Coronavirus school closings: 8 ways to keep the peace while kids are home

Keep up the learning, give up the stress.

March 21, 2020, 4:01 AM

Schools around the country are shutting down in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, but with the closures come a challenge for parents: how to keep order and routine with children confined at home.

Most teachers will send home assignments or direct older kids to online learning so they don't fall behind in their studies, but those options don't solve the problem for parents on how to execute home-based learning in ways that won't lead to conflict.

"Good Morning America" asked education experts how to keep order in the home during this uncertain time. Key takeaways: Avoid the snow day mentality and think more long term.

Get dressed

"We all do better with routine which sets expectations," education expert Avivit Ben-Aharon, founder and clinical director of online speech therapy company Great Speech told "GMA."

"While it may be tempting to lounge in your pajamas and allow your children to do the same, the lack of routine for everyone can be confusing, particularly when it lasts more than a few days."

Create the space

Pam Roggeman, dean of College of Education at University of Phoenix, said it’s as important for kids to have a designated work space as it is for adults.

"Use the homework area as an area to work on lessons, arts and crafts, etc., while students are out of school," she said.

Set a schedule

"Most students thrive on the structure they receive in school when they know what to expect with their daily schedule and routine," said Melissa Scatena who runs an education services company called Scattered Solutions.

“Prepare your child for the transition by working together to create their schedule. Ask them to share with you what their day typically looks like in school and empower them with ownership over creating their schedule for home," she said.

Use timers

"The timer is the equivalent of the school bell which helps children of all ages define the class 'period,'" said Ben-Aharon. "Try to model their day at home to their day at school with specified times for different activities."

Don't rush it

Elizabeth Kanna, author of "Homeschooling for Success," cautions against the immediate pull to "create a school at home."

"By doing so, you will put tremendous pressure on you and your child," she told "GMA." "If your child is required to be logged in at set times to attend virtual classes, make sure that gets done."

But don't think you need to keep the kids engaged in academics 6 to 8 hours a day.

"Most of the time children spend at school consists of waiting. Design a homeschooling learning schedule and plan that works for your family and be prepared to scratch the schedule several times until you find the right one for your family."

Shuffle the shelves

Chances are you have much more to entertain your kids than you think you do. Think beyond their current favorite toys and activities and see what's been cast aside.

"Put away all the books and toys and then take out five each day to match your theme or your mood," Ben-Aaron said. "This way old toys and books will feel new and you will avoid the temptation of ordering new ones."

Stay in sync

“If you will be working from home, make sure to discuss the expectations when you are at your desk working or on a call,” said Scatena. “Make sure your schedules line up so that they are working on tasks they can complete independently without adult assistance when you need to be working.”

Expand the definition of learning

In today’s busy world, many kids are simply too over-scheduled to learn how to do basic household tasks. This is an opportunity to change that.

“There is a lot of life skill learning that can take place and this is an opportunity for kids to develop a sense of responsibility for the household,” said Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg founder of Pediatric Occupational Therapy Services, LLC.

“There are appropriate chores for kids of every age, from preschoolers to teens, including making their beds, loading the dishwasher, sorting socks and silverware and vacuuming.”

What to know about Coronavirus: