How to support your kids academically through the pandemic
These days, learning is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Here’s how parents can continue to help their kids through transitions and changes in schooling.
It’s hard to believe that we’re still dealing with back-and-forth online learning this many months later. And yet, here we are—and these circumstances may go on for some time yet. Many parents are simply at a loss as to how to keep their children engaged with school work while also balancing their professional and parental responsibilities. Here’s how to set yourselves up for success.
Talk it out
The key is communication. Chat regularly with your children’s teachers and administrators, and of course, check in with your kids, too. “Online learning with technology issues and the physical absence of friends and teachers can be emotionally difficult,” says Rose Bastien, lower school principal at Hudson College. “Open communication and empathy are important.”
Routine, routine, routine
Bastien emphasizes that the most critical thing parents can do to support their children through the pandemic is to establish and sustain a routine. “Children thrive on routine. If children know what is expected of them and what will happen as they move through their day, they gain a sense of stability and security.”
That means getting up at the same time, getting dressed and ready to go, whether you’re heading off to school or sitting down at a workspace at home. “It’s important that children of all ages have a designated space where school takes place,’” adds Bastien. “They should not be working on their bed or the couch.” Instead, set up a desk in a quiet, well-lit area of the house. Make sure they have a comfortable chair as they may be seated for long stretches.
Double check that your kids have all their necessary supplies for each school day. This may seem like a big task during the morning rush, but a simple change in perspective can help. Instead of thinking of it as another thing to do, Bastien suggests thinking of it as a swap: commuting vs. preparing materials. “When positioned in this way, parents feel the additional responsibility as less demanding on their time—instead of a 20-minute drive to school, it’s now time to prepare school materials for online classes.”
Organize materials using different coloured folders or containers for different subjects, making it easier to manage, especially for younger children.
We know how easily we can lose focus when working from home. It’s no different for kids learning online who also tend to have shorter attention spans. Put away cellphones during the school day, just as they would at school. No TV or gaming systems should be available, even for recess times.
Most kids need breaks to self-regulate and sustain focus. “If possible, parents should align their breaks and lunch periods with their children and include outdoors as part of their day,” recommends Bastien. Fresh air is great for both physical and mental health, and heading outside is good respite away from screens.
“The relationship between teacher and students, and student and students, is truly fundamental to successful learning,” affirms Bastien. At Hudson’s Lower School, the focus on relationships remains part of its online learning program. Each day begins with a morning chat between students and teachers. Students are encouraged to share their news, and concerns or questions are discussed. Group work and discussion happens in every subject, and teachers provide one-on-one meetings for mental health checks and subject-specific assistance. Students also attend virtual field trips together. All of these components help keep students engaged in their schoolwork and with one another.
In a similar vein, visit your child’s Google classroom to see what they’re working on. That makes it easier to check in with your kids and get a sense of whether to offer some extra support.
Ultimately, being present with your kids and listening to how they are feeling can go a long way to helping them academically and otherwise. “Success is always greater when children feel emotionally supported,” affirms Bastien.