According to the Washington Post 1.5 billion children around the globe have been affected by COVID-19 school closures. This affects almost 87% of the Earth’s student population. According to NBC News, 54 million students have been sent home due to the pandemic. As a full-time parent, I have always been very appreciative of my children’s teachers. Now that my children’s education is entirely remote (with me acting as part-time teacher to fill in the gaps) I have a much deeper appreciation for all of our teachers.
The stress started the first day the Governor closed school for my entire state. At first, we thought it would be for just a short period, but it still left us all scrambling for childcare. Here we are three months in, and the stress is there every single day now that I have taken on the additional responsibility of trying to help educate my children. We are all working, but we are now also trying to make sure our children do not fall behind in their education. One thing that I’ve learned — creativity (and a sense of humor) are key.
To make everybody’s life easier, I find myself sneaking in learning activities while my children are not looking. I get them to play scrabble for spelling and Clue for logic and planning. I use card games, as well as measuring ingredients and doubling recipes for math when preparing meals. These are tools I already have around the house. I am not spending a fortune on them. I am trying to find the balance between what they need to know, what they want to learn on a daily basis, and what I am equipped to teach them.
The Gap Year Reimagined
College bound kids sometimes take a “gap year,” but their travel and work options are limited due to the pandemic. It is not usually recommended that they take the year off unless they are studying online, traveling or working (i.e., doing something productive). However, this pandemic is reshaping what the future looks like for all students. 2020 high school graduates are rethinking their fall college plans. Studies suggest that “gap years” can foster a wealth of benefits including personal growth and higher satisfaction with your eventual job. Taking a gap year can also prevent student burn out. With COVID-19 shuttering the education system as we know it in 2020, taking a gap year may be the smartest move for many high school graduates, rather than trying to jump right into a college experience that may look nothing like they had imagined.
Some days I put on an educational movie and let my kids learn from another teacher online. Some days are more scheduled and structured than others. We are trying to hit the core subjects. Flexibility is very important to learning, and equally important to our sanity during this period of home schooling. Every day I try to do my best and hopefully my children appreciate all we are doing.
Educationally, we aim for what suits our family best on any given day, and I try to foster my children’s’ natural curiosity. I have assigned writing projects that include a hand-written thank you letter on actual paper. (I even showed them how to address the envelope by hand!) And sometimes, if they want to spend a few hours building Legos during this incredibly stressful time, then that is fine with me – maybe they will turn out to be construction contractors or architects. Everybody is stressed because the normal learning environment has been completely upended. Some days we have to take a break for a hug … and that is okay.
Now that I have returned to a relatively normal work schedule, my company has been generous enough to still allow me to work from home some days. I feel very lucky. Working from home has been a blessing since I now take on some additional responsibility for educating my children. (Now, if I could just get my “co-workers” to stop leaving their dirty dishes in the sink!)
One definite perk: the home school dress code is very relaxed. Pandemic pajama day anyone? How about pandemic pajama spirit week? However, I fear getting my kids to again dress themselves in “street clothes” might be a problem if this pandemic drags on!
Digital education content is now the norm as textbooks were left in the school buildings. Libraries are not allowing anyone inside currently. Fortunately, the online education resources are robust and often free of charge if you take the time to look around. I also regularly interrogate my friends and family for ideas. I ask my co-workers during lunch for ideas and their favorite educational games, and I am always on the lookout for free and low-cost homeschooling resources and ideas. Here are links to some resources that I have found helpful:
- https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/at-home-education- resources/ (Three-month trial digital subscription)
My kids’ extracurricular group activities have obviously been severely curtailed. Soccer and Cub Scouts, for example, stopped organized activities a few months ago. But I view those activities as part and parcel of my kids’ education. Even without the group sports and clubs, families can still go camping, hiking, fishing, boating, picnicking, or bike riding. Depending on where you live, warm summer weather can bring a wealth of other outdoor activities that can be both fun and educational while maintaining social distancing. I also purchased a book with roughly 500 “screen free” activities and I am letting them pick projects, crafts, games, and activities that sound interesting to them. In the spirit of “traditional education”, I bought some workbooks at Costco to keep their school skills sharp over the summer, and I use them to barter five completed workbook pages in exchange for a “fun” activity. By the time COVID-19 is in the “rear view”, my kids will be expert pet owners, as they are getting a lot of quality time with and caring for our family dog. There is a silver lining to every cloud if you look for it hard enough.
I know that my family is even far more appreciative of all that educators do on a daily basis. We are also more aware now of how the little things in life matter. And keeping a positive attitude is more than half the battle during these uncertain times. When it is safe and the students return to school, parents should maintain the educational interaction with their children. I have found that spending time with our kids (whether doing Algebra or watching an inspirational movie) is the most important thing. For now, we must step up and fill the gaps in our remote education system. But for the long haul, we as parents need to be more engaged in our kids’ learning anyway. If there is silver lining to this pandemic-induced educational upheaval, perhaps it will teach us all the importance of being directly involved in our kids’ education and to not take for granted the heavy responsibilities that our educators’ shoulder.
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