As a result of mounting restrictions caused by the coronavirus, schools are closed and parents are scrambling to figure out how to continue their children's education. It can be daunting, especially as many parents must balance their own work-from-home schedule with their new teach-from-home role.

Dennis Shirley

Dennis Shirley

Dennis Shirley, a professor in the department of Teaching, Curriculum, and Society in Boston College's Lynch School of Education and Human Development, believes that, while stressful, this moment in time offers an opportunity to get to know our children better.

He offers five quick guideposts for parents now responsible for in-home schooling:

  • Don’t panic. There is a lot going on inside and outside your home. We can’t do much about what happens outside, but we can take control over what happens inside. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be forgiving. This is unlike anything you’ve ever done, but you can do it.

  • Set a schedule. Talk with your children about what these days are going to be like. Involve them in drawing up colorful daily learning schedules that are posted prominently in the home.  Set the schedule and stick to it. Avoid negotiating about what comes next.

  • Set clear expectations. Preview the work you’ve been asked to help them understand. Break it down for them in a quick summary so they know where the lesson or exercise is headed. Once complete, review those points and reinforce what they’ve just studied.

  • Blend academic learning and personal growth. Supplement the assignments that come from school with additional activities that reinforce those lesson plans, but also engage in this new experience. For instance, start a family journal that everyone can add to throughout each day with reflections or artwork. If possible, keep the journals in long-hand, rather than computerized format. Try setting other learning goals, like reading silently or aloud with each other at the beginning and end of every day.

  • "Shake your sillies out." Raffi was right. It’s a good idea for the day’s schedule to include periodic breaks or play time so children can release the energy they generate so naturally. If they’ll go for it, throw in some meditation, yoga, or just quiet time to help them relax and prepare for what’s next.

“For nearly every child, a parent or guardian is their first teacher,” says Shirley, who designs and guides large-scale research and intervention projects for school districts, states and provinces, and nations, and is editor-in-chief of The Journal of Educational Change.

“As parents, our teaching is like jazz. We improvise. We hit our high notes. We see how the pieces fit together," he says. "Classroom teaching is more like a classically conducted orchestra: deliberate, organized and firmly-led. Teach-at-home parents can draw from both approaches in this new experiment that so many have been asked to carry out.”

Learn more in an interview with Shirley on Boston 25 News,

Ed Hayward | University Communications