By Michael Ungar, Ph.D, Family Therapist and Professor of Social Work, Dalhousie University.

While becoming your child’s teacher can be very stressful, this may be a wonderful opportunity to turn chores into lesson plans. We should insist children help around the house, using everyday things that need to get done as opportunities for them to learn math, science, language arts, and social studies.

  1. Emptying a dishwasher and stacking plates of different sizes is an excellent opportunity to teach younger children about ratios.
  2. Sorting laundry is great for learning the concept of ‘sets’, not to mention expanding vocabulary regarding colors.
  3. Preparing a shopping list and calculating the number of people in the household, what they eat, the number of days they need food and all the other aspects of food preparation is an opportunity to apply math concepts in the kitchen. Baking and measuring ingredients is also a wonderful way to learn everything from math to chemistry, as well as improve children’s literacy and vocabulary when following a recipe.
  4. For older children, learning politics and geography is as easy as watching the news and looking up online facts about other countries.
  5. Bio-chemistry — research the coronavirus pathogen.
  6. A class in ecology can be built around understanding how a pangolin got sold in a food market in China, and what happens when wild animals are used commercially (a pangolin may have been the original host for the virus, having been infected by bats).
  7. Social studies are as easy as calculating a child’s social network and mapping how it has changed.
  8. Civics can be taught by asking children to do a good deed for others like checking up on a senior or doing some yard work (when it can be done safely).
  9. Physical fitness and every aspect of health studies should be a breeze when everyone is discussing handwashing, mental health and the right amount of sleep to grow healthy brains. An exercise routine and downtime from being online is all part of a good schedule at home.
  10. To perfect language skills, reading together with little ones, or keeping a daily journal or online blog if a child is older, are great ways to get children reading and writing. So  are letters and emails to extended family members when visits aren’t possible.

Rather than struggling to teach children curriculum that has little to do with what they are living now, use the experience of being at home during a pandemic as the basis for a child’s learning. Be creative. There is no subject that can’t be taught in your home. Post your ideas for others to see. Better yet, have your child post their own lesson plans and in the process improve their literacy skills.

Use the curriculum provided by teachers, but let it inspire new approaches to teaching the same content. While I certainly couldn’t take on calculus, there are plenty of ways to learn statistics online and to apply these ideas to probabilities of infection.

Older children will need more structure and should be expected to advance through their standard curriculum, but even then, it will be more meaningful and easier to motivate them to do their studies if they can see the application of those ideas to their world now and, even better, let them teach their parents things we adults don’t understand.

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