SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Parents across Southeast Georgia and the Lowcountry right now find themselves in a position they never thought they’d be in. With students learning remotely, you’ll be more involved with the day-to-day of your child’s education than ever before. If this seems daunting, don’t worry. We’ve gathered advice from two local experts.
Chelda Smith is an associate professor and program director for Georgia Southern’s elementary education department. She says an online classroom presents unique challenges for students of all ages.
“Students that are in like K, 1, 2 grades, their digital literacy isn’t up to par to be able to sustain a full day of learning online and learning. And the rules for limited screen time are still in play. When you get to the middle school age, it’s really about deadlines," Smith says. "When you get to about the grades 3, 4 and 5, it’s also about teachers sort of feel like they have to overload students, and feel like they have to capture the entire curriculum through this new delivery system.”
Lana Chilton serves as a local director for Classical Conversations, which provides homeschool groups and curriculum frameworks. She says most parents that are new to homeschooling struggle with self-doubt and harsh expectations. She encourages you and your family to find community support.
“Get a team around you because it can be a little bit daunting, and anything we do is better with others," Chilton says. "And then there are support organizations. Get connected with one of those. Jump on facebook, look up homeschooling in Savannah on Facebook, and you will find hundreds and hundreds of homeschool teachers that will answer questions and give you support and give you direction.”
Smith also preaches finding that support. She says even though your teacher isn’t physically present, the main responsibility is still on them, and not on you, to teach your child, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them for guidance. However, a teacher can’t help your child focus through the internet or over the phone.
“I’m the parent of a life long homeschooler, and we still have to deal with the attention span,” Chilton says. “So parents, you’re not alone, this isn’t because there’s something wrong with your, or because there’s something wrong with your child. They’re children.”
Both experts we spoke with say establishing and maintaining a routine is key.
“By now in the school year, most families have already established a routine. You wake up at a certain time, you get dressed," Smith says. "If you wear a uniform, still put on that uniform. My son right now has his uniform on. And that is the messaging to everyone in our household, he’s in school zone time. And then, at the end of the day, he takes off his uniform shirt, and we know ‘Ok, now he’s in social time.’”
In her experience homeschooling, Chilton has found that showing grace for yourself and your child, as well as seeing this as an opportunity are important to keep in mind.
“Your children are going to remember this. They’re going to remember the COVID-19 pandemic. They will remember doing school at home for these months," Chilton said. "They will remember the time they got to spend with you, and they’ll probably treasure it.”
Here are a few other pieces of advice on keep your children focused that they shared with us:
“Start with a sweet spot. Find out what that is that your student or students can really enjoy getting started with. It’s probably not going to be that subject that they dread. After the sweet spot, I’m going to borrow a phrase from my friend Carmen, do the heavy lifting. What is the heavy lifting? For us that’s math and Latin. And then at the end of the day, I’ve learned to kind of put what my student really looks forward to.”
"Take the breaks. Take the breaks. They will prove fruitful."
"If possible at all, having an isolated space and an isolated device for schooling. And I know that's a big ask, especially when we think about economic strains. It would be really great and having everyone around the household knowing that when they're over there or when they're doing that kind of work or when they're in their uniform, we're going to respect them as a student."
Looking for more advice? Chilton shared a giant list of all the free resources she uses to help homeschool her child.