Tips for Educating Your Kids at Home

Many families are juggling the daily routine of work, schoolwork, three meals at home, cleaning, laundry, yard work, and everything else.  It is quite overwhelming to suddenly have to manage all of this.  So how do you help maintain everyone’s sanity and make the days go as smoothly as possible?  Here are some tricks to help.

One of the easiest and most impactful things you do is create a structure for the day.  If possible, have areas where certain activities take place, a daily schedule, rules, and reinforcement charts.  My son always does his homework on the computer in the same place.  When it is time to do homework, he just automatically goes there and it makes the transition to doing homework so much easier.

Another way to include daily structure can be to implement a daily schedule.  Initially, it can feel overwhelming trying to figure out where to begin and how to develop a schedule for everything.  Luckily, there are a number of online resources and many that are even free!  Little Puddins offers free visual schedules, which are great for all children, but especially for young children and children with disabilities. When developing a schedule, try not to make it too complicated.  If you try to schedule every last activity or detail, you will set yourself up to frequently deviate from the schedule.  Try to put blocks for general activities (e.g., outside time, academics, lunch, snack, screen time, etc.).  This will allow some flexibility from day-to-day but keep a structure.  All children thrive off of having consistent structure and knowing what to expect.  This will minimize (not completely eliminate) acting out behavior related to the next activity of the day.   It won’t be a surprise what happens when day to day and catch them off guard, they will know when each activity is going to happen each day.

If your child is like mine, they need to know the rules and be reinforced for following them.  My son is highly motivated by being able to earn things, even if it is something very small.  We implement reinforcement charts for him based off of behaviors he is struggling with or family rules we need him to follow.  It can be fluid and change as necessary, which is really helpful.  It is best to develop this with your child, that helps get buy-in from them.  I create charts that have a theme of interest to him. Free Printable Behavioral Charts has a number of different charts that are free to download and have different themes and formats. This website also has other great resources, including chore charts, charts for various daily activities (e.g., brushing teeth, pet care, etc.), potty training, anxiety, anger, and much more.  Once you create the chart and what the expectations are with your child, it is very important you be consistent with it.

It can also help to get flexible and creative with teaching certain concepts.  Academic time doesn’t have to be quizzing them on their letters or math facts.  You can go for a walk and ask them to name things they see and then tell you what the first letter of the word is or spell out the word.  You could have them go on a scavenger hunt around your house and find five items that all start with a certain letter, are a certain color, or that all rhyme.  When playing with sidewalk chalk, you can easily practice colors and letters.  Try to make learning fun and less conventional when you can.  It will make learning a lot easier for your kids and you.

Another way to help if you have multiple kids at home is to have them do activities with each other.  Let them read to each other or practice the concepts they are learning with each other.  My niece who is 8 created flashcards and homemade learning materials for her 4-year-old sister.  She gives her a “lesson” every day to teach her how to read.  The younger sister has advanced so much in her reading skills and the older sister has a sense of pride for what she has done.  It has also made the day to day so much easier on my sister and brother-in-law.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will help all of you who are teaching your kids at home right now.  My final thought is to give yourself some slack.  If you don’t get every assignment for your 3rd grader done, if the laundry doesn’t get folded and put away immediately, or if there are dirty dishes in the sink overnight it is ok.  I’m with you that it doesn’t feel ok when our expectation on ourselves is to get those things done, but in the big picture of everything going on right now and everything you are taking on it ultimately is ok.  Hang in there!