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Home-Based Schooling & Experiential Learning

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

This is a time of COVID-related challenges for families. Parents are feeling stressed by responsibilities and concerns, and circumstances keep changing.

The 2020-2021 school year is unique. There are stringent health and safety protocols, and unconventional programs and revised educational practices across the learning spectrum (daycare centers, preschools, elementary classes, and beyond). Many young children will be doing all or much of their learning at home this year.

Now more than ever, parents are at the forefront, juggling and managing day-to-day eventualities in concert with creating home-based schooling experiences. Learning at home has always been integral to children’s growth and well-being. However, this year schooling at home is being more broadly embraced as part of the “new reality.”

How can parents of young children ensure that the learning is enriching, enjoyable, and manageable? In previous First Time Parent Magazine articles—accessible via the FTP app or the Resources Page at—I address key aspects of learning. (Please see titles below.)

Parents are well-positioned to focus not only on teaching but on children’s experiences and this school year is particularly ripe for co-creating meaningful learning opportunities at home.

Here are 3 home-based, schooling-related principles for families with early learners. (Heads up, all three points involve encouragement, respect, and communication.)

1. Talk with children about the nature of change. This September, and going forward within the COVID storm, children may not be able to participate in as many (or possibly any) programs, community circles, playgroups, or other collaborative activities. Children may be missing friends and also interactions with people outside of the immediate family. There will be new and unfamiliar experiences. Chat about change to help little ones understand it. For example, it can be expected or unexpected; quick or pokey; pleasing or bothersome; big or little; unnecessary or required; beneficial or detrimental. Discuss different kinds of changes experienced at home and elsewhere, and how they’re part of learning and life.

Also, share ideas for accepting change. Try describing a three-step approach: getting comfortable, doing, and continuing. This process may not be lickety-split, but it will provide a framework for children as they become accustomed to new modes of schooling and, in many cases, adapt to more of a home-based learning environment.

2. Encourage children to ask for help. Regardless of whether learning takes place at home, in other settings, or virtually, it’s important to reassure little ones. Let them know that everyone stumbles. It’s okay (in fact, more than okay) to get assistance when a challenge or change makes it hard to continue. Strength and resilience derive from support. A child’s support may come from family members, caregivers, teachers, neighbors, friends, or trusted others. Be patient. Don’t rush or pressure children as they strive to find their own comfort levels. Help kids foster connections with those who can support them in difficult or unusual circumstances.

3. Safeguard a dependable, stimulating environment. Try to stay calm. (Yes, it can be tough. 2020 has been grueling, and it’s not over yet!) Maintain routines if possible. Ensure ample time for growth-oriented activities involving music, movement, multi-sensory experiences, reading, laughter, character development, language and numeracy, creative expression, and art. And, of course, play! This autumn, keep things simple, familiar, less stringent. Consider reducing screen time. Quiet intervals, walks, or time outside enjoying nature can be restorative, and stimulate motivation, productivity, and creativity.

Most importantly, share your confidence in children’s ability to succeed. Help them appreciate the value of effort and resourcefulness by demonstrating it yourself when doing things at home, by doing things together, and by reinforcing their accomplishments.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST… Recognize what’s central to your child’s well-being. Safety, like love, is non-negotiable. Try to be anticipatory and watchful, composed, and responsive. Respect individual interests and learning preferences. Pay attention to fluctuating feelings. Fear, anger, confusion, worry, disappointment, excitement—these can affect a child’s behavior, motivation, and learning. If your child is especially anxious or unable to cope, consider acquiring professional help.

And, as the school year unfolds (in unanticipated ways due to the unpredictability of the pandemic), remember to look after yourself. Children learn by example. Show the merits of self-care, optimism, and persistence. Strengthen your own support networks, utilize resources, and embrace opportunities to learn experientially—and encourage your child to do the same.



Joanne Foster’s most recent book is ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child. For additional information about Dr. Foster’s award-winning books, and for access to many articles and links, go to the Resources Page at (COVID-related material is marked with a red asterisk.)

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