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How To: Home Schooling in the Time of Coronavirus

By Rachel Kersey | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs | April 16, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

The 37th Training Wing hosted Home School 101, a virtual event on Facebook Live April 9 to help families transition to non-traditional education methods and learn stress-management skills during mandated social distancing in response to COVID-19.

Home School 101 featured a panel consisting of Leslie Janaros, a mother who has been homeschooling her children for 15 years; Dr. Raye Lynn White, an educator with over thirty years of experience; and Lt. Col. Kieran Dhillon, a clinical psychologist.

Scheduling can be extremely helpful for managing simultaneous work and school schedules. 

In an unprecedented time in world history, when it seems like nearly everything has been upended, routines can be a way to get through and stay sane.

“Have a schedule to be your guide and that way the children can have something to expect,” Janaros said. “That can help with their anxiety.” 

White recommends creating a schedule and doing your best to stick with it. She said you also need to know your child. Know whether they are a morning person or an afternoon/evening person. That can help you to make sure that their school time is as effective and productive as possible. Finally, you should create recess breaks to balance recreational time and educational time. 

“What we have found is that you can get through the curriculum pretty fast in comparison to if you were in school because it’s one person,” Janaros said. “For the most part, it won’t take seven hours to get through it. If you want to have breaks throughout the day, that’s great. If you want to get up early to have it done before lunch, that’s great too. Find out what works best for your family and don’t compare what you’re doing to what other people are doing.”  

For her family, Janaros says mealtime is an anchor and most of them eat together. Having anchors can keep you on track.

According to Dhillon, scheduling is essential for getting your work done while helping your children with school. Look for times when they can do independent work or time when they are taking a nap. That can be a time for you to do your work or make phone calls. 

Scheduling is also a matter of personal well-being. 

“I think it’s important to ensure that your bedtimes and wake up times are consistent to maintain good health, as well as your meal times,” she said. “In terms of things that need to be in the schedule are time for sleep, meal times, productive time and rest time.” 

In addition, Dhillon suggests integrating the students into their own scheduling. It is more likely to create buy-in and help to keep your home running smoothly.

Determine how recess should be spent in a way that best suits the needs of the individual child.

Many parents have been wondering if it’s okay to let their child spend their breaks playing video games during the school day. According to White, this should be determined on a case by case basis. If the purpose of the break is to relax the mind, video games might be a great option. If the purpose is to give the child a physical break, having them go outside would probably be better, as long as they are observing CDC guidelines for social distancing.

Some of the concern about video games, however, is rooted in the idea that it may impact school performance. 

“Have a discussion. Ask your children, ‘If your schoolwork suffers because of video games, what should we do?’” Dhillon advised. “Having them think through life problems is a great way to connect with your child and help them grow. This is about thriving through this experience.”

Communicate and reach out for resources when dealing with difficulties, including special learning needs.

When you find that a child is doing poorly on assessments, there are three questions you should ask: How can you support them? How will they prepare for the next assessment? And what will they do differently for the next test?

“In the discussion, find out if the student thinks they did their best,” White cautioned. “You don’t want to say they did not prepare because they failed. Maybe they did the best they can do. We don’t want to discourage them. So go through the process to make sure they applied themselves to the best of their ability.” 

And if your student is still struggling after a conversation, there are plenty of resources, many of which are posted on the 37th Training Wing website, here. There are plenty of ways to get help safely while mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“Work with a teacher or a tutor or another student who is confident in the subject matter,” Janaros suggested.

When dealing with special needs, as usual, the situation will require some flexibility. Janaros, whose son is hearing impaired, has become her son’s defacto speech pathologist. She said that if the child was receiving services before, reach out to their therapist or aid to see if they can receive services online now. Military One Source has information to help families who have children with special needs, too. The website also has information about the coronavirus and stress management.

Manage stress by practicing healthy habits when quarantining with your children.

The orders to stay at home makes the home not only the place of family life but also the place of work and school. It can lead to a lot of tension. 
“I know people laugh at deep breathing but I stand by it 100 percent. You have to take a deep breath before you engage with your child,” Dhillon emphasized. “You gotta take care of yourself first. You have to do that self-care so you are fresh to deal with the challenge.”

White recommended exercise. Taking a walk or a run could help you get your frustration out before you engage with your child.

“If they are already stressed and you are stressed, it’s just heightening the stress of everyone,” she said. “As the caregiver, you need to release what you need to release so you can be calm and cool and collected before you talk to them.”

However, it is understandable if you lose your patience. It happens to just about everyone. Thankfully, there is a solution to those mess-ups!

“For our family, we are quick to say sorry,” Janaros said. “If you do something that you wish you had not done, go make it right with the child. If you do blow it, as we all are going to, don’t beat yourself up. Just work hard to make it right with your kids.” 

Calm your own anxiety by being good to yourself and to others.

When the world is changing so quickly and so unexpectedly, it’s easy to freak out about any and everything: mortality, finances, job security, future plans, or even your relationships. Whatever your stressor, there are ways to minimize the panic and do something productive instead.

“Make sure the way you are thinking about the situation is working for you and for your family and not against you,” Dhillon said. “Cultivate that sense that you’re not going to be able to be perfect all the time. Put it in context: these times are unprecedented. I think the mindset is really important in managing anxiety.”

Some symptoms of anxiety include muscle tension, headaches, shortness of breath, or even the sensation of having your blood boiling. Some things you can try to feel better are stretching, taking deep breaths, going for walks, and doing something new with your time. There are also a plethora of apps for stress management and mindfulness. 

Janaros recommends checking out the book "Wake Up, Kick Ass, Repeat" by Dr. Kendra Lowe, a psychologist, military spouse, and former active duty service member. The book came out in January and can be ordered online.

“It has some great tools for managing stress that military spouses are used to,” Janaros said.

You can also do some work to adjust your mindset. Ask yourself if your thoughts are accurate, realistic, and helpful. If the answer is no, seek to think about your situation another way. For starters, it is helpful to remember that this situation is only temporary. The world will not be like this forever. But right now, it is what it is. Managing your expectations and seeking to make the most of the situation are two great things to try.

Look forward to the future and be the best person you can be for that time.

“As you reflect, even ten years from now, how do you want to describe how you handled this pandemic?” Dhillon asked. “Do you want to be the one to say, 'I’m the one who bought all the toilet paper?' Or do you want to say, 'I helped my neighbor out?'" 

Generosity is one of the best practices you can cultivate. 

In case you missed it, see the full Home School 101 event on the 37th Training Wing Facebook or Youtube page. 

*Home School 101 Resources