You got the call maybe a week ago: your kids – all of them – got an “extended spring break”. You weren’t too worried; after all, it was just an extra week of them at home – a sort of mini vacation, you thought. Then the call was made, and suddenly you’re looking at doing schoolwork with your kids at home for a good long while. Maybe your district has set up live classes online, but maybe they sent home a pile of worksheets and textbooks- and now you’re panicking, not over toilet paper or COVID19 or the lock down, but over what you’re supposed to teach and how you’re supposed to teach it.
STOP PANICKING! There are lots of things you can do to help your kids keep learning right now.
First, set up a small area for school supplies. This doesn’t have to be anything huge; simply make sure your child has an area where everything can be found and then set back there when finished with school every single time. This can be a shelf, a cubby, a small desk, a big basket, even just a cardboard box or bookbag. It doesn’t matter so long as you have created a permanent spot for everything school related.
Second, stock the school spot. Your child likely left all school supplies at the schoolhouse. In your school spot, you need the basics: pencils, pens, and paper (or a little whiteboard, whiteboard marker, and a washcloth as an eraser). Now add in any other office supplies you have anywhere in your house or purse or car (anywhere you stash these types of things): markers, crayons, colored pencils, a highlighter or two, sticky notes, a glue stick or little bottle of glue, tape, scissors, etc. If you don’t have some of this stuff, don’t worry about it. Don’t leave to go get it! As long as your child has pencil and paper, you’ll be fine.
ONLINE LEARNERS: Welcome to online learning! If your district set up online lessons with specific times, part of your role is to make sure you know what that online schedule is. Write it down. Post it nearest to where you sit or spend most of the time in your house. Big tip: set reminders for every single online class on your phone (do this by the week)!
Make sure your child uses the restroom and then gets logged into those online classes a few minutes before the official class time. Bring your child a small drink and a small snack as class is starting so there’s no need for your child to leave the computer. If you have elementary aged kids, sit with them or very nearby while they’re in class in case they need redirecting to the lesson or need help typing answers to the teacher, etc.
As an online teacher of ten years, I can tell you three of the things I encounter that make it hard to teach young elementary students: 1) when parents don’t stay nearby and expect eight and nine year old students to stay 100% focused and do their lessons all on their own with no redirection or guidance from parents, 2) when parents stay nearby but have the television going or play video games or have loud phone conversations – these all make it next to impossible for almost any student to concentrate on an online teacher/class (also, just a little tip: I can hear the tv/video game/phone conversation, too, and so can all the other parents if your child turns on the computer microphone!), and 3) when parents are yelling at the student in the background because the student isn’t reading “fast enough” or isn’t typing the answer into the chatbox area as quickly as the parent thinks the child should. I always feel so badly for those students being yelled at like that.
Another job you have with online learning is to make sure BOTH YOU AND YOUR CHILD understand what the assignment is before logging out of that class for the day. Encourage middle and high school students to write the assignments down and date them with the “when assigned” date, placing due dates there as well. For early elementary students, you’ll need to write down those assignments yourself.
Yet another job as the parent of a suddenly online schooled student is to check your email daily. I cannot stress this one enough! Check your email daily! This includes having your child check school email daily as well. Your child’s teachers may send printouts, websites, assignments, feedback, and more through email to you and/or your child.
Finally, make sure the assignments are being completed AND SUBMITTED. Set time during the day for your kids to work on any assignments they need to complete. Ask to see the assignments periodically so you can provide guidance as needed. Please do NOT do the assignments for your child. You already graduated _th grade, and teachers don’t want to see your work; they want to see your child’s! Do you understand the submission process? Stay on top of those due dates you wrote down as each assignment was assigned, and make sure those assignments are submitted to each teacher accordingly.
Some assignments will be as simple to submit as dragging the file on the computer to the correct spot and “dropping” it in its correct teacher’s folder. Other assignments need to be scanned before being turned in to the teacher. If you have an Android smartphone, this process is very easy to do. First, make sure you have Google Drive installed on your phone (you can get it for free from the Play Store). Follow the steps on HowToGeek.com to scan an assignment using your Android phone and Google Drive .
