School at Home Daily Tip: Check Your Expectations

Each day, we’re sharing tips to help families manage this new reality of school at home. Today’s tip is to check your expectations. 

By Momentous Institute | Mar 31, 2020
Check Your Expectations

Each day, we’re sharing tips to help families manage this new reality of school at home. 

Today’s tip is to check your expectations.

Many of us send our children off to school in the morning and pick them up at the end of the day. When we ask them what they did at school, we often get no information or maybe one small tidbit, like something they did at recess or what they had for lunch. The truth is, we usually don’t really know what exactly our students are doing all day. So now given the task of homeschooling, it’s tempting to think we should do “school” all day. After all, that’s what they do at school, right?

Well, not quite. Depending on the age of your student, and the type of school they attend, they likely spend much of their day working independently, reading and playing. In younger grades, they spend a lot of the day in “centers”, moving around the room doing different play-based activities. In older grades, they work independently on their work or do computer-based learning programs. Elementary students also attend “specials” such as art, music, or physical education, plus one or two breaks for recess. So even at school, they aren’t doing a full day of strictly academic learning.

The truth is, we can’t expect homeschool to be a full 6 hours of learning. And if we expect that, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

So what are reasonable expectations? Think small.

A young child’s attention span roughly matches his/her age. Kids three and under have the attention span of their age, for example, a two year old can focus for about two minutes. For kids ages three through ten, pay attention to their body language. Its likely a five year old won’t be able sit in one position and listen, or focus attention on a specific task for more than 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, you may see the child lose interest, need physical movement, or get distracted. Consider working on small tasks that require short bursts of focused attention, or breaking larger tasks into smaller chunks.

Don’t expect home school to look like school, where you have to be teaching the full day. Making ourselves responsible for entertaining and educating a child for the entire day is not sustainable. As caregivers, we need to be able to attend to our own tasks, whether that’s working from home, cooking, keeping the house in order, or simply having time to ourselves to think. If we’re managing every aspect of a child’s day, we can’t attend to our own needs. The solution? Have children entertain themselves. Some kids will be more equipped to do this than others, depending on their own experiences. Again, start small. Give a child a few materials or books and allow them to sit near you but work without interrupting. Over time, you can expand your expectations of unstructured time, eventually giving them large chunks of time to come up with their own ideas of how to spend it. You’ll be surprised what kids can do to entertain themselves with very little resources! They often get creative with household items, art supplies, or toys they already have.

Keep your expectations reasonable – children can focus for small bursts of time and they can certainly learn to entertain themselves if given the opportunity. And keep your expectations reasonable for yourself, too. You’re not a full-time, trained teacher. You aren’t expected to come up with lesson plans every day! Teach small lessons as you can, and let them explore and entertain themselves the rest of the time. All of this is important and essential to learning.

Hang in there – you’re doing great!

For more School at Home Daily Tips, click here.