Wow, how our lives can change so quickly! Most of us in New Mexico are on week No. 4 of being home with our kids.

If you are anything like me, when I heard school was canceled for the rest of the school year, a bit of panic took over. Everyone I have talked to has the same worry. What am I going to do with my kids for five months?

The summers are long enough. To top it off, not only are my kids home, but I am expected to home-school them! This is the cry of a large majority of parents across the U.S. who have their kids at home.

Luckily for my family, we have been part of the home-school community for the past eight years. I have reached out to fellow home-school parents and teachers from a local family school to get tips that might make home-schooling your children more manageable. Hopefully, in a few weeks you can move from manageable to enjoyable.

So before your students end up suspended and you get accused of drinking on the job, maybe you can put some of these practical tips to use.

Tip 1: Routine: Developing a routine that fits your family and your schedule is key. Students and parents thrive best with structure and routine. Decide on a part of the day that works best for your family and stick to it.

Each day, remind your students that school starts at 10 a.m. Having a set time gives everyone the chance to mentally prepare. Continue that routine throughout your school day.

Maybe you start your day with a read aloud, a book you can all enjoy together. Then everyone moves to math, science or whatever is on your lesson plan for that day.

Tip No. 2: Lesson plans/check list: Develop a lesson plan for the week. This would include books your students are reading, math lessons that need to get done, or Zoom meetings with their teachers. Make sure to have the resources and materials ready for that week.

In my house, we post each child’s lesson plan for the day on a white board. They are able to see exactly what needs to be done, and they can mark things off as they go. A sure sign they are making progress.

Tip No.3: Recess: Make time for recess. Both the students and the teachers need breaks. Playing outside for 15-20 minutes can help to reset their focus.

Tip No. 4: Stamina: If your student appears to be struggling with getting their work done, it might be a matter of stamina. Just like an athlete has to build up to an event, students have to build up their ability to work.

This is when a check-list can come in handy. You can help them decide how they want to manage their check-list and their time.

Tip No. 5: Use older siblings: Older siblings are a great resource. I have a middle-schooler who I call upon frequently to help his younger siblings. They can help grade homework, read stories and teach math concepts.

This is a great leadership role for them to take on. It is also a good way to build confidence in both the younger sibling and the older sibling.

Tip No. 6: Resources: Find good resources that work best for your students. Reach out to your child’s teacher for grade-level resources. Find activities, lessons and projects you can do with all of your students at once. There are a ton of free resources available online. Find something that interests both you and them.

Tip No. 7: Fun: Everyone says make it fun, and I agree fun is important, but that is easier said than done. When you notice your student or yourself are overwhelmed, pay attention to those cues.

Find a different activity you can do together to relieve the stress. When I see tension building in my house, I try to change the focus for a short time. We might listen to an audio book and color, or do some nature journaling outside — something that can help ease the stress and frustration of home-schooling. And, yes, whenever possible, make it fun!

The most important thing to remember is that you are not expected to teach your children for 7 1/2 hours a day. Be realistic with your children and yourself. These are just a few tips that will hopefully give you the motivation to continue to educate your children during this unusual time. Everyone is in the same boat.

We are all learning how to do this together, whether you have one student or five students at home, we are all learning. Having the opportunity to home school your children helps to break up these long days. It helps to get your kids off of the electronics and doing something more productive. These are not the dog days of summer, just yet. More like the dog days of COVID-19. Good luck!

A special thanks to the teachers and parents who sent in their home-schooling tips. For fun activities and resources, visit the Valencia County Extension Facebook page.

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Ann-Marie Wilson, Guest Columnist