'Relax and take it easy': Homeschooling mom offers advice amid school closures

Sarah Swan, who homeschools her two daughters in Yellowknife, says she's been getting lots of calls from friends asking for advice amid school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Swan homeschools her two daughters in Yellowknife

Sarah Swan's daughter Lucy works on a history timeline with help from the family cat. As schools in the Northwest Territories are closed until at least April 14, many parents and guardians are wondering how to help their kids study from home. (Submitted by Sarah Swan)

As schools in the Northwest Territories and across Canada close amid the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and guardians are wondering how to help their kids study from home.

Sarah Swan homeschools her two daughters, aged eight and 10 in Yellowknife, and says she's been getting a lot of calls from friends asking for advice.

"It's been really a strange feeling to be suddenly very popular with my homeschooling philosophy," she said. "It's not a usual feeling for a homeschooler, especially in a small city like Yellowknife."

Swan said it's understandable that many parents are feeling anxious and overwhelmed at the sudden prospect of having to educate their kids from home — schools in the N.W.T. are closed until at least April 14. But her first piece of advice is to "relax and take it easy, slow down."

She said there's no one recipe for homeschooling, every family does it differently, but parents shouldn't focus too much on curriculum and lesson plans for now. 

Sarah Swan, top left, with her husband Steve and daughters Lucy and Nora. (Submitted by Sarah Swan)

"Take the opportunity to really investigate your kids and what they're interested in and then feed that, feed their imaginations, read to your kids." 

Last year, for example, Swan said her kids were really interested in the First World War, so they read everything they could on the topic and made trenches in the snow.

"We basically had trench warfare going on in our backyard." 

Swan added that many parents already teach their kids things like baking, fishing and knife skills. 

Wednesday the assistant deputy minister of the N.W.T. Department of Education said he didn't "have definitive answers" on supports for students to continue their studies at home. But he did say it's something the department, along with territorial education bodies, is hoping to look at next week, including options like distance education and homework packages. 

The territory reported its first case of COVID-19 on Saturday.

Swan said while she's used to teaching her kids from home, they're also feeling the effects of COVID-19 because they normally go out a lot, including to the library, cafes and events.

"It's going to be a challenge for us too to be staying home."

But she said people can still take away something positive from this time.

"It sounds like a platitude, but just to be thankful, be full of gratitude and be appreciative that we're alright, that we live in this place and that we have, in a way, a small grace, some time to be with our families that we might not normally have." 

Written by Emily Blake based on an interview by Loren McGinnis produced by Joanne Stassen


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