Homeschooling Parents: This is What a Teacher Needs You to Know

Updated: April 20, 2020
Homeschooling during COVID-19 school closures isn't easy for teachers, parents, or kids. Veteran teacher Heather shares 7 tips for parents on how to make it a meaningful, lower-stress scenario for everyone involved.
A teacher's advice for parents about homeschooling

One day you find yourself making breakfast, getting dressed for work, packing lunches, and sending your child off to school. The next moment you find yourself working from home (if at all) and becoming your child’s teacher for an indefinite amount of time. Talk about a shock to the system! As a teacher, please know that you can do this! While this abrupt transition has rocked everyone’s world, here are some things that teachers want parents to know about online learning.

More: The Ultimate Guide to Working From Home With Kids

Stay as Close as You Can to Your Child’s Daily School Schedule

If your child has reading first thing in the school day, conduct their reading lesson first. If they have their related arts second, set aside 45 minutes to an hour of art, physical education, music, or library, depending on the day. Try to have lunch when they normally would, and even set aside time for movement breaks using Gonoodle and meditation time if your child is stressed or needs a break. Your child’s teacher would be thrilled to know that you are sticking to what your child is conditioned to doing because they worked so hard to orient them to this schedule.

Keep Sleep Constant

Just because your child isn’t physically required to get up, shower, dress, and head out to school doesn’t mean they should sleep in until 9 am or stay up past their normal bedtime. While a little leniency is fine, you shouldn’t let your child completely destroy their sleep schedule. If students do end up going back to school, it will be wonderful for all involved knowing that they won't have a difficult time getting back into the swing of things and they are well-rested so they are ready to learn.

Get Out There

One of the best things about homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to take breaks outside, or enjoy some learning in the great outdoors. Play kickball for gym class, teach your child about different species of birds and go hiking and bird watching for science class. There are endless opportunities to learn when you get outside. Your child's teacher will actually be jealous that you get to enjoy this hands-on approach, spending quality family time together while making long lasting memories.

Incorporate Learning into Everyday Situations

Learning doesn’t have to stop after school hours. Because there is usually no homework issued during an online education, and because you will be home with nothing but time on your hands, consider keeping the learning opportunities open and fun. Bake or cook with your child and teach them about fractions. Show them how to balance a checkbook or write a check for that matter. Build a birdhouse or order a fence to put around a garden by using practical applications such as area and perimeter. Your teacher wants you to know that following a schedule and course outline is wonderful during the day, but applying skills learned to everyday situations is truly the meaning of hands-on learning.

Do Your Best

Yes, your child’s teacher understands that you may not have had algebra in over a decade. They are not expecting you to be an expert on everything that you teach your child. Do your best to make learning relatable and when all else fails, Google is your friend! There are also all kinds of tutorials on sites like Khan Academy, where you can watch a pre-recorded video of a teacher going over certain topics, skills, and strategies. Youtube also has a wide range of educational videos that can help instruct your child.

Also, if your child is having an extremely difficult day, is not feeling motivated, is causing tension between the two of you or the family, or is simply not adjusting yet to the online expectations, don’t be afraid to back off and take a break. Teachers understand that this can be a frustrating process for everyone and that if something doesn’t get done one day, it is not the end of the world. Pick up and try again tomorrow. Teaching (whether you’re doing it from home or in school) is all about being flexible and adapting to the needs of your learners.

Don’t Be Afraid to Email Your Child’s Teacher

Your child’s teacher is on the clock, so after something is assigned, they are supposed to be available from a set amount of hours to answer questions, weigh in on approaches, provide corrective feedback on turned in assignments, and offer support when and where needed. Do not hesitate to email them at any point during the online school hours-they actually miss seeing your child, helping them learn, and doing what they love!

Get Support From Friends

Truth be told, you are not used to spending this much time with your child. Social distancing rules make seeing others nearly impossible as well. Get some support from friends by creating a Zoom session so you can catch up and unwind (just not face to face). Your child also needs to stay social with their family members and classmates. If you are able to do FaceTime, set aside for them to chat with friends, play some video games online together, or set up a Zoom session with other family’s permission, give it a try! Your child will be elated to see some familiar faces and to blow off some steam. This keeps life as normal as it can be!

At the end of the day, your child’s teacher wants to encourage you to roll with the punches. They know that while you didn’t ask for this to happen, it is happening. In order to keep your child up to pace, in practice, and in a healthy routine and schedule, you are the glue that will hold everything together. It’s OK to make mistakes, to not have all the answers, and to reach out for help when you need it. Your teacher wants you to know that they aren't just proud of your child, they are proud of you and your efforts, and they truly thank you for enriching and educating their students.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.