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Setting up an Elementary Homeschool

Dr. Stacy Ness, early childhood studies faculty member at Walden, shares insights about transitioning to homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parents around the world are dealing with fundamental lifestyle changes because of the coronavirus pandemic. For those who typically work outside the home while children attend school, having everyone home all day for work and education can be a challenging shift.

Dr. Stacy Ness, director of the early childhood studies and licensure programs at Walden University, is also a parent and experienced elementary teacher who understands the unexpected juggling required to keep children on track with their education at home. “I’m used to working from home as a faculty member at an online university,” she says, “but I’m not used to having my children home all day or being responsible for homeschooling.”

Setting up an Elementary Homeschool

To navigate the transition, Dr. Ness and her daughter, a second-grader, created a workspace and schedule that serves both their needs. Here are a few of their tips on preparing for online or home learning with elementary students.

1. Create an Organized Workspace

Just as students have their own desks at school, they need a dedicated home workspace—whether it’s a table, a comfortable chair, or a corner of the living room. Dr. Ness cleared a second desk in her home office for her daughter’s use and included plastic bins beneath it to house school supplies such as markers, scissors, notebooks, and pencils.

2. Make a Schedule

“Every day, we start off with a schedule,” says Dr. Ness. “My daughter likes to create her own and check things off the to-do list, which gives a sense of control.” Parents and students could create a time-based schedule instead, depending on the student’s preferences. A wall calendar keeps overarching goals in view and helps elementary students take ownership of their time and tasks.

3. Include Arts and Crafts

Leaving time and space in the schedule for creative arts is key to a successful elementary homeschool experience. For Dr. Ness’s daughter, Erianna, having a defined space to display her artwork is a favorite part of the homeschool area. “She loves writing stories and drawing pictures,” says Dr. Ness. “We created a simple display area by stringing a ribbon across the wall, and will add to it as we go through the rest of the semester.”

4. Create a Quiet Retreat

In addition to the more formal workspace, elementary students benefit from having a private retreat for independent learning. Erianna created her own reading nook in the corner of the living room by draping blankets over the furniture. “She even has a ‘mailbox’ so I can leave her notes without disturbing her,” Dr. Ness says. “That’s a fun way for students to practice both reading and writing.”

5. Utilize Technology to Connect

Some schools are moving elementary classes online, using apps and videoconferencing capabilities to connect students with teachers and each other. But depending on location and district, you might have to make additional efforts to connect. “Erianna is a very social child, so being away from her friends has been difficult,” Dr. Ness says. “To help her cope, we’ve set up an instant messaging program for kids on her tablet and used it to connect with her classmates.” They have also planned virtual play dates using videoconferencing tools.

6. Let Students Own the Process

The most important piece of setting up a successful homeschool is allowing students to take ownership of the structure. “When students are involved in the planning, it helps them stay engaged and focused—because they’re invested in their own education,” says Dr. Ness. “Collaborate with your student to uncover the tools and schedule that work best for you.”

And keep in mind that the coronavirus pandemic is not an ideal environment for homeschooling. “This is a difficult time for everyone and even with good preparation, our first days were tough,” Dr. Ness says. “We’re all in this together, learning as we go.”

Ready to Learn More? Consider an Online Education Degree

If you’re interested in starting or furthering your career as an educator, there’s never been a better time to pursue an online education degree. Walden’s education degree programs allow you to work toward teacher certification or earn an advanced degree while working in the field, giving you the freedom to apply what you’re learning immediately.

During her time at Walden, Dr. Stacy Ness has been an academic coordinator, course instructor, lead university supervisor, mentor, and dissertation chair. She currently serves as program director for Walden’s licensure programs—BS in Elementary Education, Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialization in Special Education, EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation), and MS in Education with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation)—as well as the early childhood studies programs (BS and MS in Early Childhood Studies). Previously a special education teacher, Dr. Ness has a passion for working with children with autism and has presented at national and state conferences on autism and other topics in the field of special education.

For more tips on this topic from a Walden University faculty member, you may enjoy reading “8 Tips for Families Setting Up Remote Schooling Due to COVID-19,” featuring Dr. Monique Lynch.

Walden University is an accredited online college offering several education degree programs for graduates and undergraduates. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,