Students across the country traded in math class for online tutorials, recess for games with a sibling, and going to school for learning at home. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the final months of the 2020 school year looked vastly different, and parents and children scrambled to adjust.
Despite the chaos, however, the need for education remained. Whether they're kindergarteners or college seniors, students of all ages needed to continue their educational journeys, but for many, these journeys remained at home.
As the school year comes to a close, end of the year celebrations that signal an approaching summer are taking place — only with social distancing or virtual attendance. But these events don't necessarily mean the time for learning is over. In fact, with all the hurdles students endured this year, continued learning may be more important than ever.
As the summer months begin, there are plenty of reasons to continue learning at home, such as to bridge any gaps that formed over these past few months of changes, to replace summer school or year-round instruction, or even to accommodate any possible changes in the 2020-2021 school year.
Though there will certainly be challenges and speed bumps along the way, learning at home is possible — and it can even offer new opportunities for creativity and exploration.
Here are 4 ways to keep your child learning outside of the classroom during COVID-19:
1. Find a routine that works for your family.
Children's lives are being completely upended, and depending on their age, they may not completely understand why. Initially, going to school was suddenly off the table, and now, many summer activities are being put on hold. As a result, many children are left confused and anxious.
Creating a routine that your family can stick to can help provide a sense of normalcy to an otherwise stressful time. In addition, it can ensure that learning continues to take place, if only for a few hours each day.
Together with your child, create a daily schedule that you can put somewhere visible, such as on the refrigerator or above each person's designated workspace. Some tips for making a daily routine include:
- Decide on a normal wake up time to adhere to.
- Allow for time to eat breakfast and get dressed before starting the day.
- Designate times for learning, exercise, and breaks (younger children may need to be limited to 20 minutes of learning at a time).
- Plan a sit-down lunch for an extended break.
- Stick with the typical bedtime routine as much as possible.
If you're working from home, it may also be helpful to post your own schedule somewhere, so everyone knows when you're available and when you need to focus on work.
Keep in mind — this schedule is meant to act as a guide. If you find something isn't working, make adjustments. And don't worry if you don't follow it exactly every day. Flexibility is key during this particularly challenging time.
2. Take advantage of online resources — but don't overwhelm yourself.
The internet is a bit of saving grace these days. With plenty of downloadable PDFs and interactive exercises, there are many helpful resources out there to keep your child's learning on track. However, the sheer amount of them can also be overwhelming, especially if you're trying to manage your own workday, as well.
Rather than having your child engage with every online activity under the sun, choose a few that really work for you and your child. To begin, consider their greatest needs and passions. Would they benefit from some extra math exercises? Would they enjoy a free virtual tour of a museum or zoo that they may not be able to visit otherwise?
Also, look for resources that can keep them connected with others. For instance, consider continuing piano lessons virtually, finding an online dance class, or asking their grandparents to lead storytime from afar. These can help keep them engaged in learning, as well as provide much-needed social interaction.
Keep in mind that screen time is likely to increase during this time — and that's okay. As long as you do your best to ensure it's positive and helpful, a little extra time on the iPad or computer probably isn't going to hurt anyone right now.
3. Let the creativity flow.
The run of the mill summer day may be a distant reality for now, but these changes offer some unique and exciting opportunities for learning. Now is a great time to let your child dive deeper into interests they haven't had the time to explore in the past.
From learning to cooking to reading the entire Harry Potter series to building towers in Minecraft, these passion projects can keep your child learning and having fun. Plus, if they're enjoying themselves, you won't have to remind them to do it.
You can also take advantage of real-life learning opportunities right now. For instance, you and your child can learn about different plants together by tending to the garden or by taking a nature walk (socially distanced from others, of course). Or, they can practice their writing skills by crafting a letter to thank their local frontline workers.
If you're working from home, this is also a great time to teach them about what you do every day. Let them work as your assistant one day, which will encourage them to use their imagination and learn about your job. Bonus — your temporary assistant may even take a little work off your plate.
4. Give yourself grace — and encourage your child to do the same.
It goes without saying that this is a stressful time for many. Parents across the nation are trying to manage their children's schedules, work from home, and enjoy a little bit of relaxation every once in a while. With all of these looming pressures, it's important to recognize that you can't do it all — and that's okay.
If you need to pop in a movie to make it through the day, that's absolutely fine. If you sleep in a little later sometimes, no problem. Flexibility, empathy, and understanding are all of the utmost importance right now — both with one another and yourself.
If your child expresses frustration over missing their normal routine or their friends, talk with them about it and allow them to let their emotions out. Reassure them that these feelings are normal, and you will support them however you can.
Everyone's lives are a little off-kilter right now, and parents and students alike are trying to make it all work. Right now, it's more important than ever to take things one day at a time — together.
Looking for a virtual telemedicine appointment for your child? Call 610-738-2300 to find a pediatrician at Chester County Hospital.
Keep up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's tips on caring for children during COVID-19.