When all Catholic schools in Arkansas switched to Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) classes at home, Jamie Loynachan, director of institutional advancement at St. Joseph School in Conway, was well-equipped to create a learning environment for her and her husband Todd’s four children. For three years, she homeschooled Libby, 13, Ethan, 12, Luke, 10 and Annabelle, 7, creating at the time what was called the Faulkner County Christian Co-op for about 70 homeschool families.
She emphasized AMI is “totally different than homeschooling,” which requires the parent to choose the curriculum and pace, tailored to their child’s strengths and weaknesses. But there are similarities, allowing Loynachan to offer some insight to overwhelmed parents:
• Start off the day right: “We start out our day with a morning offering and then I had bought a book which happens to be the same book our elementary and middle school reads every morning,” of daily devotions, Loynachan said. They also recite the pledge of allegiance and a prayer for the United States.
“You want them to wake up and start their day with breakfast, make their beds or whatever little chore you want them to do and start with a prayer and hit their classwork and get it done ideally,” she said.
• Maintain a schedule: Loynachan divides her children up in twos, each working on their individual assignments.
“Do about one to two subjects and tell the kids to take a break and run around a little bit and then have a morning snack,” Loynachan said. “Then one to two subjects, making lunch a project with the family not just for mom to do. Then one to two more subjects and a break again and then they’re done with their day.”
Screen time should also be avoided until all schoolwork is complete.
• Find extra stimulating activities: Because Loynachan’s daughter tends to breeze through her work, she has had to find supplemental learning activities to keep her focused on age-specific learning to prevent boredom. She said there are hundreds of free educational resources right now because of the virus, including those that have previously required a subscription. Loynachan also recommends puzzles, Play-Doh, art and nature activities.
Some resources include:
• Make it work for you: Loynachan emphasized a school day at home does not need to mimic a school day in the classroom, particularly for parents working from home.
“You can be on a conference call and your child can go outside and play and come in when you’re finished,” she said.
Remember to set the expectation for the children, she said.
“Their teacher does not sit there and hold their hand during the day,” but provide instruction and expect the work to be done. A parent can, of course, answer questions and check the work before it’s submitted.
Loynachan said despite the situation, families are “blessed to have this opportunity to reset and recharge and rebuild family” time.
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