Practical Answers to Schooling at Home in the time of an International Pandemic
Today I am pleased to bring you an interview from Maria Burke an experienced homeschooler and adult who has worked from home. I ask some of the really practical questions that many have been asking during this time.
I'm really thankful for Maria's wisdom which draws upon her years of homeschooling and her understanding of the reality of this time.
Maria has also done a post full of practical homeschool tips here
Lisa: Is homeschooling exactly the same as the situation many people find themselves in? Some people have called this time where children are at home as more like crisis schooling?
Maria: Homeschooling is definitely not the same as crisis schooling. Here is an excellent article I saw describing the difference and giving encouragement.
Lisa: In a traditional school situation, children are at school for 5-6 hours. Should children be doing 5-6 hours of school work at home?
Maria: They definitely do not need to be doing that much work. If you look at the actual amount of time a child is doing academic work during that 5-6 hours in school, you will find that it is significantly less. In doing research for homeschooling my son, the state in which I lived suggested 4 hours of homeschooling work per day. When you are at home, though, there are an infinite amount of activities that can be classified as “school.” Documentaries, cooking, games, reading, outside time, etc. can all be “counted” as work time. Don’t assume that you need to be spending that amount of time working at a table on specific subject areas.
Lisa: How does the day look for your child? What is the combination of school work and other things?
Maria: My son needs to take breaks during the day. He also loves to listen to music whilst he is working. I don’t mind that, and he actually works better that way. He’ll work for 45 minutes to 1 hour, then he will take a break to put together a LEGO or watch a show on TV or read or bake. He’ll then repeat the process. Some days he has specific work that needs to be done, and other days he does what he is interested in. For example, this week, he is working on merit badge requirements for Scouts. He is using Google Slides and creating slideshows for each of these merit badges.
Lisa: How do you manage working from home and homeschooling. I know that you have done both for a while. What are your hacks?
Maria: I work alongside my son. When he has a question or I need to give him a quick lesson, I pause my work, but we have the understanding that I need to do my work and he needs to do his. If there is something that is incredibly important for my work, he can go and watch a documentary. I usually ask him to write about it. He can also go and do something he’s able to do on his own, such as putting together a LEGO, reading, working on a puzzle, doing cross-stitch, etc.
Lisa: Even with the best laid plans sometimes things go wrong or don’t go to plan. What do you do if your child isn’t doing their work and you have to work too?
Maria: If something goes wrong, please remember that there’s always tomorrow. Regardless of the circumstances, your child is always learning even if it is just your reaction to the situation. There are numerous sources you can use to “keep them occupied.” There are a plethora of sites that have been shared. Here are a few of them.
Virtual Field Trips to Take from Home – From The Unlikely Homeschooler
20 Virtual Field Trips to Take with Your Kids– From Adventures in
Lisa: What types of physical activities do you have for your child to do at home?
Maria: My son can use the Wii. We also go and play outside for a bit. Sometimes I ask him to run outside around the house a few times if he needs to get his wiggles out. He is now taking his martial arts classes on Zoom, which is pretty cool.
Lisa: In this time of financial stress many people are concerned by the cost of homeschooling. Montessori has traditionally had some very expensive equipment. What do you say to those who feel they need to have traditional store-bought equipment or feel that they need expensive equipment to homeschool properly?
Maria: Homeschooling does not need to cost a lot. There is a myriad of resources available online which you can use as substitutes for Montessori equipment. When I was teaching lower elementary in a public charter school, I did not have the money to purchase equipment. I created Stamp Games tiles from foam sheets I purchased at a craft store. I stored them in a pencil box. I also used pony beads to create bead bars.
Maria Burke is an educator with 20 years of teaching experience. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education as well as a Bachelor's Degree in French from the University of Arizona. She obtained her Master's Degree in Curriculum Education from Lesley University and holds credentials through the American Montessori Society for ages 3-12. She currently homeschools her son and consults with other families who homeschool.
See more in my series of teaching at and from home here