What? Me, a homeschool parent? What do I do next?

Children thrive on structure and routine. That is always true, but it becomes even more essential when the rhythms and patterns of family life change abruptly and dramatically.

According to the 3/27 edition of Education Week, “School closures due to coronavirus have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students.”

This has cast millions of parents, many of them attempting to manage their full-time jobs remotely, in the brand-new role of homeschool parent. By mid-April we will all know more more; some districts have already announced closure through the end of the school year. However, know that you really aren’t expected to lay out 60 days of lesson plans, but you do want to keep kids in a routine, doing homework and lessons their teachers have sent home and/or put online, and in general, keeping them in learning mode.

The #1 message across many different sources is “keep a regular schedule.” One source who advocates that is Jennifer Gorton, who runs the Pearls Homeschool Support group of about 30 families in Ohio. On March 23, Patrick O’Donnell, reporting for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote, “Help! I Don’t Know How to Be a Teacher,” in which he gathered input from homeschooling parents--including Gorton--and teacher trainers (professors at teaching colleges).

Gorton “suggests taking the lessons that teachers send home for the week and making sure you do part of them daily.”

For a productive learning session, be sure you and your child are rested and relaxed. Make your child’s learning environment secure and pleasant. Do your best to convey the message that learning is challenging but also enjoyable and rewarding. Genuine, specific praise will help build your child’s confidence. Support your child’s efforts to move beyond what he or she can already accomplish, but not to the point of frustration. Leave your child eager to learn more!

Parents, however, can take comfort from Debbie Gibson, a homeschooler and social media coordinator for the Christian Home Educators of Ohio. In O'Donnell's article, Gibson wisely notes that “Trying to imitate the classroom at home is not going to work. She says, “Your home is not school. Other things are still happening. Meals need to be made. Babies need care. Parents are working from home.”

Supplemental workbooks and flash cards can help your child integrate math, language arts, science, and social studies into everyday life and make it easy to see what skills need reinforcement.

Also, Anywhere Teacher, the online learning program developed by School Zone, offers 2,000+ learning activities for kids ages 2 to 8. Just one adorable example is the Napoleon Bone Apart light-up puzzle. Kids learn the names and location of bones in the human body, as they put together a skeleton—one bone at time—and then watch him dance a little jig!

Of course, fun and effective learning means thinking about teachable moments of many kinds KMBC News 9, an ABC affiliate in Kansas City, MO, recently interviewed tutor Andrew Price for a report on dealing with the school shutdown. One of his suggestions included “pacing,” adding, “Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Section homework out—and allow the children to still enjoy breaks and activities in the home.”

Another great idea from Price is to “Have your children do activities related to subjects.” For example, “For math skills, have them help with the bills and cooking. For reading, have them read aloud captions on the TV. For science, teach them about car or home repair.” He emphasizes these are collaborative activities.

Three years ago, Petit Early Learning Journey, which operates 18 educational day care centers in Australia, published a wonderful article on the myriad benefits of a regular routine for kids. They describe themselves as “a progressive, educational inspiring long day care service focused on the holistic learning and development of children,” and the article is titled, “10 Reasons a Daily Routine Is Important for Your Child (and How to Set One).”

The article notes that “while change is a learning opportunity it can also be stressful for children. A normal routine brings comfort and consistency to a child’s life. It also says it can help regulate kids’ “body clocks” to improve nap and nighttime sleep, improve eating, and promote regular bathroom habits.

Daily routines can include morning get-ready time, “bath times, mealtimes, naptimes and bedtimes; housework, cooking, and cleaning schedules; and play time, family time, and outdoor play.”

They say a routine can also bond families, set clear expectations, create a calmer household, give kids confidence and independence, establish healthy, constructive habits, provides opportunity for "daily rituals,” and perhaps most important during this time of uncertainty, “offers stability during times of change or stress."

Teachable moments are everywhere! You can often help your child sharpen important skills by integrating lessons with everyday activities. Walk down the sidewalk, or peek into kitchen cupboards. Make up riddles to challenge your child’s listening, thinking, and rhyming skills. Include the color of the object and a word that rhymes with it. For instance, “I’m thinking of something red. It rhymes with tall.” Your child’s answer could be, “It’s a ball!” 

Teaching kids at home? It’s definitely doable. And it has lots of room for creativity and flexibility.