If Home-Schooling Your Children Overwhelms You, Narrow Your Focus

As the pandemic continues, so will home-schooling. Now that you’ve survived the first round, you may be wondering: Where should I focus my energies once the new school year starts so that I can hold down my day job?

“There’s no need for parents to reinvent the wheel,” says Linda Bevilacqua, president of Core Knowledge Foundation, a nonprofit that has produced learning materials for three decades and that supports the schools and parents who use them.

Here’s how to make sure your children are learning the fundamentals:

Core curricula: Your first stop is the excellent “Needs to Know” series, which goes from preschool to fifth grade and covers everything from geography and history to visual art and fairytales. “It’s an overview that you can read, a little bit at a time, before they go to bed at night,” Bevilacqua says. “If your kid is not getting any other instruction, that’s a starting point.”

Core Knowledge’s heftier preschool and K-8 curricula detail additional basics. Don’t freak out. “These are comprehensive and potentially overwhelming,” says Bevilacqua. Homeschoolers typically have daily math and reading/writing lessons, along with one specialty subject at a time. Sign up for the relevant math class at Khan Academy or Power Home School.

Books: Bevilacqua recommends spending two hours a day with younger children on books—a mix of reading aloud, solo reading, audio books, and reading apps such as Epic!, a digital library of 45,000 titles, some of which the app will read aloud. “You want to balance fiction and nonfiction, 50-50,” Bevilacqua says. (Search online for “Newberry winners” or “American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Book winners.” Mensa also has winning lists.) She emphasizes that reading aloud is pivotal, because kids can understand far more complex concepts aloud than if they’re reading about them mutely. Talking is also key: What do you think is going to happen next? How does that character feel?

A few hours of instruction per day is plenty. “No teacher works one-on-one with a kid for two hours a day,” says Bevilacqua. She adds that you should let your kid pick a learning unit periodically (not daily), and stresses that “research recommends movies related to instruction.” Documentaries, period dramas, National Geographic series—anything relevant to what your kids are studying—are your friend.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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