(Air1 Closer Look) – When COVID-19 closed thousands of public schools in April 2020, millions of young children were abruptly introduced to a new idea: distance learning. Parents accustomed to sending kids ‘off to school’ suddenly became educational supervisors, overseeing school at home, as even kindergarteners are now expected to learn their ABCs with webcams. 

Adapting to this new socially-distanced schooling has been bumpy for parents who feel inadequate as teachers or confused by the tangle of technology needed to virtually connect teachers to students. For other families, the shutdown drove disillusionment with public school curriculum, prompting some to make the leap to homeschooling. 

Whether you choose to homeschool or embrace distance learning, experts insist that school-at-home can indeed work for you.

Keeping it simple is key says Arlene Pellicane, mom, author and host of Accessmore podcast A Happy Home. “Master the basics," she suggests. "Just focus on like two things that would help this distance learning thing work.” That may be finding the right space in your house for kids to spend their school day. Maybe it’s printing out your child’s schedule to keep next to you at your desk. Perhaps it is sticking to routine wake-times or having lunch together every day. Mirroring your child’s class schedule may help you meet your own busy work-from-home deadlines.

Arlene’s children - (L-R) Noelle 9th grade: Lucy 6th grade: Ethan 11th grade.

Arlene also suggests deputizing your older kids to help with the younger ones. “That’s also part of what good could come out of this,” she offers. “What if a 6th grader, a middle schooler, a high schooler learned how to be helpful? As a parent we have to see that an option.” Another possible silver lining of distance learning? Kids can develop self-discipline thorough being required to work without a teacher hovering over them. To instill a self-starter ethic, Arlene says discover what inspires them. 

It’s “trying to link into your child..what’s gonna motivate your child to want to care -- and help ignite that in them.” 

For some families, homeschooling has emerged as an alternative to distance learning. The methods have commonalities, but mom and mentor Kayla Weller explains how homeschooling is a distinctly different approach to childhood education. 

As homeschoolers, parents take full responsibility for what their children learn, a method she finds to be effective, flexible and fun. “You can teach them what they’re interested in and there’s no set rules for how to teach,” she explains. “You would be surprised how much kids absorb when you take the time to work with them.” Homeschooling parents also set the daily instruction schedule which can relieve stress and leave precious time to build relationship with your children. “It doesn’t have to be 8 hours a day 5 days a week, it can just be a couple hours a day. You know exactly what your kids are learning...you can implement what is important for your family.” 

Kayla says socialization will not be an issue for homeschooled children so long as parents are deliberate in connecting them with other kids. “We make sure they have playdates with friends,” she says, pointing to the abundance of homeschool and social co-ops on platforms like Facebook and Meetup.com which parents can join.

And how does she respond to a parent’s most burning concern, Can I actually teach my children? Will they learn enough from me?

Kayla counts on the strength of your parental love and devotion, as well the wide community of support and advice available to homeschool families. “You’re not gonna fail them,” she says. “There’s always gonna be educational gaps, whether it’s in the school system or in homeschool, so let that stress fall off of you right now.”