Updated: Jun 29
I have recently been struggling with a serious case of writer’s block. So, I reached out to a good friend who happens to be a talented writer and told her I had writer’s block. And she said, “write about that...seasons when you just don’t know what to teach.” And I thought, “Yeah, of course.” Whether teaching in the classroom, or teaching my own children at home, I have always found that inspiration ebbs and flows, but even without inspiration, learning can happen. So what can a caregiver do when they don’t feel inspired to teach, but still want to engage their children at home?
Double Check Expectations. Teaching and learning is about quality of learning more than quantity. Co-Teach founder (and good friend) Gretchen was recently talking to a mom who was trying to help her learner with reading. After school and after work, the mom and her daughter would spend 30 minutes to an hour reading and working on different sounds. It was brutal, for the mom and the child. When Gretchen asked the mom how long her daughter would engage in lessons before it became difficult to hold her attention- the mom said about 15 minutes. So they decided to just try to practice for 15 minutes. And that was that! The mom was able to be more inspired, because planning for an enjoyable 15 minutes was a lot more manageable than an hour of struggle. Now, you may be wondering, "what about the other 45 minutes, what did they do?" Well, lots of things - listened to an audio book, watched TV while the mom cooked, Face-timed with a family member or the child simply played with dolls or they played pretend together. But the transition from work to play was much more smooth and mom and daughter enjoyed their learning together more- which made it more helpful.
Share something you as a parent/caregiver enjoy with your learners. Several
years ago I started putting bird feeders up in our yard. I began to identify the birds that would visit, and gradually began pointing them out to my kids too. Now any one of us may alert the others to a beautiful visitor and when we see a bird we love, we may look it up online, learn the calls it makes, or just look in wonder and move on. Sharing my love of birds with my kids has not only improved at home learning by building their vocabulary, their awareness of the environment, and their knowledge about the natural world, it also has become a source of daily inspiration and a reminder that my kids are learning all the time. I sometimes marvel at how many birds my children point out to me by name!
Visit the library! When I’m feeling uninspired I often feel like offering a movie day. This is a great reprieve for all of us, especially when the weather is bad, but when I’m not feeling that much screen time for days or weeks on end reading books on the couch together instead is ALWAYS a good idea! During a quick trip to the library, I make sure to pick out fictional and non-fictional books. I also make sure to have my kids peruse both sections too, so they can find books and topics that interest them. Then, we go home, snuggle up on the couch with popcorn, and read the afternoon away. If you need a reminder about why this is so good for your learners, check out this post about the benefits of reading to your kids, and then get reading! Another benefit of reading with your kids is that you can create the inspiration you are looking for. Check out a series on unicorns, and before you know it your kids want to learn all about all sorts of mythological creatures, and you find yourself diving down a rabbit hole of various mythology tales from around the world!
Play lots of games! My daughter has recently started preschool at our local community school. This gives me an extra hour to work with my first grader uninterrupted before I am scheduled to start working. I had visions of digging into academic content, but it turns out, I get the biggest bang for my buck by playing games! We now get home from the preschool drop off and immediately begin a game of chess, or a reading game like Spelligator, Snap-it-Up, or AGO. From card games that encourage math, to home-made scavenger hunts for sight words or word families, to educational games created to practice skills, to chess-- games are a great way to practice both academic skills and life skills like sticking-with-it, losing well, and critical thinking. For more ideas to make at-home learning more joyful, check out my previous blog about this topic.
Remind yourself all the things you are doing. Whenever I feel stuck, I can then begin to feel anxious that I am not doing enough academically at home. Whenever I am feeling anxious about what my learners are accomplishing at home, I take some time to reflect on all the learning that is naturally happening. As a parent I might not necessarily plan out what learning is going to happen for the week, but I do sometimes make mental or physical notes when I notice learning take place. This can be as simple as jotting quick notes on the calendar, or journaling one day a month focusing on all the learning my kids did that day. This will look different in every home, but can include books your kids read, podcasts they listen to, youtube videos or documentaries they watch or even extracurricular activities. Some other things you might see on our “Plan from Behind” lists: doing a spontaneous art project, writing a letter or planting carrot and snap pea seeds in the garden. Our kids are natural learners, and so many activities they do throughout a day or a week improve their academic success, and when we take the time to notice how much learning is happening, we can feel better about what we are doing to support their academic growth.
So, if you are feeling uninspired when it comes to supporting your learners at home, know there are simple tweaks you can make that can go a long way to help build connection with your learner and improve learning. Our Co-Teachers are experts at helping learning come alive, and would love to help your family make the tweaks you need to make learning at home more effective.
If you’d like specific guidance that will help your family improve at-home learning you can Schedule a free 30-min Co-Teach Consultation today.