It’s nearly two months since the initial Shelter in Place order for our community. How are you feeling now? Frustrated? Bored? Deflated? We see you! We’ve gathered some of the best pointers from trusted sources to help parents and students on this unusual journey. While some of these tips may seem trivial, confirmation by professional sources can offer comfort and support.
Don’t try to emulate a school classroom
Appreciate the freedom of providing choice for your kids to learn on their own terms rather than a “drill and practice” approach.
Embrace the flexibility of learning at home. A good day is: short blocks of focused schoolwork separated by food breaks, outdoor play and activity time.
“Families shouldn’t feel pressured to try and keep up, or even surpass, the rate of academic progress of their traditional school. It’s much more important to create a place where children can get some respite from the scary world outside of the door. Trying too hard to keep kids engaged academically could serve to push children away during a time when families can come closer together. A couple hours a day of academic work should be plenty.” (McShane, Education Week)
Allow yourself to cut corners during these unusual conditions
Treat inevitable missteps as learning opportunities.
Let go of the expectation that you must be the perfect parent.
Drop the belief that you need to have all the answers.
Skip the criticism:
“…the last thing either parent should do is call the other “crazy” or be dismissive of their emotions. When there are disagreements, practice starting sentences with the phrases “I need” or “I would feel better if…” (Dr. Sacks, M.D., The NY Times)
Keep it simple
Pick a few comprehensive resources if you are overwhelmed by the large volume of free online resources available during the pandemic. Examples are Wide Open School from Common Sense Media, Khan Academy, BrainPOP (4-6) or BrainPOP Jr (K-3), Book Connections, and National Geographic Kids.
Check out Enrichment Activities, the ultimate guide for working at home with kids
Limit verbal directions: two steps for preschoolers and three steps for older students.
Set aside time to read daily. The benefits of reading for pleasure extend beyond academic success into adult life.
Spark inspiration, creativity, and experimentation that can result from simple boredom.
Seek a balance between measured boredom and overscheduling (dependent on a child’s developmental age and temperament).
Aim to cultivate independence, resourcefulness and perseverance in student learning and ease away from focusing on grades and test score metrics.
“It’s when you are bored that stories set in…” (Paul, The NY Times)
Build important Social-Emotional Learning skills
Make sure your children feel loved, nurtured, and secure at home. The feeling of attachment is vital especially now due to limited socialization with friends.
Talk to your children about the coronavirus, why their lives are different today, and ways they can keep themselves and others safe. Launch the conversation with a picture book, a comic, or Princess in Black.
Ask your children how they are feeling. Explain the types of emotions to young children at opportune times and begin scaffolding for later discussions about self-control, perspective taking, and other skills.
Use games, puppet shows, or role-playing with Stuffies to talk about feelings, recognize when they show up, and promote age-appropriate emotional skills such as listening without judgment and accepting people different from themselves.
Use this crisis to work on building adaptability and resilience.
Organize learning for multi-age siblings
Make a plan each day:
- Which lessons are guided and which are independent?
- What materials, equipment (e.g. computers) and learning space will be necessary for each type of lesson?
- Which lessons demand multiple learning areas?
- Do lesson start times need to be staggered?
Match the noise level of different projects so everyone is loud at the same time.
Delegate older students to help younger ones with lessons or reading aloud.
Set up simple activities for young ones (e.g., preparing snacks) to have uninterrupted time with older students.
Keep supplies and materials in one place for independent exploration / play time and establish age-dependent guidelines.
Strive for one-on-one time with each child at least once a day.
Note the upsides
Acknowledge valuable observations by educators and administrators about established ways of teaching in our educational systems:
- Fluid class schedules validate the benefits of students choosing when and how they do their work.
- Reduced school rigor allows specific students to thrive without the constraints of traditional classrooms.
- More sleep correlates with increased learning potential in the absence of long school days.
- Real learning can happen when pressure is eased.
- Heavy workloads can negatively impact student learning and well being.
- Overscheduling (both during and after school) leads to anxiety, stress and decreased performance.
Take plenty of breaks and essential downtime
Connect with friends and stay social (phone, video chat, or six feet apart).
Exercise for mind and body.
Do creative expression (music, arts and crafts, drawing, dancing, etc.)
Practice good sleep habits and power down screens an hour prior to bedtime.
Carve out time for yourself.
A positive outcome of at-home learning is that areas for improvement in education have been put in the spotlight. Educators are noting the benefits of shorter school days, more fluid class schedules, stress reduction, and experiential rather than teacher-led learning. Above all, savor the fact that you know your child better than any teacher could, so be easy on yourself and enjoy the reduced pace that has granted more family time and play!
Return to Kids at Home for continual updates and new posts in the series. Social-Emotional Learning is coming soon!
We’re here to help. Contact us if you have questions or tell us what you want to know and we’ll reply as quickly as we can.
EmbraceRace. (2020, April 22). How we can help our children to be “Disaster-resilient” & why we must. [website resource]
Ferguson, Donna. (2020, March 23). ‘Let your kids get bored’: emergency advice from teachers on schooling at home. The Guardian [news magazine]
Fleming, Nora. (2020, April 24). Why are some kids thriving during remote learning? Edutopia [website]
Grose, Jessica. (2020, March 18). Parents need stress relief too. The New York Times [online newspaper]
Kern, Simone. (2020, March 24). Why learning at home should be more self-directed-and less structured. Edutopia [website]
MacQuarrie, Ashley. (2018, April 23). Tips for Homeschooling Multiple Ages. Learning Liftoff [website]
McShane, Michael Q. (2020, March 26). Lessons from a Homeschooler Researcher: What you should know now. Education Week [website opinion]
Moyer, Melinda Wenner. (2020, April 23). No. 1 rule for parents doing ‘crisis schooling’: take a deep breath. The New York Times [online newspaper]
Osborne, Charlie. (2020, March 27). All the free online resources parents need in home ‘schooling’ during coronavirus outbreak. ZDNet [website]
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