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Homeschooling now the norm

Photo submitted by Amanda Goldberg Lydia Goldberg writes observations on worms as she homeschools during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders Tuesday in Marietta.

Educators and behavioral health specialists are both echoing the same message to parents who are now finding themselves at home with young learners.

“Remember to give yourself grace. We’re all trying to adjust to this change right now,” said Bethany Colvin, a fifth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary.

For the Parlin children in Marietta, homeschooling is already a way of life. The oldest, Sophia, 12, said she’s happy that her mother is sharing tips with other families to help in this time of transition.

“We go outside a lot,” she laughed as she helped her younger brother Ephraim launch a kite into the air Friday.

Their sister Mary, 9, talked about finding salamanders as the family studies life science, while the boys Ephraim, 5, and Benedict, 7, ran down the hill chasing after the kite.

Melissa Arnold, now at home with three young learners, said she and her husband Ben have tried to incorporate movement into their days as much as possible.

“I already respect our public school teachers so much for all they manage to do,” said Arnold on Tuesday, who has one child at Marietta Middle School and the remaining two attending Phillips Elementary School. “But we aren’t focusing our time being at the table doing worksheets for seven hours… My husband bought a bike, we’re going on long family rides to the different monuments and experiencing history through those markers. We can do scavenger hunts.”

Arnold said her children have practiced sight words and math facts using household items like shaving cream, vinegar and corn starch, and even rekindled their love of music.

“Focus on relative connections,” said Doug Pfeiffer, CEO of Life and Purpose Behavioral Health. “That’s one of the primary ways we stay regulated, it helps us stay grounded.”

Pfeiffer said as a parent, he plans to not focus so much on worksheets and table-centered academics so much as experiential time.

Amanda Goldberg, 35, of Marietta, has likewise allowed her first-grader Lydia, 7, to guide topics of learning these last two weeks.

“She was really interested in all of the bugs she was finding outside so yesterday we made a worm farm,” said Goldberg. “Now we’re writing three sentences about what she’s observed… She was pretty excited to see the tunnels they had made overnight.”

Goldberg, also a preschool teacher, said setting up expectations has helped during the change in routine from daily attendance in her brick-and-mortar school.

“So usually we start our mornings with gross motor skills before doing a structured activity,” said the mom. “Gross motor is anything that gets your big muscles moving, so that may be going outside and kicking around a soccer ball, or building an obstacle course through your house, go on a walk or bicycle ride.”

Then the family settles into timed learning activities.

“I try to space out her day for those academic skills, nothing taking more than five to 10 minutes,” added Goldberg.

For older grades, said Colvin, breaks are still important.

“Even my fifth-graders don’t sit still for more than 20 minutes, so we work in brain breaks throughout our days at school,” Colvin explained.

Even reading time doesn’t have to be a silent time, she said.

“Sometimes I’m reading aloud to my kids as they draw… other times the students can lay down to do their work or move around,” said Colvin. “The point is to not make learning punitive.”

If reading books together as a family or between siblings, Goldberg said, encourage reading comprehension questions like making observations before beginning the story and before turning pages.

“Talk about the parts of the book, the front and back covers, the spine, roles of the author and illustrator,” she suggested. “Ask them what they think might happen, how they think characters are feeling.”

And both educators emphasized, don’t worry if the technology isn’t working that day for you.

“Our biggest challenge with all of us at home right now is the technology, our home internet doesn’t have the bandwidth for all of us to be online at the same time,” she explained. “My husband was making calls today to try and find a faster provider.”

If online resources can be accessed, check resources with the county library, state zoos and other museums.

“In our classroom, we use GoNoodle for our brain breaks,” added Colvin. “Even I use it, it has both online activities and things you can print out to color, activities to get you moving.”

Colvin encouraged families to read and re-read books they already have.

“Read it in a funny voice, sing it, whisper it,” she described. “It’s perfectly fine to read the same book over and over… I didn’t get into education to test kids, I got into education because I love kids, because I want to help produce happy and healthy children.”

For additional resources contact your students’ teachers, she said.

“I promise you are not a bother, we want to help and troubleshoot,” she said. “We miss our kids, too.”

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

COVID-19 Homeschool Tips:

Set a routine, allow for time limits for instruction, math facts and reading.

Incorporate academics through interest-driven learning (counting with toys, fruit and other household objects, reading about interests).

Incorporate math and science outside, in the kitchen and through household projects.

Practice counting and fractions with money.

Practice reading comprehension through different voices reading aloud.

Take brain breaks.

Get bodies moving.

Encourage family reading time while drawing.

Listen to calming instrumental music during focus/worksheet time.

Listen to fun children’s music during activities.

Free online resources:

For activity and brain breaks: GoNoodle.com.

Online jigsaw puzzles: JigsawExplorer.com.

Foreign language practice: DuoLingo.

Animals, zoology: cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources.

Art and art history: metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metkids/explore.

Source: Marietta families and educators.