Suddenly Home-Schooling? Here’s Help

Today I’m reminded of an old educational acronym: STOP! Spontaneous Teaching Opportunity Present!

As positive as we’re all trying to be in these extraordinary and yes, highly instructive times, I know this unplanned “spring break” is not the vacation anyone had in mind. With so little room to prepare, few safe places for families to go outside the home, and new challenges and worries cropping up by the hour, a lot of students and families in our community are going to be struggling, despite the incredible efforts of local schools and educators. I hope our stations and websites can be some of your best friends right now, keeping everyone informed, connected, and inspired.

In addition to Cincinnati Public Radio’s two main educational programs—Democracy & Me and WGUC’s Classics for Kids (which you should definitely check out, if you haven’t already: classicsforkids.com)—we’re pulling together resources and tips for the thousands of area families affected by school closures.

First, here’s the best advice we’re hearing from our educational partners: relax, listen to your students, and look at the big picture. As Governor Mike DeWine said over the weekend, we can work together to keep kids learning, fed, and taken care of through these extraordinary times, and if certain tests don’t get taken, or certain curricular goals aren’t achieved, “it won’t be the end of the world.”

One veteran home-schooling parent told us, “It is unnecessary to do six-plus hours of work a day! Children can get work done in two hours or less. Let them be bored. If kids are bored enough, they will generally do something—cook something, arts-and-craft something, build something, play something, read something… it’s all learning.” Another agreed, “The advice usually given to new homeschoolers is to unschool, meaning just hang out with your kids and get used to being together so much and not worry about ‘school.’ ”

That said, most of the experts we surveyed recommended creating some structure, ASAP—setting up a dedicated, organized workspace in the home (ideally where you can keep an eye on what kiddos are doing), along with a daily schedule to enforce healthy, age-appropriate habits for work, play, meals, chores, sleep, and screen time.

For those hours when class is in session, here are some helpful links:

First, INFOhio is a tremendous free resource for educators and students, with grade-specific lessons in all the major subjects and powerful search engines. “It’s kind of like a walled garden,” one of our friends in educational technology tells us, where students can perform research safely.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has an extensive digital collection.

Our friends at the National Association for Media Literacy Education have compiled this amazing spreadsheet with details from education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings.

You’ll find a wealth of educational films and more at PBS Learning Media.

The Cincinnati Zoo is taking families on a virtual safari every day at 3 p.m., on their Facebook page. First up (who else?): Fiona!

There are dozens of websites, blogs, Facebook groups, etc. where newly homeschooling/unschooling/remote-learning families can find advice and support—for example, Your Natural Learner, which offers this brilliant idea of a “Morning Invitation” to get kids busy while parents ease into the day.

Turning to students’ and families’ emotional well-being, we appreciated the tips in this blog from Confident Parents Confident Kids.

We’ll share more in the coming days—and soon we’ll be rolling out our new student podcast, Democracy & Z, an exciting collaboration with our friends at Elementz, to lift up young voices in our community. We developed the podcast with the upcoming elections in mind; now we’re thinking of it, just as importantly, as a platform for teens to connect with their peers, authentically and deeply, when they might naturally be feeling isolated.

I hope you’ll reach out, tell us how things are going so far in your home school, and how we can help. You can comment below, or drop me an email: jcoppens@cinradio.org. Like most of our Cincinnati Public Radio staff who aren’t actively broadcasting, I’m working from home now, “socially distant” but right there with you. Let’s keep teaching and learning, spontaneously, together.