Across most of the country, school is cancelled through the end of the year due to Coronavirus. For parents of young kids, this is a big deal—not just because you need to arrange child care, but because there’s now an educational gap at a pivotal time in your child’s developmental prime.

My first thought after hearing about the cancelled school year wasn’t “crap, now I have to find a sitter;” it was “crap, my girls are losing half a year of school.” Thankfully, many schools were quick to roll out virtual education tools—my daughters’ school included. But not every district is on top of distance education and not every parent is so fortunate. A friend of mine now has her hands full with trying to create a full curriculum for her daughter. As a single mother herself, it’s a huge undertaking.

I recently called her up with a question about how to approach helping my daughter with one of her lessons. What I ended up getting was a crash course in homeschooling from a single mom who’s literally writing her own book about it! Here are 10 takeaways that stuck with me:

  1. Don’t be afraid to push your child. If you softball in questions and concepts, your child won’t push their own limits. Give them challenges and help them work through them.
  2. Do explain things from different perspectives. Not every concept is going to land the first time. Explore different ways of teaching the same thing.
  3. Don’t let them check out. Learning requires engagement. If your child’s attention starts to fall off, shift gears. Keep them engaged to keep them learning.
  4. Do take breaks. Break up learning with fun activities, food and different opportunities for movement. Different types of stimulation are what keep kids active participants.
  5. Don’t be formulaic. Kids recognize patterns naturally and will fall into rhythm with them if your lessons are repetitive. Change things up to keep them on their toes!
  6. Do structure your days. Kids get used to routines at school and find comfort in them. This helps them feel comfortable learning. Mimic the routine and structure of school at home.
  7. Don’t let the computer do all the teaching. Digital resources are great, but kids need to learn through other mediums. Use physical examples and provide tangible resources.
  8. Do use school materials. From worksheets to standardized tests, use whatever you can get your hands on from the school and base your lessons on these educator-backed materials.
  9. Don’t worry! You’re not a teacher, so don’t measure yourself like one. Instead, focus on helping your child grow their knowledge and develop deeper understandings.
  10. Do reward progress. Kids want to be recognized for their achievements, and positive reinforcement goes a long way. Celebrate new learning milestones with your child!

The bottom line, according to my friend, is bridging the gap between what your child knows now and what they’re expected to know next year. If they’re learning something new every day and showing retention over time, you’re doing fine. Measure their progress against school-provided metrics, keep them on track and they’ll go into the next year with the skills to transition seamlessly.