Parents as Teachers: Tips for parents helping children continue studies during COVID-19

On Thursday, March 26, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced that all local public school systems should adopt a plan to finish the academic year through “alternate methods of instruction,” such as online courses, beginning April 6. Statewide, Alabama public schools have been closed since March 19. In making this decision, Alabama joins several other states that have decided not to reopen schools before the end of the school year.

Beginning on April 6, or a week later for school districts that have spring break scheduled for April 6-10, school officials are required to launch their alternate methods of instruction, with the school year scheduled to conclude on June 5. Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey has begun meeting with district superintendents to determine how learning will continue across the state for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Ivey’s announcement does not affect private schools, which make their decisions in accordance with health department guidelines and restrictions.

While some districts will move quickly to online learning, other districts, primarily in rural areas, may not have necessary technology to do so. Where online learning is not practical, school districts may distribute instructional packets.

Coline Worthy, curriculum and instruction coordinator for Cleburne County Schools, emailed a letter to parents, guardians and students on March 31, stating the rural district’s commitment to “educational continuity for all of our students during the school closure.” Worthy stated that teachers, counselors and staff had begun gathering information related to online learning capabilities in students’ homes. Instructional materials will be delivered either online or via paper packets, depending on the students’ needs, Worthy said.

Tips for parents/caregivers

As this shift to “alternate methods of learning” occurs, many parents are expressing concern about supporting their students through the process.

To address this concern, Jennifer Rash and Debbie Campbell, cohosts for TAB Talks, recently discussed homeschooling tips for parents and caregivers with Melissa Jordan, director of Faith Community Christian School in Trussville, and Deb Lowery, a North Jefferson County mother who successfully homeschooled her two children, who are now young adults. (Click here to hear the podcast.)

Jordan allayed parents’ fears, saying, “Take a deep breath. Know that you are not going to ruin your child’s education in eight weeks. … Everything is going to be fine.

“You didn’t choose homeschooling, and that’s OK, but you guys can do it. I promise you can do it.”

She suggested setting up an area in the home where students can do their schoolwork with minimal distraction, even a kitchen table. In homes with multiple children who may distract each other, she suggested using a trifold science board or even file folders taped together to place between the children so they cannot see one another.

The experienced educator also suggested that parents set a routine schedule, along with a daily “anchor,” such as morning devotionals, that children can expect each day. The schedule and anchor, she said, help “give your kids that security of knowing what’s coming.” However, she acknowledged, “Every day might be different,” so parents can allow for flexibility in the schedule. Jordan provided a suggested schedule for parents to consider.

Abundance of grace

Above all, Jordan said, “Give yourself and your kids an abundance of grace.”

Lowery, a 21-year-veteran home educator, underscored the importance of prayer as parents set out to educate their children at home. “You can’t do this without praying and seeking Him,” she said.

She cited Deuteronomy 6:6-9, saying, “Schooling starts with parents. God gave us the responsibility to teach our children and to train them up. I am blessed to have been able to do that for 21 years. There were days I wanted to cry; there were trying days. But the Lord brought us through it.”

Every family is unique, said Lowery. Her children are eight years apart in age, so she became adept at giving an assignment or project to one child to work on independently while simultaneously offering more directed learning to her other child. One bedroom in their home served as their “homemade schoolroom,” with two desks.

Lowery also emphasized the importance of a schedule and organization. If both parents are home during this year’s school closure, each parent may want to become involved in the educational process, based on each parent’s strengths. Also, parents may call on adult friends or other parents to offer classes online in various courses or lead their children to use online tutorials, she said.

“It’s a blessing to be able to do this,” Lowery said.

To view the TAB Talks podcasts in their entirety, visit our TAB Media YouTube channel.