Unless you were trained as a teacher—or are married to one—this distance learning situation so many of us find ourselves in might be testing even the most hardened resolve. In fact, I’ve heard some parents go so far as referring to it as “an extreme sport.”
Yet there are people who teach their kids from home all the time and somehow maintain their sanity. That’s why these homeschoolers have gained a new, hero-like status among the rest of us. And they have some tried-and-true advice anyone can use—especially busy contact center agents.
We’ve all seen quite a bit of advice on how to schedule your distance learner’s day while accommodating work responsibilities. Home-schooling parent Amy Leonard, however, made a suggestion I hadn’t heard before: frontload the school day.
Leonard recommends doing intensive subjects like math, science and English in the morning, and reserving the afternoon for more self-directed work. Leonard says, in this way, her kids “have had plenty of attention from me by that point, so they generally give me free time … so I can work on running the household and fulfilling my responsibilities for my volunteer positions.”1
Leonard says, above all, remember the parent-child relationship comes first. “When I have butted heads with my children, and this is inevitable, I have found it important to back up on pushing academics and build the relationship. Children are more willing to accept their parents in the role of teacher if they feel secure in that relationship.”2
And, when it does come to teaching, home-schooling parent Monica Utsey suggests remembering you already are your children’s “first teacher and the most important teacher.”3 So be confident!
Many homeschoolers share the philosophy that the world is a classroom, with no strict lines dividing life and school. So, during this time when virtually nothing looks like it normally does, it’s good to remember that distance learning doesn’t have to always look like regular school.
“There is so much to life that is learning that we often overlook when we’re in a ‘schooly’ mindset,” says home-schooling parent Jen Garrison Stuber. “Create art and music together. Look up ‘hygge’ [a Danish term that encompasses both the feeling and lifestyle of coziness and contentment] for ideas to make hunkering down in your house more fun. Write letters to distant relatives.”4
Utsey and Leonard both say they also like watching documentaries and listening to podcasts with their kids. Adds Leonard, “Read books together, discuss current events, listen to podcasts, really just include them in everything you do … and grow your own interest in everything they are learning as well.”5
As part of this flexible approach to learning, home-schooling parent Michelle Serna recommends doing five things for your distance learner(s) every day: build in alone learning time, such as quiet reading; get them outside and moving; encourage them to pursue their personal interests (sports, musical instruments, crafts, etc.) as part of their learning day; end their learning day at whatever time they complete the daily to-do list you create for them; and grant them device screen time that’s separate from learning time.6
No one expects new distance-learning parents to go it alone. Leonard encourages everyone to ask extended family and friends to pitch in as well. Her own mother, for instance, teaches her children history and Spanish online, while their other grandmother assigns homework and makes herself available via phone to answer their school questions.7
Lastly, when in doubt, get help from the distance-learning pioneers who went before you: the homeschoolers themselves. Former high school English teacher-turned-homeschooling parent Shauna Anderson, for instance, maintains an online list of free, online educational activities—like virtual field trips, project ideas and documentaries—that she recommends and also teaches an online “Homeschooling 101” class at unschool.school.8
For more information on managing a remote workforce—including accounting for added distance learning expectations—visit our Definitive Guide.
1,2,3,4,5,7 Education Week, “Teaching Kids at Home During Coronavirus: Pro Tips From Homeschoolers.” March 17, 2020.
6 The Cross Timbers Gazette, “Distance Learning got You Overwhelmed? Local Homeschooling Mom Shares Tips.” April 27, 2020.
8 Fast Company, “The COVID-19 Crisis is Giving Parents a Taste of Digital ‘Unschooling.’” March 24, 2020.