If you’re anything like me, then when schools across the country were announced as closed for the year, you went through a roller coaster of emotions.
As a mom of two, I continue to have a hard time wrapping my mind around fully assuming the reigns of the classroom for my child.
Between balancing a toddler, a Zoom classroom, art supplies, breakfast dishes, and the dog (who always seems to need outside as soon as my daughter needs to start school), lately most mornings in my house have looked a little chaotic.
However, as a teacher, I can understand the importance of giving our children some continued instruction during this unprecedented school closure (but that doesn’t make the 9:00 am Zoom class any easier!).
The Risk of Learning Loss
Did you know that during a traditional school year break (like summer), students are expected to lose 2.5 month’s worth of math knowledge?
And if a child is from a low-income household, those losses are expected to be even greater!
The summer slump has always been a long-discussed fear amongst teachers and parents alike. But remediation is typically done immediately after school restarts and most students are back on track quickly, even if they didn’t touch a flashcard once during summer break.
Students are experiencing many different normals in light of the pandemic, and so we cannot compare our expectations from summer slumps. For many students, they will not step foot inside of a classroom until Fall 2020 (a potential 6-months from the beginning of coronavirus!).
Here are 6 proven and actionable tips to help encourage learning even during a pandemic:
1. Use the 3 S’s:
If you have ever walked into your children’s classrooms, you can see that their teacher has routines and systems set up for many of the sticky points for children.
For many students, the predictability in a classroom will allow them to trust the teacher and trust the process.
Have you ever deviated from one of your routines and caused your child to have an emotional breakdown? Kids are naturally inquisitive and they like to know what’s coming next, when we change the plan, it can stress kids out.
This is why the 3 S’s or Space, Supplies, and Schedule are crucial to avoiding learning loss during this time of crisis education.
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Setting up Space
In the transition to an at-home classroom, setting up a space with supplies for your child will help them to signal their brain, “it’s now time to learn”.
In my house, our dining room is now the classroom. Our daughter will even ask “Why are you eating in the classroom!?” during any meals we have at the table.
Providing the Supplies
I have started hanging her work on the walls, converted our antique pie safe into a supply closet, and let her know that space is hers for learning.
Not only does it help her to know that her classroom is ready for her, but it also helps me to streamline our learning time, knowing supplies are close by and easy to grab.
Setting a Schedule
Additionally, special attention should be paid to establishing a schedule. While your schedule will be unique to your family’s needs, schedules will allow for proper attention to be paid to learning time.
Instead of sticking school in whenever it’s convenient, carve out time during the day for focused attention.
For some, maybe it’s 2 hours in the morning and 1 hour after 4:00 pm. It doesn’t matter, but make sure it is consistent each day and a time that is productive for your child.
2. Call in Reinforcements
Their popular online K-8 Math & ELA program helps children combat learning loss with hundreds of resources created with your child in mind!
Their program includes video lessons taught by a licensed-teacher, practice quizzes, printable worksheets (plus much more!).
Your child will be getting quality instruction without sacrificing your sanity in the process.
3. Pick Up a Book (or Ten)
Look for opportunities to read along with or to your child. If your child is small enough to still need help with reading, carve out a time each day to sit and read with them (or have them read to you).
Or, if you have older kids, find a time where you could go to a park and read together.
4. Get Creative
Most of the United States is currently navigating the new normal of “crisis/at-home learning”.
Many families are trying to balance education with work from home stress and so the serene day of learning in the morning and baking in the afternoon just isn’t going to happen.
Since most people are trying to balance this new change utilize one of the hundreds of resources that people have made available online.
Even my daughter’s dance studio is hosting daily dance classes (including a circus class) from the comfort of our living room.
Instead of managing every aspect of your child’s education, utilize these resources!
Giving your child these unique experiences may ignite and excite them to learn about new things. Think of it as the 2020 version of a field trip.
Many of these resources will come with discussion questions, enrichment, and more, making it the perfect academic support.
5. Find “Teachable” Moments
Not everything needs to look like a worksheet and an essay in the at-home classroom. Trying to recreate the classroom in your home could be catastrophic!
Instead, look for opportunities to encourage critical thinking in your day-to-day lives. Encourage them to write a letter (to practice writing skills).
Or they could help you bake a recipe (challenge them to double the recipe to brush up on math skills).
Even finding bugs on a walk and drawing them could serve as an easy science lesson! Find opportunities to encourage learning in your family’s downtime.
It doesn’t always have to be 5-paragraph essays and mathematical formulas.
6. Keep it Fun
I have to constantly remind myself that my kids have been forced into this new normal, but that I can’t make them bear the burden of when it feels inconvenient to me.
That means that we take a lot of walks now (and bike rides and chalk breaks and always stop for more bubbles).
It also means that it’s my job to not ruin learning for them. My attitude will speak volumes to my children even when I’m getting another colored pencil sharpened and another glue stick out.
I have to take deep breaths when there’s more playdoh out than normal or when my son draws on my walls with dry erase marker (again).
From my time in the classroom, I know that if I make our learning environment stressful and filled with tears, my kids aren’t going to want to learn with me.
And since my goal is that they become lifelong learners who are excited at the prospect of getting new information, I have to model our at-home classroom brightly and cheerily (even if that means I need another cup of coffee to get myself through).
Know When To Tap Out
Even teachers know when their students need a break.
Your children need brain breaks to aid in the retention of information. Think of it like painting a room (which you may have done during quarantine too!).
You put the first coat of paint on the wall and walk away to let it dry.
Children are very similar, they get new information and then need a break to synthesize the information.
There are millions of brain breaks available online or a simple snack or walk around the block will help.
When school was first canceled, I saw an image of the ideal schedule circulating on my mom-friends on Facebook. It included a detailed schedule of that read something along the lines of
7:00 am: A Nutritious Breakfast;
8:00 am: Get ready for school;
9:00 am: Welcome song and the weather…” and on and on.
While ambitious, it was a schedule that would breed stress and frustration early in the day.
As the days and weeks have worn on, our family has defined what at-home education will look like for us. We have learned where we will push and where we will scale back as it pertains to the education our child is receiving.
We also are keenly aware of any holes that need some extra support. With the help of ArgoPrep, kids everywhere are getting the enrichment they need in order to avoid loss of learning during this new normal!
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