MY DISTRICT JUST SENT WORKSHEETS AND WE FINISHED THEM/MY DISTRICT DIDN’T SEND ANYTHING – NOW WHAT??? Follow the first and second steps above to set up your school supply area. If you have the kids’ textbooks, look through them and ask the kids which unit they were on – you can use those books as your guidance to what topics to teach while the kids are learning at home.
If the kids brought home no textbooks, no worksheets, and no guidance, then welcome to homeschooling the traditional way! You get to create your own lesson plans and units for your child – how exciting!!! There is an entire WORLD OF THINGS you can do to teach your child yourself at home and make sure learning continues! You may find that you like this way so much that you wind up becoming a card-carrying traditional homeschooler (just kidding…..we don’t have official cards to carry…. unless we make them ourselves……LOL).
When I first started homeschooling wayyyy back in 1997 (when some of you were just being born or before you were born……..oh man, do I feel old now!), we didn’t have access to the things on the internet like you do now. We made all of our own lesson plans and unit plans by going to the library and pulling books and VCR tapes on the topic we wanted to teach our kids, and it took hours to put it all together. You’re in luck! You have the internet. Basically anything you want to teach your kids, you can Google search and have a thousand choices for it in .02 seconds. Those choices can be overwhelming though so here’s a plan you can follow.
First, approach this as something fun with your kids. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try homeschooling but were afraid to do it; now is your chance to do it! The first thing you’re going to do (this is if your school sent home nothing for your child) is have your child make a learning list. Here’s a link to the one Jake made when he was seven years old to give you an idea of what to do.
Second, you’re going to write a unit plan. Use that list as your guide for unit topics. Pick one or let your child pick one for the week, and spend an hour putting together a list of online items that are centered around this list. Here’s a loose plan to follow when putting together your own online based unit plan for any topic (for this example, we will use the topic “mummies”):
- Start a Google doc or a Word doc on your computer. Title it with your unit theme. Label it by day or by section such as books to read, videos to watch, virtual field trips to take, history to learn, etc.
- Log into your local library’s website and search your topic in their online books (choose ebooks or eresources) and download/”borrow” several. List the book names on your unit plan (one book per day if you’re planning by the day or under books to read if you used that format). We are in a very small rural area. When I searched “mummies” on the library website and then clicked ebooks, there were 168 results! Some say NOT AVAILABLE so someone else already has that checked out, but with 168 results, there were plenty of others from which to choose.
- I want to note here that you can usually make short work of creating a unit for your child by simply heading over to TeachersPayTeachers and searching for the book title or theme you’ve chosen for you unit. There are a LOT of lesson plans and units already written that go along with hundreds of books and topics there. I cannot say enough good things about that site! For example, one of the books for free to download at our local library is Secrets of the Mummies by Harriet Griffey. I found this to supplement it on TeachersPayTeachers; it is a short accompaniment for the book with reading comprehension questions and costs $3. If you’re a little worried about your child’s reading comprehension, pulling a reading comp item that’s geared to the specific online book you choose will help your child, and you won’t spend time trying to create it. There are lots of free items like this for books on TeachersPayTeachers. Seriously – check them out! DISCLAIMER: I don’t sell anything on TeachersPayTeachers so I stand to gain nothing if you do get items from there; I’m just mentioning it because I find it invaluable as a teacher when writing lesson plans.
- Google your topic with the word videos added. For example, I clicked videos instead of all and typed into the Google search bar mummies videos. 908,000 results popped up immediately…NINE HUNDRED EIGHT THOUSAND RESULTS (that is simply staggering!). Spend five minutes looking over them to see what looks age appropriate for your child and what you think would interest your child (or allow your child to sit near you and pick videos that you watch together). If you’re doing this unit plan by yourself to prep for the week, simply list some videos and copy/paste their hyperlinks on your unit plan that you find interesting (or perhaps that go along with the books you chose online already).
- Google virtual field trips using the all section of Google search. For example, I clicked all and then typed mummies virtual field trips. 2,030,000 results popped up immediately…TWO MILLION THIRTY THOUSAND RESULTS (again…staggering). Pick a few that look interesting and list their titles and copy/paste their hyperlinks on your unit plan (again, these could go along with the books you chose online already…….do you see how this is all working together?).
