A student examines fungus under his microscope while working on a biology lab at his home in 2001. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

With many schools closed for the foreseeable future, parents now not only have to make sure their kids don’t get behind on their studies, but also that they stay entertained during the period of recommended social distancing, self-quarantine and self-isolation.

Though this is undoubtedly a challenge, it could also be viewed as an opportunity to try something new and engaging with your children’s studies and dabble in your own brand of temporary homeschooling. Many people homeschool their children with great success, and the tried-and-true methods have given us great tips on how to keep kids educated and entertained at home in times like these. Here are some of our favorite tips from a variety of homeschooling methods.

Set a schedule

Begin by setting a schedule for your kids. This is arguably the most important step in making sure the next few weeks go by smoothly.

“If I don’t have a schedule for my day, my day is way off,” Marci Goodwin, blogger at The Homeschool Scientist, told The Bangor Daily News in 2019 for a story about setting a homeschool schedule. “Nothing gets done.”

Here are some tips to set a temporary homeschooling schedule for the next few weeks of social distancing while schools are closed.

Listen to your children

Ultimately, what is going to work best for your child will depend on their individual needs and learning style. Ask your kid what they are expected to keep up with for school in the next few weeks, and ask them if there is anything else they would like to learn about over the next few weeks.

Allow flexibility to teach impromptu “lessons” around anything your child is interested in, such as their favorite book series or television show.

“Last fall, we focused our learning around Harry Potter, so we read Harry Potter, learned classical myths and treated cooking as potions,” Crystal Sands said in 2019 when interviewed about the unit studies method of homeschooling on the BDN’s Hello Homestead.

Supplement coursework with real-world examples

Finding real-world applications for what your children are learning in school is also a great way to get them to care about what they are studying with tangible results.

For example, you can teach your child about fractions, quantities and the metric system by making brownies or other baked goods. You could give them a lesson on telling time based around the timing of their favorite show. They could learn addition, subtraction and multiplication to save their allowance for a new toy.

Eliminate distractions during school time

As tempting as the television may be, keep it off and the house quiet during sanctioned school time to keep your in-home students focused. This means eliminating distractions for yourself, too. Avoid taking phone calls or doing household chores if you are sitting down to help you kids with schoolwork.

“When you’re at your house, you’re cleaning and cooking and doing laundry and scheduling doctor’s appointments,” Goodwin said. “All these things can get distracting. Prioritizing is what you need to do.”

Go outside

Not only is going outside a social distancing-sanctioned way to break up the day and get a little bit of fresh air, but it also an opportunity to supplement learning. Homeschooling parents especially enjoy this element of flexibility and organic learning, so take advantage of it.

You could even prepare a “lesson” outside that connects to what your children are learning in school. Think of all the great science experiments that happen every day in nature, and use them to your advantage.

“When it’s beautiful out, we move our lessons outside,” Leah Martin said when interviewed about the Charlotte Mason method for homeschooling for Hello Homestead in 2019. “My very young daughter gets lots of time to play outside and to be a child, which is crowded out following a school schedule.”