A new school year arrived this month, and with it came parenting goals of homework schedules and mandatory home enrichment time. As parents, we want to do what’s best for our children. We want to support their learning outside of the classroom. We have the best intentions each August. But, inevitably, we lose sight of the goal and before we know it, May shimmies its way into our lives, reminding us of our unfulfilled autumn declarations.
Like with all other parenting goals, you need a plan. You’ll set yourself up for failure if you don’t consider a number of items before you try to be more supportive. I’d like to help you make it through the entire school year without letting your goal fall by the wayside. First things first…
Scheduling Your Parenting Goals
Get your schedule established today–this week–before Labor Day. One of the hardest things about
supporting your child at home is creating a schedule that includes it. Sit down with your daily planner, and write out a
basic schedule for everyone. If you’re like me and adore graphic organizers, break out your Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or some other software and type it up. Make it nice, large, and legible.
- 3:30PM: Home from school; get a snack from the kitchen; take a break
- 4:30PM: Homework time
- 5:30PM: Chores or Enrichment time
- 6:30PM: Dinner & Conversation (school day happenings, current events, new ideas etc.)
- 7:30PM: Bath time; Brush teeth; Wash face; Wrap hair etc.
- 8:00PM: Quiet reading
- 8:30PM: Bedtime
If you prefer a more detailed schedule, you should use one. These schedules generally give more direction. For example, you might answer the following questions:
- What activities are happening during chores time? (washing dishes, dusting, sweeping/vacuuming etc.)
- How often are they doing chores versus enrichment time?
- Which chores happen on which days?
- What resources are they using for enrichment?
- What subject(s) are they doing enrichment on?
- Are there specific topics you want to discuss during dinner?
- What reading material should they use during quiet reading time?
It’s not enough to make a schedule. If your child doesn’t see it, you’ve wasted your time. Print or photocopy (if you wrote it by hand) the plan and post it everywhere. Seriously. Put it on the bathroom mirror, bedroom door, refrigerator… Put it any and everywhere your child is liable to see it. Repetition is the key. The more you see your parenting goals, the more you’re liable to be faithful to them.
This is a wide area. You know your child. You likely have a good idea about what things they do well versus ones they need a bit of development on. Decide how you want to approach this time. Will you focus the home experience on enhancing skills your child does well, supporting skills your child needs extra practice with, or a mixture of it all? FYI, there’s no wrong answer to that question.
Once you decide on the focus your support will take on, look into resources to make it happen. There are so many free and paid resources out here. Often times, it’s overwhelming. I like to try out new things as I learn about them, but I don’t get too bogged down in switching resources out every year. I’ve written about some of these before, but I’ll reiterate here because I like free (and relatively inexpensive) things.
I’ve used each of these below either in my personal classrooms, my private tutoring, or with my son’s enrichment. I like them all for different reasons, but please check them out for yourself!
Potential Reading Support
- Newsela (free) – Allow your child to select a new current events article each day. They should answer the four quiz questions at the end. Teach them how to select the appropriate reading level so that the article is within their realm of understanding. Ask them to write a brief summary of the article. What are the main ideas? What is the author’s purpose? How does the article connect to something else in their lives?
- ScootPad (free or paid) – If you want to purchase a yearly license for this app, your child can access eBooks with quizzes in addition to a comprehensive adaptive technology platform for English/Language Arts. You can monitor their progress, assign targeted lessons for skills that need more work, and create quizzes/tests to support them at home.
- CommonLit (free) – Select from a variety of short stories and nonfiction pieces. Have your child read and complete the comprehension questions for the assignment. Spend some time at dinner discussing the themes, author’s style etc. of the readings.
Potential Math Support
- Khan Academy (free) – Consider enrolling your child into a self-paced classroom that allows them to watch instructional videos on a variety of topics. Then, they’ll test their skills and work at their own pace. This resource also includes college test prep (SAT).
- School Yourself (free) – This app lets students decide which skills they want to develop. It then branches off and tracks how well your child works through each area. When the system notices some struggling, it adapts the next set of lessons to strengthen your child’s skills.
- CK-12 (free) – Use this program to access free e-textbooks, solve problems, review instructional videos, and chart your child’s progress on a variety of skills (including the sciences). This one also allows you to select the topic, which means you can use it in conjunction with the work your child brings home from school.
A Few Other Options
- Puzzles and games – Never underestimate the power of crosswords, word searches, logic puzzles etc. These are free or inexpensive ways to exercise your child’s brain and develop the neurological connections associated with a plethora of intellectual skills.
- Free coding classes online – Organizations like Code.org offer complete online coursework for students at every grade level. While we do want to limit children’s access to screen time, we also want to give them an opportunity to be exposed to computer programming language earlier.
- Online museums and art collections – You can encourage your child to locate art pieces and curate personal collections or write about the artists’ history and experiences. The Smithsonian Institute has a site dedicated to supporting children’s exposure to the arts.
- Science experiments – Consider stocking up on book collections of easy science experiments from your local bookstore. Often, the directions and materials are simplistic enough that kids can read and follow along without adult support. However, be sure to double-check whether a particular experiment needs your assistance.
Making Your Parenting Goals Work
Life happens. Time moves quickly. Don’t beat yourself up if the schedule gets a little off. You can hit the restart button at any time. The most important thing is that you recognize and are taking strides to support your child at home. No one is ever going to do this perfectly, even parents who are teachers. 🙂 Your child’s confidence is likely to grow knowing that you care about what’s happening eight hours out of their daily life.
Start your schedule with three days of enrichment if you’re worried about the time commitment. No one said it has to be every day. It should work nicely with other activities that you participate in. Once you’re in a position to increase the time, do so! You can even focus on a particular subject this semester or school year. Make adjustments that help your family and your child. Education is a personal journey and should reflect what your child needs at any given point in time.