SAN ANGELO, Texas — Being a parent - whether working or not - is a handful. Now that schools across the nation have shut their doors and moved their semesters online, parents have even more added to their plates. They must find a way to balance their roles as parents and employees, while also helping their children navigate online learning.
"There's a lot that you have to do that you don't think about, but there's also a lot of things that you don't do that you think you should at first," Shannon Jacobs, working mother of one who has homeschooled her daughter for the last two years, said.
Her biggest words of advice? Split up the work.
“People think that you have to have your children on this 8 a.m. -3 p.m. schedule. Most kids don’t learn like that. It’s not a conducive way to learn. I would say do what you can with them. If you have to do school in the evenings when you get off or the mornings before you go to work, don't be afraid to do that. Don't feel like you have to find the time to do this during a 'normal school day,'" she said.
Jacobs' daughter is now in first grade at Texas Leadership Charter Academy in San Angelo, but there are many things Jacobs said she misses and enjoyed about homeschooling. In particular, Jacobs enjoyed being able to cater to her daughter's needs and preferred learning techniques.
"My daughter has a low attention span and can be easily distracted. She benefits from hands-on learning. Little things that you can find around your house can be invaluable to this. For example: my daughter helped me cook dinner, so, we practiced math by measuring out different things that were on the box of the ingredients. Then when she went to feed the dogs, we talked about different proportions for different body sizes. We have a hound, a german shepherd, and a chihuahua - they all need different levels of food. Little things like this are something that parents can do to make learning more fun,” Jacobs said.
How do you keep your child focused and/or entertained? Jacobs said to get creative with what resources you use.
“You don’t have to stick with just the school packet. Your kids are going to get bored of that. The internet is a plethora of resources that we don’t even have to pay for. If you’re like me, you can’t afford to run out and buy textbooks and all of these special kits. You have to get creative," she said.
Jacobs has used resources in the past such as the National Geographic for Kids website, and also recommends looking for learning activities on local zoo and museum websites.
What do you do if your child can't grasp a certain subject?
“Take a break from that concept. Do something different, and then go back to it. Once you get frustrated and your child shuts down, they’re not going to learn anything anyway. They’ve already shut that part of their brain out,” she said.
This is another benefit of schooling from home, according to Jacobs.
"When you're at home, you can take that time to go outside, have a snack, or have playtime. Just reset your brains," she said. “This is an unprecedented time for everybody, so take it in stride. Make sure you’re not overwhelming yourself, your children or your family. At the end of the day, they’re going to learn what they need to learn, and you don’t want to make it hard on yourself or anybody else. Get creative, have fun with it, and let’s just make the most of it," she said.
Lastly, Jacobs urges parents to not stress themselves, their children, or their families too much because of pressures to keep up with a certain schedule or learning plan. Every child is different and will learn what they need to at their own pace, she said.