Nova Scotia

To homeschool or not? What to do with kids at home during a pandemic

Many parents are wondering whether they should be homeschooling their children while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Some say now isn't the time to try homeschooling but a little structure never hurts.

'It can be a really stressful time for the kids, too, right now, just as it is for the adults'

Seven-year-old Rory Morton launches a rocket as part of Pickle Planet's Science Fair Day. ( Jenna Morton)

With Nova Scotia's students at home, at least until April 6, many parents are wondering what to do with them.

Although it may be tempting to try homeschooling, there are other options to create structure that may be less stressful. 

Kimberly Charron runs the resource website Homeschooling In Nova Scotia. She homeschooled her son, who is now grown, and is homeschooling her 16-year-old daughter.

She's been inundated with messages from parents looking for resources on homeschooling kids.

While Charron said she's happy to give whatever help she can, it's important for parents to understand that the current situation is temporary and not to get overwhelmed with a rigid schedule.

"It can be a really stressful time for the kids, too, right now, just as it is for the adults," she said.

"Probably the worst thing you can do right away is dive into formal teaching at home with a whole curriculum or even worse, setting up desks and starting school at a strict time."

Kimberly Charron and her daughter Minuet. (Kimberly Charron)

Charron said if parents want to provide some structure, they should start in the morning before launching into their own work.

"What works for kids in the morning is giving them your time right away … it's really beneficial that you spend some time with them first and fill up their tank," she said.

That can be as simple as reading together or making breakfast as a family.

Charron said in the homeschooling community, one activity that is widely popular is afternoon tea. Parents have tea and snacks with their children while reading and discussing poetry. 

She also suggests learning new skills or doing science projects could be a way to keep both children and teens active and engaged.

For physical activity, Charron also said parents can turn to YouTube for child friendly exercise and yoga videos.

Teaching to children's interests

Charron isn't the only one suggesting a loose schedule for students while they're home.

Jenna Morton runs the website and podcast Pickle Planet Moncton, where she normally helps parents get their children out of the house and doing things in the Moncton area. 

Due to social distancing, Morton has been helping parents come up with ways to keep children entertained and give them some structure. 

Morton has been posting themes to use each day of the week and offering craft and activity ideas that go along with each theme. Most of the crafts are done using things kids can collect around the house. 

Her own children are also doing some reading and worksheets but she is basing the subjects on things that interest her kids. They have to complete the worksheets before getting more screen time.

Eight-year-old Clara Morton with a family tree she created while at home with her family. (Jenna Morton)

But Morton agrees with Charron on not getting overwhelmed by a strict curriculum. She said it's important not to compare parenting styles when you're already stressed about everything that's going on in the world.

Science and technology learning from home

For students who enjoy science and technology, a non-profit learning organization has a fix for that.

Brilliant Labs is an Atlantic Canadian non-profit that offers classroom supports, free after-school programs and free summer camps.

Like many organizations they've moved online. Now they're offering free programming on a schedule starting at 9 a.m. Monday to Friday.

Young people can tune in on social media for the question of the day and the daily challenge, then related activities are available to try throughout the day. Projects created during the day can also be shared with others during a show and tell time. 

For example, one day looked at the communities of the future and one challenge was to create a lunar lander.

"Everything we're developing now will serve a purpose later on, whether we're developing content for our after school programs … or summer camps later, or things taught in the classroom," said Jeff Wilson, executive director of Brilliant Labs.

The province says school won't resume until at least April 6. However, Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said it could be up to eight weeks before schools can open again.

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About the Author

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

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