I’m not going to tell you all about COVID-19 because I’m sure you already know about it. If you don’t, you probably aren’t reading this blog because you have no contact with the outside world. This is your time to shine!
My son is out of school until April 13 and I’m stuck trying to teach him something worthwhile. As a former chemistry teacher myself, I know the basics of teaching, but the specifics of teaching a fifth grader are a little beyond me. However, with a little work and some creativity, I’ve been able to come up with a curriculum that might be useful for him.
Here are some of the guidelines I used when coming up with his curriculum. Keep in mind that this is not intended to be a real homeschool curriculum, but rather something to keep him busy and learning until real school starts again.
- Make a learning schedule: My son is learning for six hours today, in twelve blocks of 30 minutes. Between each three blocks is a 1-hour break, with very short breaks in between blocks.
- Emulate the classes he takes at school: My son has science, social studies, language arts, and a bunch of “specials.” I’ve taken pains to include each of these in his overall studies so he doesn’t overdo the things he finds interesting but stays with the program.
- Teach topics that he finds interesting: At this very moment, my son is reading “Earth Abides”, which is a book about how a small community survives a plague that wipes out most of mankind. Clearly, this is something that’s interesting to a kid living in the time of COVID-19.
- Teach topics that he doesn’t find interesting but needs help with: My son has dysgraphia, which means that he has trouble writing. He works with a special ed teacher at school, and I’ll be working with him here at home to improve his writing. Neither of us particularly enjoys this, and we both find it frustrating, but it’s something that needs to be done. Fortunately, with the schedule we’ve set, we have limits on how boring and awful it can be.
- Experiment: We’ve got a rare chance to experiment with things that our kids find interesting. We were learning about sound today, and he had questions about why you can’t hear things so well behind a wall. Thanks to a cookie sheet of water and a spoon hitting the surface, we were able to see how the waves move around an obstacle.
- Use online resources: There are literally a zillion resources online that can help you to teach interesting stuff to your kids. Scholastic has one that I’m using, and there are bunches of others. (And yes, I know that you can’t literally have a zillion of anything.)
- Be flexible: The good thing about teaching like this is that we can make changes to the plan if necessary. If something is particularly interesting, we can spend extra time on it. If we want to teach the same thing across different subjects, we can do that, too. If we want to do a field trip, we can do that (provided that it’s to a place where other people are not).
One very good place to find quality resources is with homeschooling activities. We may be doing this for a month or so, but homeschoolers do this all the time and have gotten very good at coming up with resources you can do at home.
Regarding homeschoolers, I know that some of you think of them as being religious nuts or as flaky hippies who don’t know anything. Yes, some of them are religious nuts and some are hippies, but that’s true in society at large. All homeschool groups put out reasonable activities – just make sure you adapt them for use with your own kids. And don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – even an atheist can find extremely useful resources among religious homeschool groups.
I hope this has helped and that you stay safe during this pandemic. Above all, remember that even if you do a lousy job with your homeschool experiment, you’re not going to permanently damage your child. Do your best, and things will work out.