With Covid-19/Coronavirus, schools nationwide are starting to close up and we’re not totally sure for how long. We know a lot of families are probably thrown into limbo. It’s scary.
We know that it’s especially scary when you have a teenager. Your teen has plans, friends, and is probably on a trajectory toward a future. That path may include things like AP exams, honors courses, a job, an intensive extracurricular, a volunteer position, and summer programs. All of that is thrown into question for the next month and possibly longer. And that’s on top of knowing you’re all about to get a little stir crazy.
With that in mind, below is some advice from us here at Simplify. We have lots of experience with what to do educationally for kids at home. All the potential resources listed below are free, inexpensive, or have short term free trials that could be perfect for a month at home.
It’s okay if you don’t do much but mitigate everyone’s boredom.
First, I’ll just say it. If you don’t get it together to make this some sort of magical time at home or to keep your kids on track with all their work, give yourself a break. It’s okay if they end up watching more movies, playing more video games, and texting a lot with their friends for the next few weeks as the adults try and figure out when it’s safe to get back out there. You probably have a ton of stress too. Don’t beat yourself up.
Take a page out of the unschool handbook and strew good resources.
Unschoolers often use strewing, a practice where parents leave fun, educational, engaging resources around the house for kids to find. Think about what you’ve already got around the house. Are there board games, art supplies, books, or making equipment that you can take out from the usual spots and leave for your teens to discover and use? You may think these things are accessible and that if the kids want to use them, they will. But choose a few things carefully and pull them out every day or two. It could be books or games, but it also could be the stand mixer or the woodworking kit that hasn’t seen the light of day in awhile. See if they take. Or send them links to websites, interesting videos, and engaging articles during the day. Just see if anything sparks their interest.
Simple routines help.
If you make a routine to do just a few simple things, it can help a lot. If your student has work that the school sent home, set times to get it done. If not, consider breaking up the day by setting a time for reading or for other loosely defined educational activities. Don’t police what they read. If you don’t have a wide variety of books around the house, maybe a trip to the library before you can’t go anymore would be in order. Or maybe a tablet can download some books. Many library systems use Overdrive for ebooks. Want to take it up a notch? Set aside a time for some other things: a journaling or free writing time, a math practice time with online math games or work, a board games time, a documentary watching time. There are lots of ways to organize a day without it becoming a planning burden on you.
Make time to do something a little different.
Your high schoolers probably have their extracurricular activities canceled. See if there are ways to let them do something engaging and interesting with their time. This could include learning a new skill, building or making something they’ve never had time for, or reading their way through a new sort of book or subject. It will be rotten that the tournament your kid intended to compete in or the play they were about to perform or the quiz competition they were about to ace with their team is now gone. But when it comes time to apply to colleges, maybe they’ll have a great story of how they used this time to read Russian literature, learned to code in Java, tried out a MOOC about architecture, created their first piece of digital art, or started a lobbying campaign for other young people.
Help your kids prioritize what to work on.
Your high school students may be sent home with work or may have some classes that have moved to online instruction. Studies consistently show that people struggle more in online classes to keep themselves on task. Even your really independent teen who’s always on top of things will probably need you to check in more. Some schools may suspend grades, but others might not. Help them figure out how to navigate this new set up. They may need new systems for checking off and keeping track of work. If your student is enrolled in an AP course, then no one yet knows what will happen with AP exams. However, it might be a good idea to keep prepping even if they weren’t sent home with AP work.
Make the best of it by trying to spend some time on those things they never have time for.
If your high schoolers have their work level dialed way down, maybe they have time to work on some things they rarely get a chance to do but really need to. First and foremost, if you have a selective college hopeful, then there are a lot of free test prep materials online. If your teen is enrolled to take any AP exams, then they should keep prepping for them and there are online resources that can help. If your high schooler is missing any key academic or life skills that they might work on during this time, maybe pick one to try and master. These might include things like typing, using difficult software, or mastering a key math skill they’ve struggled with.
Considering this a test run for homeschooling?
I’ve already seen lots of families who were on the fence about homeschooling saying they’re going to consider this a trial run for home education. Part of me says, “yay!” because I always love it when people who want to homeschool can choose homeschooling. However, part of me is crying, “no!” because I’m a little worried that this weird, stressful, isolated time will actually be nothing like what homeschooling is typically like for all kinds of reasons. Homeschoolers go outside, take field trips, meet up with each other, and get deeply involved in activities. None of that will be possible. The stressful, sudden nature of this dive into homeschooling may mean a rough start without much time for planning. In other words, if it doesn’t go well, don’t necessarily assume that homeschooling isn’t for you.
Thinking about withdrawing a student for good?
First of all, we can help. We love working with students who have had a mixed education. We help you craft your student’s path with courses that are right for their individual needs and tell their story to colleges. Check out a free roadmap session or contact us to talk about our services. Even if our help isn’t right for you, if you’re diving in for good, then you probably want to look above and beyond the resources we suggested above. You’ll want to choose full high school curricula and more serious online courses, sometimes with a teacher. Some of the above resources are perfect, but there’s a lot more out there in terms of sciences, writing, math, and tutor support.
What NOT to do.
There are two things I would caution you against doing. First, don’t spend much money. If you have the resources and can buy a few books or access to a new, relatively inexpensive resource or a course, then definitely do that. All the resources I’ve listed here are free, inexpensive, or have short term plans or free trials. Don’t invest in anything that costs hundreds of dollars at this point, even if you think you’re about to transition to homeschooling. Just wait and see for a bit. Second, do not enroll your student in a full online school or program, even if it’s relatively cheap. For one thing, hopefully this will all be over soon and your student can go back to their brick and mortar school. Even if they can’t and this stretches on, really disrupting your student’s education, they won’t be the only one. Turning to bottom dollar online programs is probably not your best option. If you want to keep up with math skills or a few other things, then that’s one thing, but don’t let the pressure get to you. If your school hasn’t sent home work, the best thing your kids can do is to try something new or work on a specific skill, not to try and suddenly start a whole video and online quiz based system.