On top of everything else to feel worried about right now, parents may be stressed out about suddenly being thrown into the role of teacher with schools closed for the next few weeks. But, with a few simple tips, all homes can become natural classrooms.

1. Create a Literacy Rich Environment: Classrooms are filled with books, magazines, posters, schedules, charts, and labels.  Words are EVERYWHERE in schools and that is ON PURPOSE. Fill your home with books and magazines about things your children love (you probably already have some or head over to Amazon). Simply having the material available is all you need to do. You’d be surprised how much kids want and love to read about things that interest them. 

Make lists, charts, and schedules for everything and hang them up! When children are surrounded by text they intuitively learn to read and spell. Use this time to post a daily schedule. The more words they are surrounded by, the better. 

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2. Be a Model: Kids learn by watching. Model everything you are doing. Over exaggerate your thought process for everyday tasks. Think out loud. As silly as it may seem, kids need it. You take for granted that you know how to complete a task. You can’t assume children know how to do these things. They learn problem solving and absorb rich vocabulary when you do this. Teachers constantly model rigorous language so that children are exposed to it, they just follow it up with a simple explanation. It might sound something like this:

“What time is it? (look at the clock) Oh, it’s about 11:30 (math), I better start getting lunch ready now since it will take me time to prepare and everyone is starting to get hungry (models great planning). I want to use our perishables (rigorous vocabulary) first - things like the cucumbers and grapes that may soon go bad. What can I make that’s healthy and everyone will like (questioning)? I want to keep our immune systems strong and keep everyone happy. We have leftover rice and beans. I can make tacos or I could make taco salads. Which do you prefer (involve them in the decision making process)?”

3. Read to Them: Right now there are countless online resources available. There’s no doubt you couldn’t keep your kid busy from 9-5 with virtual activities. Those activities might look great. But they do not take the place of a face to face connection. Teachers know that children learn through connection. There is nothing more magical than reading a book aloud to a child OF ANY AGE. Don’t worry if you only have a few books in your house. Reading a familiar book multiple times has countless advantages. The simple act of hearing a story is extremely valuable.

4. Talk, Talk, and Talk Some More: Conversation matters when it comes to language development. Teachers are constantly creating opportunities for children to engage in conversation throughout the day. You can easily reach the speaking and listening standards by talking with your children. Allow them to ask questions and share their ideas. The slower pace that will be happening over the next few weeks can be a gift in this area. We are often so busy we just don’t have time to slow down and talk. Use this as an opportunity to help your child develop good communication skills. 

5. Relax: Not every day in the classroom is a 5-star lesson for any teacher. And it doesn’t need to be. Children need to know you are there to support them as they learn. They need to see that you are human and you make mistakes. Don’t forget that you were their very first teacher and you did a great job. You know your children best! You have no reason to believe that you can’t support them now, just because they are older. In fact, you might find you truly enjoy this chance to learn alongside them.

Keep your eyes and ears open for the teachable moments - the ones that you can’t script ahead of time. We know this is a unique situation. It has created a pause that we wouldn’t be taking but now we are forced to. Find some good if you can. Use the time to reconnect and find out what matters to your children.

Reiber has been an elementary school teacher for 20 years and is a mother of three. Outside of school, she helps families connect, simplify, and focus through her business, The Family Keystone. Her company guides families in writing custom mission statements. They also offer practical parenting tips and simple ideas to create a happier home. Learn more at www.thefamilykeystone.com

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