5 Tips for Sudden Home Schoolers

Many parents around the country are settling into a new role — substitute teachers for their school-age children. As an assistant professor and chair of the Department of Education Studies at Seton Hall University, I work with new teachers who are getting their sea legs in the classroom.  A parent myself, I offer these tips to help make school-at-home work for everyone.

  1. Remember what this is…and what it isn’t: 

    Dedicated home schoolers have well established curricula, activities, and social networks.  Online learning platforms spend years creating formats that facilitate digital learning. Your children’s teachers were given weeks – possibly days – to move classes meant to be taught in person and with peers into a distance environment.  They have done this so that learning will continue, and your children will not lose ground, but nobody has ever done this on this scale before.  Be patient with the schools, teachers, and your children as we all figure this out.

  2. Set a schedule…then feel free to break it:

    In school, your children follow routines and schedules that they know well.  Much of that may be pretty broken now.  You can help them adjust by setting clear times for working at school.  However, your children are not in school and other opportunities will come up.  Don’t let a rigid schedule prevent your children from exploring what they want to do, including relaxing.

  3. Pay attention to the social situation:

    School is a social environment. In fact, a lot of learning in school is also connected to social interaction. A lot of that has been taken away from your children, and they need it.  Opportunities to connect them with their peers are important and will help their adjustment.
    child on Zoom

  4. Ask teachers and school leaders what they need from you:

    You are probably used to a lot of schooling being handled by teachers and administrators. Now that the work they have planned is happening in your home space, there may be needs you haven’t thought of before that will assist.  Does your child have a space to work?  Does one child need more structure than your other child? Your children’s teachers will have ideas that you can implement at home.

  5. Forgive each other…often:

    Teachers spent years in school, earned advanced degrees, and often have decades of experience in the classroom.  You don’t, and you have important things to do too.  You are not expected to do everything your life demands of you AND be a full-time teacher as well.  Both you and your children will get frustrated, and, at times, will take it out on each other.  You need to forgive yourself for not being an expert educator, and you and your children need to forgive each other for a situation none of you control.

Daniel Katz has been a member of the faculty at the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University since 2002. He completed his doctoral work in curriculum, teaching and educational policy at Michigan State University. He was a high school English teacher in Hawaii where he taught at the Punahou School and at the St. Francis School. At Seton Hall he teaches courses on educational foundations, diversity, curriculum and English methods.

Professor Katz’ research focuses on new teacher induction and how pre-service education serves teachers as they enter their early careers. He is the past program chair for the special interest group on Research on New Teacher Induction at the American Education Research Association which helps shape the research agenda on new teacher support and assessment. His scholarly work also includes issues pertaining to teacher dispositions towards diverse learners and academic integrity in high schools.

Link to Dr. Katz’ profile:

Link to the College of Education and Human Services:

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