CALM FOCUS – 9 priorities with practical tips for productive at-home learning (especially for folks who aren’t professional educators)

School closings provide many opportunities and challenges while learning at home. The acronym CALM FOCUS helps.

C – CREATE a daily routine that mimics non-isolation school day patterns. Alternate ~50-minute work sessions with ~10-minute stretch/snack/hydration/stop looking at the screen breaks. Take up to 90 minutes for lunch and exercise. CUSTOMIZE to avoid overly strict agendas. If it’s a great day for a 2-hour lunch+bike ride, then shift the afternoon work sessions to a bit later in the day.

A – ALIGN with school assignments first. ADD activities based on your child’s interests and abilities, the resources you have on hand, & your ‘bandwidth’ to deploy any of it.

L – LOOK to the experts. Ask teachers, seek free online learning links (homeschool sites & beyond!), or brainstorm with parents you know. Need adaptations? Groups like Thinking Organized can help.

M – MEASURE progress by your child’s levels of engagement, variety of learning tasks, or adaptation in the face of all this change. MASTERY is wonderful, but few parents are instructional or assessment experts, so don’t define it (mastery) only by traditional grading.

F – FIND just 1-2 resources you really like and feel comfortable using per subject. Consider your own bookshelves as well as online resources. Make it a bit of a Scavenger Hunt with your child. Fifteen minutes evaluating resources together boosts some extremely valuable thinking skills.

O – OPTIMIZE household tasks as non-academic learning opportunities. Learning does not have to be documented or digitized. ORGANIZE a task your child can learn-by-doing with you. Think kitchen, laundry, fix-the-leaking-whatever, yard, sewing, photography, etc. skills. Add context. Find a ‘history of chocolate chip cookies’ or ‘best laundry detergent review’ article along with doing the new task together. Charge older kids with finding the article.

C – CONVERSE. Balance academics and stimulate all kinds of language processing and logic with thought-provoking options like these 42 discussion starters or this list of 101 options.

U – USE common sense. Find a work-rest-fuel-fun-physical activity balance to be productive for the duration. Neuroscience is on your side:  learning flourishes when this balance is a priority.

S – SPIRAL upward. A rocket-launch trajectory of advances is not the goal. Learning takes time to advance by revisiting key concepts while adding new info and skills. Sometimes progress is speedy, sometimes it stalls. If it seems dizzying (rude, anxious, overtired, or too-silly kid), you’re on the wrong spiral!  Either adjust the pace or find another way or time to address the content.