- BOOKMARK THIS ONLINE GOOGLE BOOK FOR TONS OF VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP IDEAS LISTED ALPHABETICALLY BY SUBJECT: New Virtual Field Trips by Gail Cooper and Garry Cooper
- Google your topic with the words recent news afterward. For example, I searched for mummies recent news. There were over 28 million results. In the top ten, to name just three, I found articles from livescience.com, cnn, and the Independent in the UK (this one was really neat as it listed several recent finds regarding mummies when I clicked on it). Again, choose what is age appropriate for your child and put the titles and copy/paste the hyperlinks into your unit plan (I would put these under science as the category in my unit plan).
- Insert some geography into your unit plan. Google search a map of Egypt and save it to your unit plan. Also Google search a world map to see where Egypt is in regards to your country (this one allows you to click on any country on it and then view that country as well!). Just for fun, I searched in Google images with these words: map of egypt with mummies. There was one neat one that shows landmarks, mummies, and a few other things – interesting enough that I clicked on the image. I’m so glad I did!!! This popped up! It listed a video on how Egyptians made mummies, the map, a neat picture, and some sources. This is listed for grades 6-10, and it honestly looks like something a teacher put together to grab the students’ interest at the beginning of a unit on Egypt or mummies (or perhaps a student put it together as part of a project and then posted it).
- Insert some history into your unit plan. Google search different terms you’ve seen while you’re creating this unit plan. For example, I searched for mummification process and found three great examples that I placed in my history box in my unit plan.
- As you’re doing this plan, have you seen a few links that looked interesting to you so you clicked on them to look at them later? I did! I found two crafts on making mummy cases and writing your name in Egyptian hieroglyphs as well as one for making a chicken into a mummy. I created two new boxes in my unit plan titled Science Lab and History Lab and put those items there. If you see anything that looks neat, put it in your unit plan. THIS IS YOUR UNIT PLAN! You can put in any neat things you find! It’s all going to have some educational value!
- Now find things relating to your unit topic for writing. Reading, writing, and arithmetic – if you stick with those as your basics for every single day, you cannot go wrong with teaching your child. Google search journal topics for your child. You need five to ten depending on if your unit is one week (five days) or two weeks (ten days). I did a Google search for journal prompts mummies. I had to look through these closely as most were Halloween themed writing prompts. I wound up hitting Google Images and didn’t like what I saw. Then I changed my Google search to journal prompts about Egypt and looked under images. There were more than enough. I copied and pasted those into my journal block.
- Head over to TeachersPayTeachers and search for your unit topic there. Be sure to click “free” (lefthand side of the page) and your child’s grade level (plus one grade above and one grade below). There are tons of great resources on that site, and as a teacher, I use it a LOT! I went with a link that has 23 pages in it for $1.99. It would be worth it to me not to spend more time searching. If you didn’t want to spend money, remember that you can always use this as a journal prompt to keep it tied to your unit theme: Write five sentences telling me about one thing you learned about _____ today. This is open-ended writing, and it is very useful! PLEASE remember not to stand over your child to correct every single little mistake they make while writing! These are for JOURNALING purposes. Date each one, and at the end of the or unit, your child can pick one and correct all the spelling and grammatical errors in it. Using these journaling entries will tell you what your child needs to work on most: capitalization, punctuation, spelling, staying on topic, adding detail sentences, writing a paragraph that stays on topic, etc. Utilize what you’re learning from your child for those Friday fixers with the journal topic they choose!
- Last, add math to your unit plan. It may not be related to your theme, but it needs to be done daily. Do a quick search and find some math fact games for free online. Those can be played for five minutes every single day to reinforce math fact knowledge. Find out what your child knows how to do: add/subtract single digits, add/subtract double digits, add/subtract with carrying and borrowing, multiplication tables single digits, multiplying double (or more) digits, division single digits, long division, fractions – adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, decimals – adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, probability, counting money, telling time on an analog (old fashioned) clock, etc. Figure out where your child is in math and then look online to find free resources for teaching what your child needs reinforced/needs to learn in math for the rest of this school year. There are TONS of free math worksheets that you can print from doing a quick Google search; you’ll find what your child needs there.
