As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to get more serious across the US, Americans are seeing closures of everything from offices to restaurants and bars, and even to even education systems. Schools across the country have gone remote, and while students attending college might be used to online learning, how is a Kindergartener to deal with logging in to their online classroom each morning?
School closures due to coronavirus have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students, according to Education Week. Some states have closed schools into May, while some, like New Mexico, Vermont, and four others, have closed the schools for the remainder of the academic year.
Of course, the burden of educating students falls first on teachers to create online classrooms, lessons, and activities. But to complete those activities, parental guidance will be necessary. With the White House extending social distancing guidelines through the end of April, it’s clear parents will continue to be at home with their children for an extended amount of time. While this is a stressful time, it’s important to plan and not panic.
“This is a stressful, unpredictable time for everyone, including families, parents, and children,” said Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra, the founder, and president of Children and Screens. “You can help your children by providing them with a structure and routine, and being a positive force in their education.”
Here is advice for navigating this new frontier of online education with your children.
9 tips for parents whose children are now learning at home because of Coronavirus
- Limit distraction
A “digital quarantine” might be necessary to keep your child’s attention focused on their schoolwork. You should limit their use of their devices, other than what is needed to complete their work, until their schoolwork is done. If you choose, you can allow your child to play on a device during a designated break, but make them aware that they only have a limited amount of time until they need to get back to work.
- Make space for learning
Many adults have a specific area of the home in which they do work, and it’s important that you create a similar space for your child. Your children will achieve their best work in a quiet, comfortable, and dedicated space that is strictly devoted to learning. This space should be a different set-up than where they normally play games or watch television.
- Maintain breaks such as snack time and recess
Routines and schedules are extremely important for children at school, and this is no different in their at-home school. Children will function best if they maintain their routine as close to normal as possible. Setting alarms similar to those they would encounter at school can be helpful for keeping them on a schedule. Around lunch time, encourage them to get up, get some fresh air, go for a walk or bike ride, or have a snack so that they are not sedentary for the entire day.
- Allow them to interact with friends via video chats
Your children are used to lots of social contact at school, so they will definitely feel the effects of being distanced from them even after a few days. While it might not be safe for your kids to see their friends in person, you should allow them to interact with them online, beyond social media or text messaging. Video chats are often the closest thing to seeing someone in person, and are a great way to get in social time without endangering yourself or others. If your child does not regularly video chat with their friends, you can speak with other parents to set up a video chat playdate.
- Mix screen time with old school learning mediums
Overuse of screen time can have adverse impacts on young brains, so it’s important to mix it up during a time like this. It’s likely that your children will want to continue to use a screen of some sort during their breaks from doing work, so it’s important to limit screen time by mixing in old school mediums as well. Hopefully teachers have sent home hard copy packets that they are able to work from. If not, print out anything you can for your child. As much as possible, parents should encourage print and book reading and, if possible, request textbooks from your child’s school.
- Keep in touch with other parents
Social distancing is important during this time, but staying in touch with others via virtual communication is very important. Each parent that has a child home is going to be going through a new experience. Check in with other parents to see what they’ve found effective, and ask if they need help as well.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a schedule
If you and your children are all doing work from your home, it’s likely that this is the first time that has ever happened. A schedule, for your work and your child’s work, is extremely important. To start, experts recommend keeping them on the same or similar sleeping schedule that they have when they are going into school. If a schedule was not provided by their teachers, help them write one for not only each day, but each week, as well. Having a clear vision of what is expected of your child will help them see that just because they are home does not mean they don’t have work to do. Experts recommend helping them prioritize and learn to create goals, tasks, and deadlines, just like adults do when they go to work.
- Don’t let your children treat this as a vacation
This time at home might feel like a vacation for your child, but it’s important to remind them that their education still comes first. Obligations like class assignments, grades, tests, state exams, SATs, and ACTs aren’t going away just because classes have moved online.
- Remember to schedule time for fun
While this is most certainly not a vacation, it’s important to have some fun with your children while they are at home. It’s rare that you have this much time with your children, so use it as an opportunity to bond. Experts at Children and Screens recommend organizing a tournament, family card games, charades, or chess, or getting outside for a hike or walk together.