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The best homeschooling tips for parents

Homeschooling is not without its challenges, from tricky subjects to wild emotions. We'll help parents manage it all!

Written by
Danielle Valente
Welcome to 2020: Your apartment is starting to look less like a home and more like a classroom-office hybrid. The kitchen table? Oh, it's under the chemistry textbooks and science projects. The scraps of paper on the floor? They're part of the decor. 

This new way of learning is not easy, whether you've opted for the completely remote curriculum or decided to try the blended learning model. One thing is for sure: You and your scholars are going to be together a lot more than ever before. 

Navigating the murky waters of homeschooling can be a struggle, so we spoke to a group of professionals—psychologists, tutors and educators—to help moms and dads with everything that pops up during the day, from tricky algebra equations to full-on meltdowns.

When all else fails, make sure you have NYC's best wine delivery services saved in your contacts. (Kidding! But not really.) 

1. How do you keep your kids motivated while they are learning remotely?

"Lead by example: Although your energy will wax and wane, remember to remain positive and consistent. While we all want this to be over with, remember that learning is a lifelong goal. When discussing schoolwork, focus on the skills your kids and teens are building, the value of seeing things through and the feeling of accomplishment. Try not to get fixated on content."

— Ryan Fedoroff, M.Ed, National Director of Education at Newport Academy

2. What's the best way for kids to socialize while they are learning remotely? 

"Now that kids are being homeschooled, I recommend adding activities virtually to help your children explore their passions, have fun and socialize. We are looking forward to my daughter's dance class for enrichment this fall because she can move freely, expend energy and learn new skills, getting much of what she would from an in-person program, now just adjusted to online."

— Marissa Evans Alden, Founder & CEO of Sawyer

3. All of your kids working from home: How do you keep the peace?

"If you have multiple kids doing distance learning, try to create a daily routine and schedule that all of you can stick to in order to create a sense of normalcy and to enforce an effective learning environment. One example is in the morning, you can have morning check-ins and set aside time to create task lists for the day to empower your kids and keep them on track."

— Ryan Fedoroff, M.Ed

4. How do you set up an effective workspace for your kids? 

"I think the goal is here, since this is such a weird, long day, to have two work spaces: a desk and some type of comfortable chair so that those are their workspaces and the bed is for sleeping."

— Maxwell Ryan, CEO of Apartment Therapy (Read Ryan's additional tips here.)  

5. How do you balance your own career and homeschooling your children?

"Keep your child and teen’s teachers in the loop and be open about the degree to which you are able to support them. For older children, support them in advocating for themselves and teaching them how to reach out to the teacher when they need help."

— Ryan Fedoroff, M.Ed

6. What's the best way to break up the monotony of the day? 

"Keep your family moving, whether it be having a snack break, taking a walk around the neighborhood or doing a chore around the houseincluding outdoor/physical time each day can help keep your kids focused and motivated. For longer lunch periods, take a family walk or a quick trip to the skate park."

— Ryan Fedoroff, M.Ed

7. How do you help a child who is struggling with a certain subject?

"The benefit of distance learning is that your child can work at a slower pace if needed. In a classroom setting, they would not be able to pause, take a break, leave the room and come back to try again, but there is that luxury when learning at home. A parent can turn to many resources. They could hire a Zutor to support their child during school or call upon their teacher to spend extra time working with them on the subject where they are struggling. The most important thing is to empathize with your child, so they know that they are not alone and that all will be OK.”

— Elyssa Katz, Founder of The Zutor Concierge

8. What's the best way to manage expectations? 

"When things were 'normal' I pretty much left my daughter alone to deal with high school. She needed to learn to advocate for herself and deal with whatever came up. But this is new territory for all of us, and I keep having to remind myself that I can't expect her to deal with this alone because she has no framework for it. So I'm going to be paying closer attention this year, to make sure that she's getting the most out of distance learning."

— Amy Oztan, Blogger and Parenting Bytes Contributor 

9. How can parents keep their kids involved in NYC culture while at home?

"The best part about New York City is that culture is everywhere. I love to take my girls on walks to try new foods or visit new neighborhoods we were too busy to visit previously. The benefit of Sawyer is that many of our classes are taught by Broadway performers and world-class musicians, so you can also experience all the culture that the city has to offer in your home."

— Marissa Evans Alden

10. What is the best way to help children who are struggling emotionally while working from home?

"Have check-in times with your child each day to help understand what your child is going through emotionally what their struggles were through the day. During that time, you can also ask what the high points were of the day to help balance out any negativity. The purpose of this is to allow your child to feel as though they have the structure to be able to voice their concerns and their emotions, but also that the parent is there for them and is a reliable source. The idea during this time would be for the parent to listen and validate, rather than jump right to problem solving."

"Help the child with their sources of support, whether that be friends or relatives or community members, coaches, even a teacher or a counselor at school. This way, the child feels like they have a team of people around to be validating, to be supportive and to help and ideally."

— Alexandra Hamlet, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist at Mood Disorders Center

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