Homeschooling 1

Kaitlyn Hellman works through her workbook at home. 

The Paris News

Schools across the country are reverting to online learning to limit and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Students are being given homework assignments and online databases where they can access course content, but many parents of K-12 graders are having to help chip in with teaching the assignments.

Many schools, including those in Lamar and surrounding counties, will be giving weekly assignments done online or through packets for those without internet access. Students are expected to complete each group of assignments during the week, but parents may find it difficult to motivate their children without the traditional structure that public school provides.

Local homeschooling parents have some words of advice: keep a good attitude and tackle the challenge together.

“Start with more difficult subjects so they can be finished first. We don’t spend a particular time on each subject. We do that day’s work, and then we’re finished. No watching the clock,” Ann Kulebler said in regard to daily class organization. “Take turns working with students. When you’re not working with a particular student, make sure it is understood that they have some free time, but they should do something that they can do independently. My two have grown up doing school that way, and it has been a great way for them to develop their own interests.”

Heather Portfield Palmer, who has been homeschooling her 9- and 13-year-old sons for seven years collectively, said attitudes are contagious.

“I think first, the parent has to be motivated,” Palmer said. “Although our children certainly do not model all of the good behaviors we wish they would, attitudes are certainly contagious. Secondly, breaks and rewards — even short ones — can be easily plentiful in a home setting. It’s not as hard to encourage them to work for, let’s say, the next 30 minutes, when they know they’ll get a five- or 10-minute break at the end of it. Lastly, I would say that love and praise and consistent discipline are always part of keeping them motivated.”

Erica Muller advises parents to decide which subjects are the most important, then schedule those in the morning. Pick an extra topic each day, she said, for some after-lunch time. Those subjects can include music, social studies, art, etc.

“Don’t stress about covering every single subject every single day,” Muller said.

A good way to stay organized is to have a handwritten lesson book and a plan: schedule when certain lessons will be taught and keep to that plan, Palmer said.

“While some homeschool mothers do every subject every day, we have A days and B days. English and literature and social studies one day and then math and science another day. We do arts and music, trades and skills, P.E., and Bible study every day,” Palmer said.

Parents who may not fully recollect the assigned school material can find numerous supplemental options readily available online. Kuleber said there are supplemental educational programs such as Khan Academy available for free online. Others can be found with a basic web search, she said.

Palmer and Muller had another word of advice for parents: breathe.

“Helping kids to learn is not rocket science. You can do this,” Muller said.

As school districts transition to online and paper-packet remote instruction, teachers say they will remain available to help students and parents. Higgins Elementary School kindergarten teacher Laci Carr advises parents to stay diligent and be patient with the work at home.

”We’re not asking them to teach the students anything new, just to retain what we have already taught them,” Carr said.

There also are resources for online learning such as Scholastic and 123 Homeschool4me, both of which have free lessons for all grade levels. The Texas Home School Coalition offers resources for parents on its website at thsc.org/homeschool-resources/ and on its Facebook page.

“Not everything has to be online or with technology,” said Kristen Blanton, also a kindergarten teacher at Higgins Elementary. “You can play board games, puzzle games and memory games. Anything to engage their minds and keep their brains going.”

Palmer said parents often don’t realize how much their children covet spending time with them, so parents shouldn’t worry about what they might miss teaching them because there’s “so much incidental teaching that goes on when you get to spend that much time with your kids.”

“Remember that the best thing you can do for your kid is to help them to enjoy learning so that they will continue learning their whole lives,” Muller said.

Jennifer Bussey is the assistant managing editor of The Paris News. She can be contacted at jennifer.bussey@theparisnews.com or 903-785-8744.

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