I saw a Twitter post yesterday that talked about “brain breaks for your kids.” While we could all use a brain break right now, I suspect brain breaks aren’t the first item on the list of what most kids need right now—at least not mine! As a parent of an active 13-year-old boy who has never liked school work and is now forced to be at home (and it turns out mostly in cold rainy weather), my problem is how to engage his brain!
The first week at home we let things slide – teachers hadn’t posted work consistently yet, the school district had no established policy, and our own work schedules (two working parents now at home) required devoted time to conference calls and real-time Slack messaging.
As we enter a second week, here’s what’s worked, what hasn’t, and where the jury is still out (so far) in helping our kid learn at home. As a family, we were and still are navigating a new normal in a period of upheaval. I hope that my family’s experience can help you figure out what works for you and your child!
- Agency in scheduling school work. Creating a schedule of school work to do and ensuring our son takes an active role in setting when he will complete those tasks.
- Significant breaks. Breaking out of the school routine of class after class (8:20am to 2:45pm, five days a week) and instead offering significant breaks in between short bursts of school work. These breaks could be time to play online games, go outside, or even get a few chores done.
- Time with friends online. Ensuring a social outlet for our son, whether through FaceTime or Fortnite, has been important for him to know that he is not alone and that his friends are facing the same difficulties he is facing and that they can experience them together.
What hasn’t worked:
- Keeping the same bedtime. Adhering to a strict bedtime to match a school schedule that no longer made sense was a real battle the first couple of nights. Suffice it to say, we lost that battle (sometimes that’s ok if you win the war). We now have a later bedtime schedule but a happier teen who is allowed to sleep.
- Pretending we are doing the same level of schoolwork. Academics are critically important, but we are not teachers and cannot give the same kind of attention that happens in the classroom. Accept this. Find out what you can do to help—whether that’s executive functioning and organizational aid, or finding the right YouTube video to help with that math question you can’t solve.
Where the jury is still out:
- An online class not related to school. We decided that simply doing some of the posted schoolwork isn’t enough and, admittedly, isn’t that much fun. So, we’ve signed up our son for an online class of his choosing: forensic science. The class only meets an hour per week and it is hard to say yet whether it will keep his mind engaged.
We’re all still navigating this “new normal” and it is still early days. What works today may not work tomorrow, so we all need to be open to success, failure, and maybe above all else—patience.
Darian’s reflections above reflect how quickly things have changed in just a few weeks. Below, we wanted to also share Darian’s thoughts before schools started closing and social distancing became an imperative. As families everywhere adjust to a new normal, we hope that this parent perspective can help other parents navigate these evolving challenges.
I asked my 13-year-old today what he knew about the coronavirus. His initial response was, “I don’t know anything.” Then he said, “Will everybody die?” Clearly he did know something and, like many teens (seething with hormones), went from limited communication to hyper-reaction.
Parents have a similar internal dialogue as we try and navigate something we haven’t been through before—what are the best and worst scenarios and outcomes? Thoughts like “everything will work out and someone will figure it out,” lead to, “how do I deal with this situation as it becomes more real?” and finally, “what are realistic options for work, school, and family life?” At the end of the day, we contemplate, “what do I need to do to best support my child and my family?”
If you are faced with the reality of your child’s school closing due to COVID-19 safety concerns, you may be dealing with this new set of challenges at home. As professionals, we may be wondering how we will financially support our families, adjust to working from home (if at all), or even considering options for child care. But as parents, we are also thinking about our child’s education—how will they learn from home, how can I ensure they don’t fall behind, and where will they get necessary social outlets (online and otherwise)?
These are just some of the thoughts and questions that parents must be going through (I know because I am one!). While there are no clear 100% guaranteed answers, I think we at Edmodo feel that it’s better to raise these questions and thoughts, and open up a dialogue with parents and teachers so that we’re all better equipped to deal with this difficult situation—and to know that we’re in this together.
We hope this perspective from one of the parents on our team can help you explore what works for and your child in supporting learning at home. You can also check out some resources we’ve created to help parents stay connected with their child’s teachers and keep their children engaged in learning.