The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed our daily lives in many ways. Homeschooling is one of the biggest changes for many families.
Challenges of homeschooling during the coronavirus pandemic
Many parents now find themselves juggling a full-time job and homeschooling. They’re monitoring work emails and school emails as well as balancing their work schedules with their kids’ homeschooling schedules. Adding the role of teacher may come easily to some, but it may be overwhelming to others, and it can become a source of stress and anxiety in the home.
Parents aren’t the only ones feeling the pressure. Kids are now having to learn how to communicate with teachers through email and video-conferencing software instead of being able to talk to their teachers in class like they normally do. Their routines have also drastically changed. They don’t have a bell reminding them that it’s time to get to their next class, go to recess or take their lunch break.
The stress can be exponentially greater for kids with physical or learning disabilities or chronic medical needs because they are a unique category of learners. They are used to getting extra learning support through an Individualized Education Program (commonly referred to as an IEP) or 504 plan at school.
Learning support for children with medical needs and learning disabilities
As a brain injury educational coordinator within our Department of Rehabilitation, Jodi Krause, MA CBIS, helps patients, families and community teachers understand the complexities that children with chronic medical needs and learning disabilities face in the classroom. She addresses families’ questions and concerns and provides training and professional development to teachers across the state for children with rehabilitation needs. She is also a clinical learning specialist with expertise in learning disabilities and developmental delay.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Jodi has used her expertise to help support at-home learning by offering additional virtual training and support to teachers and school professionals.
Jodi says, “During this challenging time, parents should remember that each child is unique and what works for some doesn’t work for all. Parents should try to remain positive and provide encouragement and remember to keep a good balance between work and play.”
Managing your homeschooling
Although the change to homeschooling can be very challenging, Krause says some planning and other considerations can ease the stress of trying to get it all done.
Here are Jodi’s tips for setting up homeschooling:
- Identify a structured quiet workspace for your child. This space should be as distraction-free as possible – away from TV or music. You may want to have your child wear noise-cancelling headphones if several family members will be working in the same space.
- Be flexible with your schedule, and alternate your child’s preferred and non-preferred tasks (or likes and dislikes).
- Use timers and alarms on your phone or other smart device to help structure activities.
- Schedule breaks throughout the day and explain to your child when they can expect a break. This is especially important for kids with physical or learning disabilities or chronic medical needs because they may get tired more easily with tasks that require high levels of concentration and focus.
- Use picture schedules (if needed) and checklists to help kids understand expectations.
- Organize printed materials by subject and use folders and color coding to help organize schoolwork. On each folder, write down the work that needs to get done and have your child check it off as they complete the work.
- Use incentives and rewards for getting schoolwork done and avoid power struggles. Rewards for listening and doing well can help keep learning at home positive and fun. Avoid punishing your child by taking things away if they have trouble focusing or completing the work.
- Ask your child’s teacher for help in reducing the number of items per assignment or assignments per day if your child is having trouble getting all their tasks done.
- Use assistive technology like audio presentation and speech to text for children with learning disabilities. The Chrome browser has built-in extension apps for this. If your child has a Special Education teacher, they may have other suggestions for learning tools that may be helpful to your child.