Home Schooling – It’s All About Preparation
I have no doubt that the school system in Ontario is second to none, and all the teachers who make it so amazing, work very hard for our kids. It is evident that they always go above and beyond for their students and deserve our utmost respect and admiration for the miracles that they seem to make happen every single day.
In 2020, the Covid-19 year, almost a quarter of Ottawa families have chosen remote learning, rather than sending their kids back to school. Others have chosen to abandon the traditional school system entirely to try homeschooling, or some combination of remote learning with homeschooling support.
Depending on the age of your children, homeschooling may be a viable option as many parents can handle the expectations listed in Pre-school, Primary, and Elementary Curriculum guidelines from the Ministry of Education. While there is a wealth of information available online to assist parents in successfully homeschooling their children or to help them be successful in their Virtual Learning Environment, without proper preparation, you may end up feeling a little overwhelmed. Here are some ways that you can prepare yourself and your student for home or remote learning this year.
Find Online Support
A great way to prepare for the challenges that homeschooling or remote learning may pose is to familiarize yourself with online supports or connect with others who are also learning from home. The Ministry offers advice for homeschoolers and links to other parents and homeschooling groups who can provide valuable support, not to mention a multitude of educational resources and ideas. A quick Google search for homeschooling offers a plethora of resources to parents.
Get Creative and Have Fun
The key to education with little kids is being patient and making it fun. Evidently, much of the preschool and primary education models are play-based learning – which means, if it’s not fun, it’s not helpful. Fun and games help kids get the math and literacy skills they need to prepare them for increasing demands in elementary and secondary levels while helping parents discover more about their kids, while they all have some fun.
Board games are a great way for families to practice skills. With Monopoly for math, Scrabble for spelling, Cranium to introduce science concepts, and Trivia games for history, the sky is the limit. In the interest of saving money, have your kids (aka students) create a learning board game in subjects of interest to them, then play the game they make.
Assessment and Evaluation
True, Assessment and Evaluation can be complicated with the many categories and streams of learning, but once you get a handle on how to use a rubric – it will become your best friend. A rubric sets out what the requirements of an assignment are and what marks students can expect to achieve for a particular level of effort. Once you have an assignment and a rubric, then both teacher and student (and Ministry) know what to expect, and the finished product is the evidence of student achievement.
Another way to supplement the curriculum is to attend local museums. Many local homeschooling groups often organize group trips based on educational goals, and Ottawa has many amazing facilities to choose from such as the Art Gallery, the Royal Canadian Mint, Museum of History, Nature, Science and Technology, Aviation, and the War Museum. If your schedule allows it, try planning some time outside of your remote classroom and indulge in any of the great educational programs available in Ottawa.
Alanis Morisette recently described her homeschooling approach as ‘unschooling’, which is exploring the answers to your kids’ questions, and pursuing their interests, whenever they ask. The idea is to encourage and foster their questioning, and support their learning with a broad array of resources as possible. Homeschooling is very similar except you set some designated time during the day for organized learning.
What homeschooling offers families is time. The time that would normally be spent preparing for and getting to school can now be used for reading, writing or arithmetic. Once those tasks are done each day, school is out and families can either attend other tasks or enrich their kid’s education in other ways. The internet can be useful to help parents come up with new ideas that practice certain skill sets, but it is important to be selective and choose the activities that best suit your kids. While all of these activities require a certain amount of planning and preparation, usually well in advance, you might enjoy creating innovative approaches to learning while you have the opportunity – you might also gain a new appreciation for teachers’ work.
And really, that’s what a good education is all about, to appreciate and value the idea that one will never stop learning.