Homeschooling Tips for Parents during COVID-19

A version of this article originally appeared in the Youth Health Connection newsletter. It is authored by Cynthia Polakovic, MS.

“I’m not a teacher.”

“I don’t have the educational background, the subject knowledge, nor the patience to homeschool my kids…”

Don’t worry! You can do this.

Let’s face it, your children will never forget this time spent in quarantine together. Learning will not only add normalcy and purpose to their lives, it can lead to a wonderful appreciation for each other. Experiential learning as a family has the power to inspire new interests and to create lifelong bonds among siblings.

For the past six years, I’ve homeschooled my two children. Here are my top 10 tips for homeschooling beginners.

The author's two children learning at home
The author's children learning at home.

Set up a dedicated school room: The dining room table makes a great gathering space for school work. The kids won’t mind eating in the living room for a while, and the dedicated space will start to feel like a learning place.

You are also a student: When I first started homeschooling my kids, I spent many sleepless nights preparing lessons for the next day. You don’t need to plan extensively, and you don’t need to be an expert in any subject! You are a student right alongside your children.

We read the classics, learned (or re-learned) algebra, performed many chemistry experiments, and competed in an aerodynamic paper airplane contest together. (The teacher lost.)

It’s OK to not know the answers. Your kids don’t need you to be perfect, just to be there for them.

Don’t underestimate your child: Kids are so smart! My children were both in middle school when we started homeschooling, so I logically choose middle school curricula. Big mistake! Within a week, they were bored and asking really intelligent questions… but, how does a muscle contract? Do you want to learn the Sliding Filament Model of muscle contraction?!

I ended up ditching our grade-appropriate texts for really awesome online materials.

Experiment! Nothing beats experiential learning. There are so many wonderful science experiments that you can perform with household items and minimal supplies. Our favorite science website is His experiments on the Jimmy Fallon show are amazing and hysterical!

Go off on tangents: If you child is interested in a topic, explore it in more depth. My kids were fascinated by China’s Terracotta Warriors. An internet search revealed a lost purple pigment that is currently being analyzed for new applications in high-speed train technology and in the development of quantum computers. (See? The teacher also learns.)

Don’t be afraid to walk away: When you get frustrated or lose your patience, take a break. The amount of material you will cover while homeschooling will be much greater than that covered in a typical school day.

Visit museums and National Parks: My eight-year-old daughter was St. Helen in our All Saints Day parade. While researching her saint, she came across a photo of St. Helen’s sarcophagus… “Mom, we SAW this at the Vatican!”

Children learn so much from experiencing places, touching history, seeing artifacts in person. Although you can't go in person right now, several museums, zoos, and theme parks are offering virtual tours.

Good Housekeeping has a great list, and America’s National Parks are also offering free virtual tours.

Exercise: For at least an hour per day, go outside. During our homeschool years together, my children biked, ran trails, walked on the beach, or just played in the yard daily. Now, it is part of their lifestyle. Establishing healthy habits early sets the stage for a lifetime of wellness.

Put family first: Being successful academically is important, but take care of each other above all else. Being together constantly means sharing the good and bad. We’ve faced serious illness, loss, and many happy times together.

You will find that the greatest benefit of homeschooling, even temporarily, is the emergence of a loving, supportive, and safe environment for your children.

The memories and laughter will last a lifetime.

Remember, you have everything you need at your fingertips: Literally. The internet offers a vast network of support for every academic subject imaginable.

Being thrust into homeschooling in the midst of a pandemic isn’t easy. But with a little preparation, you can make this a positive experience for both you and your kids.

Learn more about South Shore Health’s response to COVID-19.