Now you’ve put all of that together so what do you do with it? You set it aside for a few minutes, and you write a small REALISTIC schedule for yourself and your child. You are still the parent, and you still have to cook meals, clean the house, pay bills, etc. That doesn’t go away; you’re adding teaching your child(ren) to that. YOU CAN DO IT! You have to set up a realistic schedule though. Are you all night owls? Then don’t write down that you’re going to be up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, at 6am daily to start your day; all that will accomplish is grumpiness and yelling and nobody being happy. Be realistic. You’re at home and have nowhere else to be (legally, not really anywhere to go right now!). Do you all do better if you get up at 10am? Then set your homeschool schedule to start at 11am after you’ve all had breakfast and cleaned up the dishes from it. Just make a list of the subjects you know you have to complete daily: reading, writing, arithmetic. You will fill in from your unit plan all of those other neat things that you found. Honestly, once your kids see that they’re learning about the things that really interest them, they’re going to want to see what all you have planned. They will LOVE IT, and you’ll have trouble getting them to stop. You’re all going to enjoy the laid back feeling you get once you get into the flow of traditional homeschooling in this manner. One thing: once you write your realistic homeschooling schedule, post it to the refrigerator so you all know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it.
This is a lot. I know it’s a lot. This blog post is HUGE, but I’m trying to give you all of the information so you feel prepared and can do this yourself. I know you can do it. You were your child’s first teacher! You’ve just been placed back into the position again because of COVID19, and YOU CAN DO IT!
FINALLY! The unit plan is together after an hour of doing online searches and copying/pasting hyperlinks into your unit plan, and your realistic schedule is written down on paper and posted to the refrigerator! You’re ready to begin! Start off with something small – for instance, watch a video from your unit plan with your child. Ask your child to summarize what the video told the both of you and then ask what questions your child still has that he/she wants to learn (called a KWL chart if you want to do it like we do in the classroom – what we know, what we want to know, and – at the very end of the unit – what we learned). Based on what your child wants to learn, pick something else from your unit plan. Maybe this is a good time to read one of the online books you borrowed or break out a fun science or history lab to do together to keep your child’s interest piqued. Whatever you do, just keep the momentum going. Be sure to stop for lunch and snacks and take breaks as needed, and be sure your child helps you with small household chores such as loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, emptying the small trashcans into the larger trashcans, setting the table, tossing laundry into the washing machine, feeding and watering pets, dusting, disinfecting the high contact areas in the home daily such as light switches/doorknobs/counters/computer keyboards/cellphones. You’re in this as a team so approach it that way. After your breaks, go back to the learning; there’s so much fun to be had when you do these things together!
NOTE: You can tie all of this into the Common Core State Standards if you want to do so by looking through them here and seeing which ones fit with what your unit covers. When you get to the site, click on standards in your state and go from there. It may jog your memory to cover something in writing or in reading. For example, I put down CCSS for Ohio for 7th graders that I would cover using this plan on mummies (at the bottom of my unit plan below) just so you can see how I do it. You do NOT have to this part, but it will help you see what your child needs to know and what you can work on at home to strengthen weak areas in various subjects.
This is what the mummy lesson plan looks like that I just wrote in less than an hour while writing this blog:
MUMMIES – ONLINE UNIT STUDY
CCSS to focus on during this unit for a 7th grade student:
ELA 7th grade: Informational Text: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – CCR Anchor Standard 7: Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words). – CHILD WILL COMPARE AND CONTRAST A TOPIC OF CHOICE ABOUT MUMMIES THIS WEEK, USING TWO SOURCES FROM THE UNIT PLAN BY THE END OF THIS UNIT. Social Studies 7th grade: World Studies – The seventh grade year is an integrated study of world history, beginning with ancient Greece and continuing through global exploration. All four social studies strands are used to illustrate how historic events are shaped by geographic, social, cultural, economic and political factors. Students develop their understanding of how ideas and events from the past have shaped the world today. – CHILD WILL BE ABLE TO TELL ME HOW THE EVENTS IN EGYPT WERE SHAPED BY CULTURAL AND POLITICAL FACTORS BY THE END OF THIS UNIT.