It has been a rollercoaster teaching my kindergartner from home.
In the beginning it was fun. We named our dining room “Car Big Kids School” (my 2-year-old contributed the car part), we set up stations and I bought inexpensive learning tools off of Amazon.
We set school hours and looked forward to lessons each day. I thought, This is going to be fun! We’ve got this. This homeschooling thing is going to be a breeze!
As I enter into week nine of homeschooling, I chuckle and shake my head at Day 1 Homeschool Me. Oh did she not know what was coming for her.
She didn’t understand that she would be doing “this homeschooling thing” for the rest of the year. She didn’t know that eventually just mentioning school work would send her 6-year-old into a tear-filled tantrum. She didn’t understand it would take 496 websites and passwords to give her child access to the lesson plans.
She didn’t even fully understand that her child didn’t know how to read or write so she would have to help her daughter complete her school work every. step. of. the. way.
Oh, sweet Day 1 Homeschool Me, Day 40 Homeschool Me is ready to serenade and soothe you with Guns ‘N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” and a buffet of wine and cupcakes.
Understand Your Kid’s Emotional Needs
With the amount of stress homeschooling is causing my daughter (and myself), I fear that I’m doing more harm than good. And according to Certified Play Therapist Robi Heath of Kid Talk in Frisco, my fears might be warranted. “Their emotional needs need to be met in order to learn,” Heath says. “If they are in emotional distress, it is going to be very hard for them to retain any of the information that you are teaching them.”
Heath explains that kids get different needs met from being in school, beyond just learning. “For some kids, their teachers fill their cup or the social interaction with friends fill their cup. School isn’t just about learning for children, so I know a lot of kids are struggling during this time,” says Heath.
I feel this, especially with my kindergartner. I know that much of her learning in school this year involves play and groups, so asking her to learn in front of a screen is an uphill battle.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Matthew Housson of The Housson Center in Dallas says this makes sense. “We’re trying to put a platform for children that’s not developmentally accurate for where they are in kindergarten,” Housson says. “Play and social and emotional development is the foundation of all learning, and that’s not really working in this current environment.”
Take the Pressure Off
So what do we do? Do I cancel homeschooling for the rest of the year? Do I go rogue and teach my kids the fine art of creating the perfect at-home margarita instead of their lesson plans?
Housson suggests giving yourself a break. “Remind yourself you’re a parent; you’re not a teacher,” he notes. “Take some pressure off of yourself. All of the schools are in all the same situation where they’re going to have kids coming back in August and September who have had varying levels of parent-teacher effectiveness. So, I think that parents really need to take some pressure off themselves to have their children ‘keep up,’ because keeping up implies other people are ahead of you—and no one’s ahead of anyone else … everyone’s in the same situation.”
Change it Up
This is reassuring, but I’m afraid that I’m doing permanent damage on ny child’s love of learning by forcing her to learn in a way that she’s not capable. Housson says in speaking to teachers one thing is evident: “They do not want a bunch of kids who come back into the school year with an emotional resistance to learning.”
He recommends getting kids to learn outside of worksheets or using good online content as a workaround of worksheet fatigue.
A major theme that both psychologists emphasized is that we need to make sure our kids are in a good mindset before we attempt teaching them. “Before [parents] even pull a book out … they need a well-rested child,” Housson says. “They need to do their morning routine of having a good breakfast. Some of the schools that wear uniforms have required kids to get in their uniforms and get in the mindset of learning. I like that because I think there’s a mindset that comes with putting on the uniform that they were used to in the first seven months of the school year.”
Bring on the Fun
And we can’t forget the extracurriculars—the first thing many parents including myself let fall by the wayside. “Right now, I think the most important part of the school day is PE, art and music, because those are things that allow children to get out of their stressed, emotional brain until they’re relaxed,” Housson says. “Kids are getting stressed and parents are getting stressed, and we’re all kind of going into that primitive fight or flight response. No child is going to learn when they’re in their ‘animal brain.’ They need to be in their ‘human brain,’ which is much more cognitive and thought-based.”
Also, Heath reminds us to be human. “It’s ok to not be ok,” she says. “We don’t know the long-term effects the pandemic is going to have on children. Check in with your children’s teachers and let them know you and your child are struggling. They can come up with a plan better suited for your family.”
Y’all, we can do this. Talk to your kid’s teachers, do PE, art, music and break up worksheets with fun online content. And remember, we’re all in the same boat. Housson says he believes the goal right now is to “maintain as much of the educational gains from this school year. It should be thought of as a bonus to improve.”
Deep breaths mamas, we’ve got this.
The below websites are recommended from Housson:
Image courtesy of iStock.