5 Tips for Educating Your Kids in the Middle of a Pandemic

Okay, guys. Take a deep breath. If you’re super stressed right now and wondering how the heck you’re going to keep your kid learning (and keep yourself sane!) in the midst of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, you are NOT alone! Whether you’ve decided to go full-on homeschool mode or have opted instead for more of a “please go do something useful, I need to get work done NOW” approach, I have good news: you’re doing GREAT and there is NO right way to do this. Because guess what? I’ve never taught kids while a global pandemic rages on outside my walls, have you? Yeah, didn’t think so!

Here are 5 tips to help you not go crazy during this crazy time, while enabling your kids to make the most out of the learning experiences that lie within your own walls. 

You don’t need to turn your house into a homeschool!

For those of you who feel super stressed about replicating your kid’s regular school experience, I’m here to give you some GREAT news: you absolutely DO NOT need to do ANYthing of the sort! You’re not a teacher (or maybe you are, in which case, feel free to ignore me), and you don’t need to be one! So, if Karen is posting all over Instagram about how organized she is and how rigorous and to-the-minute her child’s newly-invented homeschool schedule is, good for Karen. You don’t need to be Karen; you’ve got your own thing going on!

To schedule or not to schedule

Remember Goldilocks? The whole “not too hot, not too cold” thing? Well, we all learned a very important lesson from that twisted fairy tale, now didn’t we! Too much scheduling (i.e. deciding you need to replicate every hour of the school day) will likely drive you (and your kid) insane. Zero scheduling will also likely drive you (and your kid!) insane. Figure out what your ideal balance is, and try it out – and remember, there is no right answer. Another thing to consider is just how scheduled “scheduled” actually is. Instead of strictly scheduling which activity happens when, you might want to consider creating a bank of activities that your child can choose from in each block of time. Some examples might include: read a book, practice and instrument, do a math problem, learn something new, draw a picture, video chat with a relative, or do something nice for someone else!

Remember Curiosity?!

I have long argued that the constantly increasing pressure of evaluations often scare kids away from exploring their natural inclination to be curious. Often kids are scared to try new things, or to come up with creative ways to solve problems (especially in math class!) because they are scared to fail. Well…guess what?! Now that assessments and evaluations are basically off the table, there has never been a better time to reignite the curious spirit that lies within us all! This is the time to allow your kids to learn math without a goal of “doing it the right way,” or to make art without the fear of being judged.

Some ideas: Look up “math problems of the week” online – these are usually problems that have multiple solutions or multiple ways to reach a solution. Get your child to tell you at the beginning of each week what topic they want to learn about, and then come up with a few ways for them to explore that very thing ON THEIR OWN (because you are VERY busy!). Get your child to make you a scavenger hunt, come up with a dinner menu, create their dream restaurant…whatever! This is the time ignite curiosity, a trait that will prove very, very useful in school next year…and IRL!

Batch projects to save yourself time!

If you want to be hands-on but also can’t monitor every second of every day, a great way to ensure your kid’s mind isn’t turning to mush is to create batch projects at the beginning of each week. Pick a theme, throw in a few tasks, print off some worksheets, the end. Involve your child in the process so that they feel like their interests are being taken into consideration. Let’s say this week’s theme is “The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones.” Have your child learn and perform a song by each band, research the band members, study lyrics, write a poem of a similar style, draw a picture to accompany their fave song, and debate as to which band is better (we all know the answer, don’t we?). 

When in doubt, outsource…to Google!

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Like, there’s a PANDEMIC happening guys, let’s keep things simple! Most educational websites have made their resources available for free during this time, and you can find anything you can imagine out there. Here is my favourite list of free resources – it is constantly updated in realtime! Finally, remember if you want access to a teacher each week, there are options! Tutoring centres like mine are providing all of their programs online, and our government is working on improving Mathify, an online live tutoring program for kids. Bottom line: help is out there, you’re not alone, and no matter what you’re doing: I promise you that you are doing GREAT!

About the author: Vanessa is the founder and director of The Math Guru, a super cool boutique math & science tutoring studio in Toronto, offering all programs online and in-studio. She is also the author of Math Hacks, a new book that totally makes math fun, stress-free and relatable for young kids and parents AND she is the host of a new podcast called Math Therapy, where Vanessa helps guests work through their math trauma, one problem at a time! Her #goals are to be Lady-Gaga-famous and to totally change math culture so that STEM is finally as cool and accessible as basically every single Taylor Swift song ever. She failed Grade 11 math twice, which was the best thing that ever happened to her. Side note but totally relevant: Vanessa is a founding member of Toronto indie-rock band Goodnight, Sunrise. Mindy Kaling is her idol and Vanessa believes that she should be yours too.  

Connect with Vanessa: @themathguru, vanessa@themathguru.ca or www.themathguru.ca.

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