Tips for Parents with School Closures

Well, it has been a week this week. All of a sudden teachers will be teaching remotely and parents will be homeschooling their little ones. Some parents will have support from schools and teachers through remote learning while others might not.

We know that it is all new and may seem incredibly daunting. Know that teachers are feeling the same way. This is all new for all of us and we are trying something new while there is a pandemic in our midst. It is not going to be 100% perfect, but it will be ok.

We thought we would share some helpful tips for parents as long-distance learning commence next week.

Schedule

A very important thing is to make a schedule, post it, and stick to it: kids need and like routine. In schools, we have a schedule for each day, and many of the activities repeat throughout the week, students of all ages are used to it. If your child’s school has virtual meeting times, include those, if not then break up the day by subject and breaks. Subjects should not be more than 20-30 minutes for children in K-3 grades. For those in 4-12, subject times can be 40-60 minutes at a time. Include times for breaks, “recesses” and lunch. Jessica McHale has a great schedule for the day and Kahn Academy has great schedules based on grades to use too, but you can create your own based on your life and needs. Post the schedule somewhere where the children will be learning and try your best to stick to it. Consistency is key.

Try to keep normal bedtimes. Children should have as close to the same routines as before the school closures. Remind them that this is not vacation and that they still have to learn during school hours (whatever those may be). Letting them stay up late will make them grumpy the following day when they have to watch lessons or complete assignments, and that will make it harder for you, so early/regular bedtimes are the ways to go.

Physical Activity

Incorporate activity throughout the day. There are several websites and apps that have physical activities for kids. GoNoodle, StandUp Kids, and  Cosmic Kids Yoga’s YouTube Channel have great videos to get children up and moving. If the day is nice, and you have a yard, have them go outside and play. According to Carolyn Cannuscio, the director of research at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, “for people who live in areas that are not densely populated, walking around in their yard is probably safe. The idea is that they should not come into contact with any other people.” Take advantage of a nice day to get some vitamin d.

Read

If your child is reading independently, set time aside each day, about 15-20 minutes, to read independently. Reading is something that we do a lot at school and is important for kids to keep up. 

We know this might be hard as children are not at school and libraries are closed. There are a few ways to access books from home. Hoopla has free digital books, all you need is your library card. Amazon Kindle has free books for children (and adults) to download. There is an app for all smartphones and tablets; you do not need a kindle. Tumble Book Library also has a collection of books from young kids to teens. Children can also re-read their favorite books again and gain a different understanding from it. 

Start a read-aloud book. Children love adults reading to them. Not only will it keep your minds off of being at home through fantastic stories, but it is a great bonding time for parents and children. In addition, listening to adults read will allow children to hear fluent reading, and that helps them become better readers, become better writers, and expands their vocabulary. Scholastic has compiled a list of 100 of the Best Read-Aloud Books, many of which we have read in our classes too. Storyline Online has many picture books read by actors, that our kids love listening to. Vooks is another resource that has stories read aloud to kids with animations. Having them watch those independently will give you time to complete your own work or tasks. 

Mindfulness

These times can be stressful. The unknown and confusion can bring up overwhelming and scary feelings. Remember your children are looking at you and how you react. Taking deep breaths and meditation is helpful in calming some of these feelings. Use Headspace, Calm, or Dreamy Kid to practice mindfulness with your child.

We know that there is a lot going on right now and in trying times it’s important for children to have consistency and reassurance. Spend time with them, talk to them, play games, bake, make art, facetime family. Take advantage of the time that we have been given together. 

Teacher Guilt

Teacher guilt is real. It is something that we and many of our colleagues have felt at one point or another in our careers. Many teachers find it challenging to balance a personal life and still be able to fulfill all the tasks required for teaching. In many cases it is the mental well being of our teachers that ends up suffering. Which isn’t healthy for the teachers or the students. 

People who become educators are always seen and praised for their selflessness. It is as if teachers have to give up so much to be a teacher, and society praises them for it. Perhaps it is because historically, the majority of teachers have been women, and in western society women and mothers often have to sacrifice for their families, that teachers now have this stigma of sacrifice. 

