Parents’/Guardians’ Guide for Online School During CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19
If you’re anything like many of the adults I’ve spoken to with kids at home, you are probably going a little crazy with this online school transition. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or someone who usually leaves the house to go to work, most of you are all at home right now trying to juggle your work along with guiding your child or children in their online education.
Many of you may feel like you are homeschooling or teaching your own kid(s). This can be overwhelming, no doubt. Just remember how important school is and how much they forget or lose over summer break so it is important to keep their brains working a little bit every day. This is our new normal and it’s fine to take a few days, even the first week to get adjusted. However, by now you are likely a couple weeks in and hopefully in the full swing of things. Here are a few tips to help you create a routine to help you and your kids be successful during this new era of learning.
Your role during this time is to help keep them on task, hold them accountable, and keep them responsible for their learning that their teachers design for them. Don’t feel like you need to teach them. Their teachers will do that. Your role is the same as it was before, only now they are under the same roof as you so the “classroom management” falls on you. However, here are some tips to help you partner with your kids’ teachers to make all of your lives easier during this time.
READ AND WRITE EVERY DAY
Remember this is not a break. We will possibly be online for the rest of the school year. It is best to keep the kids reading and writing and trying to do a little bit every day. I hear a lot how students do not get enough reading time at school or at home. Now might be a good opportunity to set aside time as a family to read. You can do this together just as you would to watch a movie. Read a book together, have a book talk, do it around tea or hot cocoa to make it fancy and fun.
Try the same approach for writing. Set aside time every day to have your child/children free write. You can also provide a prompt. The more they practice these skills the sharper their minds will remain. These are just a couple tips to keep them busy while you need to get your own work done.
PARTNER WITH THE TEACHERS AND OTHER PARENTS/GUARDIANS
You are on the same team here. Make sure to keep in communication with your child’s teachers. Read the emails they send, subscribe to their social media if they put out updates there, and let them know if you have comments, questions, and/or concerns. They may be as overwhelmed as you are. Yet, they also want to know how your kids are doing at home. If you see something, say something. This communication will help them adjust lessons for the future and determine how to best assess your child.
The same goes for other parents/guardians that your kids may go to school with. Reach out. If you don’t have contacts, ask your child’s teacher if they can get you in touch with parents to connect with. Once you connect, consider having video chat over coffee and share how things are going. Discuss what you are doing with your kids and your successful tips and areas where you need help during this time. Perhaps you can take tips from each other. These check-ins will also help you keep your sanity.
KEEP A SCHEDULE
Just as they have at school, make a schedule. Put in snack time, recess, physical education, lunchtime, music, art class, and of course the academics. Set it at the beginning of the day. Write it down somewhere for everyone to see (especially if you have multiple kids in your house). If you have these things available use them as your whiteboard: a mirror and an expo marker, a chalkboard or chalkboard wall, or just a big piece of paper. Keep everyone in the house on the same schedule.
If you are telecommuting, this might work for you too. Take that snack break, go run around outside for recess, or do a karaoke break to some YouTube videos for music class. I also recommend doing “PE with Joe” on YouTube who will lead your kids into a guided Physical Education class. Physical activity is just as important for the brain as academic stimulation.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME
Yes, they are doing school online now. This means more screen time, right? No. In most cases, teachers will post assignments and resources online and/or they might have a video meeting. Outside of these things, students do not have to be glued to the computer all day. This might be a relief to you if you have multiple kids and limited devices. Yes, they go to school from roughly 8-3 every day. That doesn’t mean they need to be on the computer for those hours too. When they are at school they are not just sitting in class deep in academics the whole time.
They are socializing, playing, working in groups, and/or collaborating. Try to incorporate these skills into your at-home activities too. Have your kids collaborate and work with each other on their course work. It’s ok if it’s at different levels. The young ones may provide a unique perspective and idea. If you only have one at home, have them pick up the phone. Yes, an actual phone call, and have them discuss it with classmates. Talking through their work will help solidify it in their minds and better understand it.
GET THEM TO SOCIALIZE WITH OTHER KIDS
As I mentioned previously, collaboration is an important aspect of school. Socialization is a big reason why you send them to school in the first place rather than home school. Conflicting with number 4 above, you will need to use a screen for this. Consider the tools your kids like to use. Have them do this during snack time, recess (although they should be outside and active if at all possible), by taking a walk together, or a before and after school check-in and out with their friends.
You can use free tools like Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, WhatsApp, FB messenger, and/or Instagram. All these tools have video chat features that work great for live-time collaboration. You can use this to have them discuss school work and personal aspects of their day to day. Meeting their socio/emotional needs is just as important as their academics during this time. They need to socialize with people outside of their homes too.
KNOW WHERE TO FIND RESOURCES
Another thing to remember is, you are not the teacher. You do not need to design the lessons or assess their learning. I often hear about how hard common core math is. If your kids aren’t in class getting the direct instruction, the teacher might have a video to help support. Yet this asynchronous video doesn’t allow them to ask questions. Use tools like Khan Academy or YouTube to help find answers to their questions. If they still don’t get it, empower them to ask their teacher. These questions help their teacher get a pulse on what the students need more help with or what they need to reteach.
You know your kids. Do they advocate for themselves? Meaning, do they ask their teachers questions in school when they don’t understand or do they wait for another kid to ask? If it’s the latter, you will need to help them write an email or ask in the forum the teacher has provided. I just heard a parent say yesterday that he realized his 9 year old didn’t know how to send an email. He had been writing the entire email in the subject line. This might be something you want to check in on with your child as well. Finally, if you need more resources, ask. Refer back to tip 2.
Of course, incorporate these opportunities as best as your schedule allows. If you have questions or comments please reach out. I’d love to hear from you. Good luck!