Set a routine or a schedule, even if it’s loose
It might be tempting to let teenagers sleep in or let younger kids have some TV time before getting to work, but you’ll have a better chance of keeping your children focused if you establish a routine that resembles what they’re used to. For example, create a daily schedule that emphasizes academics in the morning, quiet reading time for a midday break, and hands-on or outside projects in the afternoon.
Find a calm place to work
Your kitchen table may become the new command center. But some kids will do as well studying at a desk in their room, or even on the couch. As long as the space is comfortable and relatively distraction-free, it’s a good place. Some kids focus better when listening to music. If you play music, pick something instrumental, with no distracting vocals, and don’t let your child crank up the volume. And don’t be afraid to remove screens from their line of sight: TV, video games and social media will likely get in the way of concentration, even if that’s how they’re used to doing their nightly homework.
Tackle the harder stuff first
“Starting with the most difficult assignments first helps make the most of your child’s energy level and focus at the beginning of a work session,” writes learning specialist Janine L. Nieroda-Madden about homework time. The same goes for learning at home. If your child’s teacher has assigned work, prioritize that. If things have been left a little more open-ended, here are some ideas for filling in the gaps.
• Have your child learn new vocabulary words.
• Check out Khan Academy, a free online tool for teaching math (and other subjects, too). To get started, go to “Math by grade” and choose your child’s grade to start. The site assesses and teaches as your child works her way through problems, so she can get more help with concepts she still needs to work on and jump ahead when she has mastered a lesson.
• Newsela.com helps students with reading comprehension by offering current, kid-friendly news stories written for grade-specific reading levels from elementary school all the way through high school. Your child may already be familiar with the site, and if so, he may have a class login. If not, you can sign your child up for free.
• For an academic break you could check out the YouTube channel of best-selling novelist John Green (The Fault in our Stars) and his brother Hank, which covers history and science topics along with a lot of current events.
• For the late afternoons, Common Sense Media is a great place to find science and history documentaries that dive deep into a topic.
Set daily goals
At the beginning of the week and at the start of each work session, make a list and establish goals for what tasks or assignments your child will complete. At the end of the session, check back on the goal, advises Nieroda-Madden. A list will keep everyone on track on a daily and weekly basis, and crossing something off gives your child a sense of accomplishment.
Remember that most kids can’t sit and focus quietly on a task for as long as adults can. Check out these grade-based articles to understand your child’s attention span and learning capacity. Break up periods of focused work with time for snacks, movement, silly jokes—and for crossing things off your list.
Get out for some fresh air and exercise
To boost their brainpower and keep them from going stir-crazy, make sure everyone gets some time every day to run around outside. Organized sports may be cancelled, but kids can get out for a walk, a bike ride, or some plain old playtime. Exercise doesn’t just make kids feel better, it helps them commit new knowledge to long-term memory, concentrate on difficult tasks, and persist despite frustration.
Make a place for feelings
It’s natural to feel anxious when things are uncertain. That can make you irritable, clingy, distant, matter of fact, and all sorts of feelings that your child may have trouble understanding. The calmer you can be, the better for your child. This doesn’t mean you ignore feelings and pretend everything is normal. Let your child voice their worries, and talk about your own feelings. Expressing, naming and sharing feelings will bring you closer and solidify your child’s sense that you are on their side. In the end, it’s important to reassure your child that you’re doing everything you can to keep them safe and healthy. If things feel especially difficult having your child at home, try Parenting Cue Cards, a tool we made to address tough parenting situations, and reach out to friends and family who you can share your worries with. It’s important that while you prioritize caring for your child, you care for yourself too.
Home learning guide during school closure
School's out? These tips will help you keep your child on track.
Updated: April 21, 2020