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Homeschooling Tips from Michigan Teacher of the Year

“Just so everyone is clear: my children are not the least bit impressed at being home-schooled by the Michigan Teacher of the Year,” Lougheed recently typed in viral tweet that received 12,000 “likes” and a response from Maria Shriver.

“I wasn’t trying to go viral,” Lougheed said. “I was just trying to say to parents and teachers out there, ‘Hey, you know we’re all just doing the best we can,” she said. “ … We’re all in the same boat.”

Cara Lougheed’s husband, Aaron Lougheed, is also a teacher. His specialties are math, physical education and health. The couple met while teaching at Rochester High School and now both teach at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills.

With school out, they’re now home teaching a much smaller class that includes two sons: 11-year-old Aiden, a sixth-grader; and 15-year-old A.J., a ninth-grader. Both had perfect attendance this week.

“I think what occurred to me as I was trying to make a schedule with my boys on Sunday night … This is going to be really hard for me,” Lougheed said, “and I have this (Teacher of the Year) title. I just thought, ‘You know, my boys aren’t impressed with me any more any other kids are impressed with their parents.’”

Rookie parent-teachers “need to use whatever resources they have,” Lougheed said, “family, friends, social media.”

While some school districts may provide a rough outline regarding what students in a certain grade should be learning, she said there are Facebook groups and teachers who are willing to assist.

“Reach out to your child’s teacher,” Lougheed said. “Even if they haven’t sent you work, they could still tell you, hey, this is where we left off, this is the book we were reading … I think it’s just a matter of thinking about what resources you have around you and trying to make the best of those resources.”

Lougheed said her son’s school has a Google Hangout classroom that allows him video-chat with classmates, sort of like “recess,” interact with teachers and receive assignments.

If a school district isn’t providing guidance or take-home work for students, Lougheed said there are plenty of online teaching resources for students of all ages. She recommended ABC Mouse for elementary-age students and Khan Academy for older students.

No need to use that algebra book as a pillow.

Lougheed said one of the greatest benefits of teaching your kids at home is you can do it on a schedule that works for them — and you.

“My teenager gets to sleep as much as he needs to sleep,” she said. “We get kids up at the crack of dawn for high school … and that’s not good for their brain rhythm.

“So I have loved letting my 16-year-old sleep in a little. Now, not until noon. You want to be reasonable. We want them up an moving by 9 a.m. and they are in a better mood, they’re able to focus.”

But parents have to have a plan, she said.

Don’t rush it. Do your research, figure out what you want to teach your children and then lay it out in a schedule.

“Maybe it’s just that you’re going to have reading time each day and do some math each day,” Lougheed said. “That’s it. You just have to figure out what works for you and no one is expecting parents to be perfect teachers.”

A.J. and Aiden Lougheed’s teacher showed up to “school” in sweatpants Friday.

Cara Lougheed said there’s no need to lay our school clothes or dress up, but there should be some decorum, even if its made by Hanes.

She makes sure her sons at least put on clothes that wouldn’t cause them to be arrested or whisked off to an orphanage if found alone on the street.

“If I didn’t make him get dressed, he’d probably be in pajamas,” Lougheed said of her youngest. “So he has to be reminded to shower, which is pretty typical of 11-year-old boys … Monday through Friday he has to get up, get dressed, eat something, like start his day, and then we start doing some school about 11 a.m.

” … We still want there to be a difference between the weekend and the weekdays.”

Should there be a special area in the house dedicated to learning? That depends, according to Lougheed.

“My younger one just does his work at the kitchen table so that we can help him if he needs it,” she said. “My older one has flexibility that he can work in his room if he wants and he just shows us when he’s done.

“Younger kids, I think, might need a space.”

For younger students, Lougheed recommends setting up “a little school area” somewhere in the house, “a spare bedroom, a corner in the family room … or whatever you have.”

“You kind of need to feel like, OK, we go to this place in the house for school,” Lougheed said. “I think that’s smart.”

When it comes to how long you should teach your children in one session, Lougheed recommends keeping it short.

“I teach mostly 10th- to 12th-graders and I generally don’t teach anything for an entire hour,” she said. “I would say, like 15- to 20-minute chunks is probably good.

“So we’re going to do math for 15 minutes, then we’re going to have a snack or we’re going to get some fresh air or we’re going to play a game.”

If they seem to be enjoying the learning or a lesson, however, Lougheed said “don’t stop them.”

“You can really watch your kids and see what they respond to. Use that flexibility” she said. ” … If you see that he’s getting really frustrated after 15 minutes, OK, well then that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to stop at 15 minutes.”

“Silver linings, right, trying to find the bright spot in all of this,” she said. “If you’re home with your kids … this is a chance to get to know them, because they can’t run off to their friends’ houses and they can’t leave the house.

“So I’m getting to spend some quality time with them as well.”

Many schools have strict rules banning use of cell phones during class time, but the home is a different atmosphere.

Lougheed says not to get hung up on your children’s cell phone, tablet or laptop use.

“You have to embrace that your kids are going to get more screen time than you like,” she said. “That’s just gonna happen. I mean, we’re all on our phones more than we are normally.

“There are ways … they can feel like they are on a screen but they’re really learning … There’s this really fun app that my kids used to play called Stack the States, learning geography basically … But, I mean, even just letting them play Minecraft. There’s a lot to be learned from Minecraft, you know.”

Cara Lougheed, the 2019-20 Michigan Teacher of the Year. Cara is an English and history teacher at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills. She began her teaching career at Rochester High School in 1998 and was a founding staff member at Stoney Creek when it opened in the fall of 2001. She is a Western Michigan University alumnus, with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, and also a graduate of Nova Southeastern University, where she earned a Master of Arts in teaching and learning. Outside the classroom, she has served as building activities director, district union representative and National Education Association delegate.

Cara Lougheed, Michigan Teacher of the Year
Homeschool Tips from Teacher of the Year


Gus Burns |

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