Strategies for homeschooling during the pandemic and beyond


Dear Adele,

My husband and I have reached out limit with our eight year old and his schoolwork. Being cooped up with COVID-19 and responsible for his education, we are at our wits end trying to get him to sit down, focus and apply himself. Do we ever have a new respect for teachers who handle a classroom full of them at one time. Suggestions are welcome.

Reached Our Limit


Dear Reached Our Limit

Welcome to the new norm during the pandemic restrictions and demands. You and others like you are trying to be all things to your child under unique and difficult circumstances. Stop beating yourself up and let me help with a few ‘teacher’ skills. They might be helpful now and in the homework times when your child returns to the classroom.

You might believe that you are not educated as a qualified teacher and therefore unable to do this. According to Orman Clark there are four distinct traits of a true teacher which you most likely possess. A ‘true teacher’ gives knowledge not love, shows children how to think not what to think, creates peers not fans, and leads to independent learning competence not sustained dependence. Check Clark’s boxes about yourselves, use the strategies which follow and be confident in your ability to accomplish this unexpected parenting task.

  1. Positivity:
    Try to make the time with your child as positive as possible. If you find that you are getting frustrated, irritated or annoyed, take a time out or ask your partner to cover you for a few minutes. Try to change your negative thoughts to something positive about your child during your school work session. Comment on it. Model patience, because your child is watching and he is learning behaviour from you!
  2. Routine:
    Set 3-4 spaced but specific time periods of about 30 minutes each, for formal school work which are agreed upon. They should be consistently practised as surely as the sun comes up in the East. Give the child a 5 minute alert when the study session time is approaching.
  3. Organization:
    Store school supplies such as, pens, pencils, colours, glue, rulers, plain paper, lined paper, notebooks and lesson materials in a tote box. Keep it in same place every day.
  4. Planning:
    Know what material you want to cover. Know exactly what you expect from the boy by the end of session. If you have learning assignments from your child’s teacher use them. If you do not, or if you are without access to a computer, you can purchase ready made, graded activity books available at book stores and major department stores . The dominant subjects in the primary division are reading, writing and arithmetic and workbooks are great to follow, given the limitations upon our world at the moment. Lots of other kinds of less formal learning can happen watching and discussing documentaries or even by reading a cookbook and cooking up a meal together.
  5. Discipline:
    “It ain’t over till it’s over”, said the great philosophic baseball legend Yogi Berra. Gaining happy compliance to the task is sometimes a challenge. Try using a timer that can be seen and understood by your boy. Set it for 30 minutes at each study period. Add 5 minutes without admonishment each time the child succumbs to a distraction, until 30 solid minutes are over. Avoid lecturing, punishment and bargaining. Always remain calm, cool and collected. Give lots of positive verbal reinforcement for effort and small successes, without being too gushy or over-the-top with flattery. Return the tote box to its storage place.
  6. Follow up:
    Display completed work. Tell other family members briefly about the child’s efforts ensuring you avoid generalized comments that praise such as ‘ You are amazing!’ Instead comment on what the child has done such as “You printed that sentence neatly.” After the session, consider a fun activity such as a bike ride, a run, or a nutritious snack of favourite game. These kinds of things can be given as a reward for a job well done.

The strategies suggested are encouraging to children. They support and increase the likelihood that a child will repeat the focussed study behaviour you know is helpful to him. Keep it simple and do quit when the timer notifies you that your progeny has completed the 30 minutes.

Be sure to remember, when parenting gets you feeling overwhelmed during these uncertain times that, in the words of Ernest Hemingway, “We are all apprentices in a craft at which no one becomes a master.”

Sincerely, Adele

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.

Photo: Jessica Lewis, Unsplash