Implement:
Grab some sticky notes or construction paper and a trifold poster board (you could use the front of your fridge in place of this, too). Color coordinate required topics (like green stickies for math, English, and science) and recreational topics (let’s say yellow for art, creative writing, screen time, mindfulness activities). Alternate with your child to select the activities for the day, and place them on the poster board in the order expected.
Take the time that both you and your child may need to get accustomed to this new schedule. Alternating between learning activities, exercise and breaks.
Our Recommendation: Involve Your Child
While children need structure and clear expectations, it's helpful to involve your child in outlining these expectations, and allow your child to include activities that are important and meaningful to them. This gives them a sense of ownership and aids in their understanding of why certain boundaries are set. Including your child in activity planning also promotes higher level cognitive skills, such as problem solving and initiation.
How to Implement:
If your child is able to assist you, involve them in helping choose the order or structure for the day as recommended above. Encourage independent thinking and creativity by leaving room for expressive activities, such as preparing a snack or craft around a specific topic.
If your child is not able to verbalize his or her interests, try incorporating activities, characters or songs that they enjoy into their school day, or let them pick between a field of two choices represented by visuals.
Our Recommendation: Maintain Flexibility
While a schedule can be helpful, this may not have been a role that you personally signed up for - and having to juggle the potential roles of mom, teacher, spouse, therapist and employee - can take a serious toll. Flexibility, for both yourself and your child, will be a necessity in making this work.
How to Implement:
If there’s a topic or subject your child begins to become frustrated with, remember that a break is okay. Revisiting and revising a schedule is okay. Adapting to these changes and making this new routine work takes time. Make sure to maintain an open dialogue with your child's therapist(s) or teacher(s) as you all navigate this together.
Every child has a unique learning style and specific needs to maintain focus and concentration. We’ve pieced together another blog in this series with some helpful hints for sensory support during at-home schooling. To check out our blog on that, click here.