There are so many memes and gifs these days about how our lives have changed over the last few months. They are funny, accurate, and sad all at the same time...because the only thing certain right now is uncertainty.
School districts across the country have faced difficult decisions regarding how to safely implement academic instruction, and simultaneously, parents have considered their children’s best interests and made their own decisions about how to proceed. The result has been a major shift in education where students are split between in-person instruction, virtual learning, some sort of hybrid of the two, or traditional homeschooling where parents select their own curriculum.
Parents are worried about the safety of their children, but also stressed about balancing the 'new normal' of learning that will inevitably demand them to take on additional responsibility when it comes to their children’s education. We parents are all just trying to do right by our children, choose what is in their best interest, and survive. As teachers, we feel the same way. We are all navigating a juggling act where more balls are constantly being thrown at us, sometimes more than one at a time. We have to remember to breathe, to plan, and that we can only do what we can do.
As parents, we model for our children how to respond and handle challenges that come our way. One of the best strategies that can we can model for our our children to set them up for success is to be prepared, and proactive rather than reactive.
Here are four suggestions to help you get off on the right foot with school...whatever that looks like this year.
Provide Closure for Last Year
This spring we were all blindsided by the sudden and abrupt change to virtual learning. This was most jarring for our children, who missed out on end-of-year celebrations, field trips, and goodbyes to their friends and teachers. Yes, we had virtual meetings and closed out the school year as best we could, but it wasn't the same. If your child is still expressing regret about last year, consider these options to allow them to “say goodbye” to friends and teachers, acknowledge the disappointment, and provide closure:
- Writing letters, creating cards, or drawing pictures that can be sent to others or saved as a keepsake to commemorate their favorite parts of the year.
- Collaborating with teachers and parents from last year to schedule a virtual “class reunion”.
Create a Productive Environment
Set your child up for success by creating a space for live or pre-recorded instruction and homework.
- Students need a working space, like a desk or table, that is free from distractions and has enough surface area for all of their materials.
- Their schedule should be readily available to follow along with throughout the day so they can remain on task and participate during instruction as required.
- Consider allowing your child a 'flexible seating' option that will allow for movement, and a change in position and scenery.
In the school setting, students are no longer are expected to sit at a desk all day, so that shouldn't be an expectation for learning from home. There has been a shift towards 'flexible seating', aka, providing different seating options for students throughout the day. A large exercise ball can be a wonderful alternative for students who struggle to remain focused and seated — allowing them to bounce on the ball while working can give them the movement they crave while encouraging productivity. Other 'flexible seating' options include sitting on the couch or a chair outside with a lap desk, or standing while working.
Children have to be taught time management, prioritizing tasks, and task completion. Unfortunately, these are not personality traits that they are born with or that they can pick up through osmosis.
- Modeling and direct instruction are key for our kids to be able to acquire and maintain these skills. This can be accomplished by sitting down with your child and creating an age-appropriate checklist that they can follow and understand to complete tasks.
Based on your child’s school setting, schedule, and tasks assigned you may want to consider whether a daily or weekly checklist is best. You are going to want to list out any instruction that your child needs to participate in, whether live or recorded, and each assignment. You are basically creating a to do list for your child that will allow them to check off each item as it is completed, to show when they have finished everything for the day or week. This can be as simple as a list of icons or clip art to create a visual checklist for younger children, to more complex, detailed, written lists for older students. Develop the checklist with your child so they feel ownership of the tasks and the process. Talk with them as you are working on the checklist, explaining how you know what what order to put items in.
Above all else — be patient — with your children, and yourself. Your child will miss a virtual lesson at some point, forget to turn in an assignment, or that homeschool lesson will flop. It happens to all of us. It may be an error on your child’s part, or you may feel like it’s a ball that you as the parent let drop. You are not alone in this. We teachers understand and know that at some point, these things are going to happen.
- The internet goes out, devices fail, people just forget...it happens. Just use it as a moment to model for your child how to handle the situation and fix what is in your control.
- Above all else, we are all human and we are in this together!