How many times have teachers had to take a day because we were sick, or had a family obligation, or something came up but they felt bad for leaving the students? We can tell you that it happens often. Many teachers feel guilty for taking care of themselves, taking a break during the work day, taking a day, or even switching schools or careers. This teacher guilt is real, and we want to shift this mindset. We want to help change the narrative around teaching. 

The fact is that education is a profession. We go to school for many years to be teachers, and we should not be sacrificed for the sake of the children. It starts with teachers setting boundaries and saying they will not sacrifice themselves for their job. Teachers should be compensated fairly, given the resources they need for their classrooms, and given time during the day to complete the tasks required. If teachers continue to put in extra hours for free, spend their own money on their classrooms, and forego their personal lives, society will continue to control the narrative. It’s time we make a major change.

To our fellow teachers, just know that the children will be ok if you take a day or a few days off to take care of yourself. Your students benefit from your well being. And if you are unable to balance your life in your job, your school will be ok if you decide to leave the school or the profession. Like architects, engineers, and doctors, they will find someone to replace you. If your school isn’t able to give you what you need to be successful, it’s time to look for something that will benefit you and the life you want. Teachers are not volunteers. Teachers should not be putting their health and well-being at risk for the sake of a job.

Teachers need to stop feeling guilty. And society needs to stop praising teachers for their sacrifice, and instead praise them for their excellence in professionalism, and compensate them fairly.

Technology Mindfulness

Technology plays a crucial role in our society and in child development. It has become a tool to monitor child health problems, can help connect children to their families, and can be a great learning tool when used purposefully. On the other hand, when used irresponsibly technology has the ability to disrupt sleep, create unsafe distractions, create a space for cyber bullying, and it can interrupt adult-child interactions. 

According to the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and the Fred Rogers Center, when technology is used wisely it has the ability to support both learning and relationships. Digital devices have rapidly become the culture in all avenues of life, at home, in school, at work, and in all different types of communities. While we do see this as a positive, we also need to be mindful about technology use. Research on this topic is relatively new to the last two decades. Much more research is needed to fully understand the short and long-term effects of technology use and how it is shaping child development, which is why it is so important to be mindful of how children use it.

Here are some things to consider around technology use for CHILDREN and ADULTS:

How frequently it is being used

How often do you reach for your device for no reason? Consider how you are using technology in the presence of children. Consider how often your child is reaching for a device. Is it out of habit, necessity, or pure boredom? 

What is being consumed

Always consider what is being consumed on technology. When technology is interactive it can promote creativity and exploration. When used in passive ways, technology can become unhealthy.

How it affects real life relationships

We often write about teaching children how to build relationships, we fully believe it is one of the most important skills for child development. Consider if the technology being used is hindering or helping to build relationships. 

We understand that at times, giving a child technology is an easy way to entertain and appease them. We also understand that it really can be a wonderful tool when used in developmentally appropriate ways. However, if a child becomes reliant on watching videos while shopping with you at the store, is always playing with an app at a restaurant, or constantly on the tablet while in the car, they are losing valuable learning and bonding time. They are missing out on learning social cues, how to talk to each other, how to make eye contact, how to sit and wait, how to be bored and how to entertain themselves. Now think of those repercussions in the classroom, at a sports game, religious event, or performances. 

The honest truth is that teachers, coaches, tutors, and even parents cannot compete with the technology in children’s hands. Technology has been designed by engineers to keep its users engaged and coming back. Which is why we need to be mindful about how and when children use technology. 

The theme that we often write about is balance, and it is especially important to practice balance when using technology. Personally, we are avid users of technology and are definitely not perfect, we are always trying to find ways to balance our use of devices, social interactions, and productivity. As adults, we need to be doing what we can to model mindfulness when using technology in our own lives. Mindfulness doesn’t mean you will be perfect all the time, it just means you will be more thoughtful around how often and for what purpose you use technology around children. It is through this modeling of mindfulness that children will be able to learn and develop healthy habits of their own.