Back to School During a Pandemic: Finding Your New Normal
What does back to school look like in your home? Whether it’s fully online, a hybrid of in-person and online, or a full return to the classroom, this year is unlike any we’ve faced as parents, foster parents, teachers, mentors and guardians.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is the necessity to shift course quickly. At the beginning of summer, many school districts were contemplating how to proceed. By mid-July, some schools presented an opportunity to choose between a hybrid model (alternating time in the classroom with time at home using online tools) or a fully online option, while others considered a full return to the classroom. Fast forward a few weeks and things continue to evolve as new hot spots pop up and administrators and health officials scramble to adapt.
The thrill of new backpacks, fresh school supplies and picking out that perfect back to school outfit has taken a back seat to stress, worry and fear of the unknown for many parents.
This constant flux puts additional stress on a time of year already fraught with nervous energy and excitement.
How can we help our kids through this challenging transition?
In an interview with Fox News, Joel Medley, the director of leadership development at K12 online schooling, offered these tips to prepare for digital learning:
- Set up a space just for academics
- Create a schedule together
- Show and tell (Have your kids show you their work and then tell you about it)
- Resist the urge to help immediately
Set up a learning space. Writer Michelle Crouch offered ideas for how to set up a virtual or homeschool learning space for Parents magazine. She recommends letting your children help set up the space where they will be comfortable learning. Whether it’s a desk in their room or the kitchen table, the space should be the right size for small bodies and well organized for multiple subjects. A cozy nook may encourage reading excitement, and minimal distractions are best to keep kids focused.
Establish a schedule. Even if your child’s school is planning a virtual learning model, it’s still important to be sure they feel prepared. It can be helpful to establish a routine before the school year starts. Consistent bed and wake times, learning hours and mealtimes can get your child back into the school and learning groove.
Plan breaks throughout the day. According to Amanda Morin writing for understood.org, “The goal of brain breaks for kids is to help their brains shift focus.” She explains that breaks can include exercise, guided meditation or quiet activities. She also offers two ways to schedule breaks, by time intervals (which tend to work better for younger learners) or by a number of tasks completed (which can benefit older students).
Show and tell. Many of us loved show and tell in school. Following this approach can help your students reinforce what they’ve learned and apply it by showing it and explaining it to a parent or a sibling.
Resist the urge to help too much. No one likes seeing their kids struggle, but Joel Medley from K12 reminds parents that students need the opportunity to work through academic challenges. Guidance is great, but it’s important for students to find answers on their own.
Other considerations for homeschooling
Don’t have what you need? Ask! Reach out to school officials if you need books or electronic materials, such as a computer or tablet. Many schools also offer breakfast and lunch options to ensure your children have nutritional food to fuel their studies.
Stay in touch. Teachers will have different ways to communicate with students. Staying in touch with them will be helpful both for you and your student. It can be equally important for students to text or video chat with their friends, too.
The National Education Association provides a variety of articles on their website to support parents and kids. Keeping Kids Curious focuses on ways to encourage children to keep learning. Providing Emotional Support covers a variety of topics for students from preschool to high school.
Practice these back to school habits in case your schools reopen
Cover up! Help your child become comfortable wearing a mask if they are required to do so. There are many fun designs and your child may be more willing if they get to choose the style.
Get sudsy! Establish a handwashing regimen with your child. The CDC recommends washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Let your child pick a favorite song that they can sing for 20 seconds while they lather up.
Cover coughs and sneezes! Practice coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the inside of the elbow.
Review school procedures. It’s likely your school will release their plans for back to school. The CDC also offers this school decision making tool to help parents and caregivers.
Listen and reassure. This is an unprecedented time. It’s OK to be afraid and unsure. Listening to your children and reassuring them can go a long way toward easing their fears.
SAFY wishes all students, teachers, parents, foster parents, guardians, mentors and caregivers a safe and happy return to school. We understand this year is different, and we want to help and support you along the way. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, visit www.safy.org to learn more.