Teaching from Home, Part 1: Parents learning how to teach their own kids
Author: Jillian Daley
Posted: April 17, 2020
About the Series: Gov. Kate Brown has mandated that Oregonians stay home and that schools stay closed for the rest of the academic year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In response, the Oregon Department of Education has required school districts to quickly put distance learning plans in place. To help parents, educators and anyone who supports school-age kids power through to the end of the school year, Portland State University College of Education is running a six-part series, Teaching from Home. We’ll begin with general advice for those who are now doubling as a teacher and a parent and share specific tips for teaching children with special needs and students at different ages. Look for Parts 2-6 next week! 

Saddled with a COVID-19 quarantine and devising ways to occupy students who aren’t in school or daycare and must learn remotely, many parents began tapping online schools and resources such as Oregon Connections Academy. Others sought at-home opportunities and waited for schools to publish lessons online. Still, while parents may be their children’s first teachers, most of them are not trained professionals. Many more may know a little something about educating, but are unaccustomed to all of this online learning.

Luckily, Portland State University College of Education (COE) experts are here to help, including faculty members Hollie Hix-Small, Ph.D., and John Nimmo, Ed.D. 

Teaching tips for parents and carers:

Tip #1) It’s OK to be imperfect.

Nimmo, whose children are 23 and 28, knows all too well that parents can place high expectations on themselves. Nimmo, an associate professor in the early childhood (an online offering) and doctoral leadership programs, said remember to view yourself with compassion.

“You don’t have to be a super-mom or super-dad,” Nimmo said.

Tip #2) Take care of yourself.

Hix-Small, an associate professor of special education and coordinator of the Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE) program, said a parent cannot fill up a child’s bucket, in terms of learning and energy, if that parent’s bucket is empty.

“It’s really important for parents to take time for themselves as much as possible, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day to have a cup of coffee,” she said. “You can look at the research on trauma and resilience. The way children experience this situation depends on what they are exposed to and how their parents/carers frame the situation.”

Tip #3) Create a schedule.

Hix-Small also offered a reminder about the crucial value of structure and guidance on how to create it.

“Most children and parents benefit from having a schedule that tends to flow in a similar way each day,” she said. “A schedule helps kids feel safe and secure. ... Every family schedule is different.”

Tip #4) Tech isn’t everything.

“Very young children don't need to be watching TV or on tech,” Hix-Small said. “A parent is a young child's favorite toy.”

For a list of educational, technological, and psychological resources, please visit the Teaching from Home resource page

Photo of students at Saigon Kids Early Childhood Centre in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo by PSU graduate student Elsa Sahruddin, a teacher Saigon Kids Early Childhood Centre

To share stories with the College of Education, email Jillian Daley at