Approximately one month ago, children around the nation were being informed that the remainder of their school year would take place at home. At the same time, parents were finding themselves in a new role as well — assisting their children in learning from home.
Newman University faculty from the School of Education and Social Work have some tips to help parents work with their children during these unprecedented times.
Creating a routine
When looking at creating daily routines, there are many resources available online and in books. Children’s schools can certainly be a good resource as well. Contacting the teachers and asking what they do each day, then mimicking that in some ways at home, may help children adjust a bit more smoothly.
Yet the best thing a family can do is to find a routine that works for them. Each family dynamic is different, and that calls for flexibility. Parents are also working from home, which means they have their own tasks they must attend to.
Starting with the required things that must be done at certain times and then adding in family, outdoor and break times throughout the day, is a good approach. Others find having a customized schedule for the different days of the week can offer variety and help keep everyone involved a bit more engaged.
Huachuan Wen, associate professor of education at Newman, said he and his wife have adopted a schedule similar to their children’s school with some minor adjustments.
“Parents can contact their kids’ teachers for the schedule or set up their own based on the subject areas. (Our children’s school) has a sample routine, which can be a helpful reference for us.”
Routine is about creating an efficient learning environment. Finding ways to limit distractions for the children and creating a separate space for schoolwork will help them stay focused in the same way adults who work from home often find it helpful to create an office space.
Children who have been pulled from their normal learning environments and their time with friends and classmates may experience some anxiety. While they are adjusting to their new daily routines, they are also trying to understand why they are having to change their lives.
It can be harder for children to wrap their minds around a pandemic. Understanding the choices the local and national governments must make to keep them safe is not something they are accustomed to doing.
There are ways to ease the stress and anxiety they are feeling. Allowing them to take breaks and integrate family time for games and outdoor fun can easily be turned into physical education time while allowing them to relax and release some tension.
Mallory Arellano, assistant professor of education at the Newman University Western Kansas Center, said sticking to a minimum of actual work time, depending on the child’s age, can be a good thing.
In some traditional school learning environments, “younger students are required to work 45-60 minutes a day and high school students are required to work three hours a day. Whatever they get done during that time is what they have accomplished for the day.”
She said parents can also model their own way of learning and thinking as many teachers do that in their own classrooms.
“Every child learns differently. I would personally ask your child’s teacher on how they learn best if you are not sure and go from there. I’m personally big on how students learn from one another, so having them working with other kids in their class or a willing sibling to talk out the work they need to complete.”
Using available resources
Overall, parents have a massive resource opportunity in their children’s school teachers and administrative staff. Both Wen and Arellano agree that staying in consistent communication with the school is a key factor in learning from home success.
“Communicating with your child’s teacher is very important,” said Arellano. “We are all overwhelmed, but just checking in with their teacher helps them know how you all are doing and if you are in need of anything.”
Wen added, “We use some materials from the learning packets offered by the district, websites on reading and math on the school website, too. Their teachers encouraged them to work on math and reading from the school website as their progress can be monitored by their teachers.”
The switch from classroom to learning from home can be a smooth one, and can also be seen as a blessing, said Wen. Having extra one-on-one time between parents and children provides wonderful quality time for all involved. “I hope all of us cherish and enjoy the time with our kids while they are at home.”