Homeschooling 101: Edmonton parent offers advice and answers questions

Province-wide class and daycare cancellations have many parents juggling full-time work with restless kids at home. 

Teachers and education officials are working on a plan for delivering the rest of the school year.

In the meantime, music teacher Rayne Oosterveld answered parents’ questions about teaching kids at home on CBC’s Radio Active on Monday.

Oosterveld has been homeschooling her three children, ages 10, six and four, for the past three years.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What are the first critical steps in teaching kids at home?

A: Take a deep breath in. I’ve got a lot of friends who are public school teachers and the first thing that I would say is that they’re not planning on abandoning anybody by any means. They’re still active and they’re doing everything they can to give parents what their students need right now. Honestly, for the first few days …just relax with your kid. Wait for those resources and then start to build on those resources that you’re given from the teachers on how you can teach your child specifically, because you know them best.

Q: What were the biggest challenges for you in the beginning?

A: Probably personal space!

It was very overwhelming, as just a person and a parent. For us, we have quiet time. And that was mostly for me, but it’s really good for them as well. You can’t teach them well and parents know you can’t parent well if you’re feeling like you’re overwhelmed.

Q: How do you structure a school day?

A: We’ve had to change a lot as well because we have memberships and we’re regularly at the museum or at the Telus World of Science and all that. So I’ll share what we’ve done to rejig what our routine is. We plan at least one bigger outing a day.

In the morning, the kids are a little more quiet … doing Lego colouring, reading, something like that. They have little workbooks. There are millions of resources for free for parents right now.

We’ll read together, we’ll do an activity together, then we’ll go on that big outing. 

For example, yesterday I printed off scavenger hunts that are age-appropriate for each of my kids and we just went out and drove for an hour and a half.

We were safe and we were abiding by health recommendations. 

We’ll do lunch, and then the kids get to be rambunctious, messy and noisy. Sometimes it’s just laying out a big sheet and letting them play with paint. It’s making sensory bins, so filling bins up with water, putting in food colouring, letting them grab little plastic toys.

Then normally we will do some sort of cleaning or tidying because it’s necessary.

In the evening, we get together and we do family activities and sometimes that includes going out as well for a walk. Sometimes it’s watching a movie. We have Disney Plus. That’s our basic routine.

Q: How do you earn kids’ respect as a teacher?

A: I think it’s really important for any student or any child to feel like they’re being valued for where they’re at and who they are, before you start trying to like tell them to do stuff.

For people who do struggle with their children respecting them, that child probably just needs trust-building time with you. With one of my children in particular, I have that problem more than with the others. And when I sense that, normally what solves it is a little coffee date or asking the child, “what do you want to do?” Then we would take some time to do that. 

Q: How do you minimize distractions at home?

A: All kids are different. My daughter works really well. And you can be talking, there can be music in the background, and she works well with distractions. We just designate an area of the house for each child. We live in a smaller place, so if a child needs quiet time to be able to focus on something, we prioritize it in time blocks. Give your child the space that they need to minimize those distractions.

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