I am not a teacher. There, I said it. I’m a librarian, yes; I am an educator, yes; but, I do not have a degree in education, nor a certification to teach others, nor a subject in which I am an expert. I am not a teacher.
When schools closed and kids were sent home to stay home for an indeterminate amount of time, I kept seeing posts about how everyone is now homeschooling their children. That's a huge responsibility to take on. Plus, and I hate to break it to you, but this, what's happening right now, is not homeschooling. Homeschooling is a full-time job requiring full-time work and training. No, what we are doing right now, amidst this unprecedented disruption in our society, is NOT homeschooling. You didn’t magically become a teacher and your home didn't magically turn into a school classroom. And you know what? That is okay! Your home is your home and it has temporarily become a place to learn, work, and live, which is an enormous undertaking in and of itself.
Right now, you are attempting to support a learning environment for your child(ren), while they are still being taught by their (let’s face it, heroic) teachers. Teachers, by the way, who were given about 48 hours to translate the remainder of their year-long curriculum into an online environment (teachers who could very well be parents themselves and are essentially in the same boat you’re in). What the average parent right now is doing is not teaching, but learning management. And you’re doing your absolute best. But you’re not a teacher. And that is okay. I repeat: that is OKAY. It’s not your job. You’re a parent, and your job is most likely something else entirely. You have limits to your knowledge and expertise. And that is absolutely okay, too. Give yourself permission right now to not know everything. Take that responsibility of being a teacher off your shoulders and do what you can to support your kids.
Here are a few resources, all free, that I’m hoping will help you engage with your kids, perhaps further their learning (even if just the slightest – seriously, no one is actually learning to their fullest potential right now), and for sure lend you a hand in answering those questions that you simply cannot answer.
Free with your SJPL Library Card (either yours, your child’s, and also accessible with our new SJPL eLibrary Card), The Learning Express Library has an enormous database of tutorials, exercises, and practice tests that cover elementary through high school across all basic subject areas (math, reading, social studies, science, and writing). The guides and tutorials are a way to support where your student is right now and how to potentially get them moving ahead. There are practice standardize tests, too, including high school entrance exams, as well as college-admission requirements.
Tutor.com, also free with your library card, has a variety of helpful tools and online help for homework and assignments. The best tool they have, especially now? Real live tutors! You can get matched with a real live tutor for on-demand homework help. Plus, students can submit essays they’ve written to tutors for feedback (with about a 48-hour turnaround time). There are practice tests for a variety of standardized tests. There is even online resume help, if you’re unfortunately someone who is also job-hunting at this time. This is an amazing resource for child, teen, and adult learners.
The Learning Network from the New York Times is completely free and does not require a subscription to the New York Times. This online resource is a great option for not only looking for ideas for what to write for assignments, but also supplementing middle and high school English Language classes (and could be adjusted for younger writers, too). With new writing prompts daily using New York Times articles, photographs, and other NYT content as a starting point, young writers exercise their skills and creativity for sharing their opinions, perspectives, and connecting with the wider world around them. They can even submit their writings to NYT editorial staff for publication on their website, too. You can even make it a family exercise so that parents and their kids can learn things about each other, too.
Immersive Online Museum Exhibits
The PBS Newshour compiled a list of available online museum exhibits that can be visited from home and are free to everyone. Like libraries, museums have had to close their doors, too, and find other ways to stay connected with their patrons. This is an excellent example of another activity that can be done as a family that encourages learning. Why not change up your family movie night with a visit to The Smithsonian Institute, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, or The Whitney in New York City? Maybe take a virtual trip to Europe to visit collections at The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay in Paris, Museo del Prado in Madrid, or London’s National Portrait Gallery, too?
A personal favorite for me has been the Monterey Bay Aquarium and specifically their Medit-OCEAN videos on Instagram (@montereybayaquarium): a series of mindful meditation practices with backdrops like their moon jellyfish exhibit, kelp forest, and live-cam footage of the Pacific Ocean at sunset (my absolute favorite of the bunch). Local zoos are also beefing up (no pun intended) their online presence, too. San Jose’s very own Happy Hollow Park and Zoo has been uploading photos and videos of their animals to their Instagram (@hhpzoo) feed so children and families can check in on their animal friends from home.
No, you’re not a teacher, but with the right tools you can keep your kids learning while you all are sheltering in place at home. Remember to take plenty of breaks. Check in with one another. Learn together. Love each other. And, maybe, have some fun.
Share with us! Leave a comment below with what have been your favorite tools for supporting your child(ren)’s learning, while at home?