We are living in difficult times. Could things be worse? Yes, but that doesn’t mean that the challenges we face are any less daunting. One of the biggest decisions that communities must make is whether children should continue attending regular in-person classes.
The School Shut Down Begins
Kansas was the first state to make the call and shut down schools. This decision affected students at all levels – from kindergarten to college.
School is where many important things happen in a person’s young life. There are graduations, prom, and other experiences that you don’t typically have elsewhere. For example, 17-year-old Gardner Edgerton High School senior Skyler Buie didn’t really care about prom, but graduation was an entirely different matter.
“It’s a special thing that only really happens once, and now we don’t get to experience it.”
Overland Park, Kansas mother Sarah McGinnity was disappointed to miss out on her son dressing as Babe Ruth for a third-grade wax museum project. And Kim Taylor, a first grade teacher at Victoria Elementary School, won’t be taking her students to tour the zoo like she does every year.
“I broke down crying,” Taylor said. “I think about my little first graders and just the impact that this is going to have on them.”
Parents, teachers, and students are all experiencing grief over the loss of the celebrations and activities they won’t be able to enjoy this year. It’s missed opportunities and memories that may never be made.
While adults have a greater understanding of the impact of school closures, students aren’t immune to stress caused by the change.
“Kids can be very resilient, but some kids internalize stuff,” Taylor explained to NBC News. “I had one parent last night message me and say her child threw himself down on the floor and had this major tantrum. I said ‘That’s OK. They’re scared. Their lives have been turned upside down.”
By March 16th, more than 30 states closed down their schools including Minnesota, Arizona, North Carolina, and Hawaii. Some metropolitan areas, like Washington D.C., Atlanta, Austin, and Denver, made the same decision.
Several states have announced that schools will be closed for the remainder of the year. Florida canceled all upcoming tests and no grades will be calculated for K-12 students. Students who are supposed to graduate will be evaluated without testing.
Parents of younger students will be given the option of holding their child back next year or allowing them to continue despite the gap this year.
Arizona announced a plan that may allow students to learn at home through the end of May. And in California, nearly all districts have closed. Governor Gavin Newsom stated that the 6.1 million students in the state will likely not return for classes this year.
The Challenges of Home Schooling
Parents who already home school their children are prepared for the coming days. That’s great, but what about the many, many families who are not accustomed to teaching at home? The ones who don’t have the materials needed or a lesson plan prepared.
Parents must suddenly take on the responsibility of the teacher with no time to prepare. And all that during a time when many things are in upheaval. Jobs are on the line, businesses may close, and everyone is suddenly restricted to their homes. That doesn’t include the worries over who may be infected and how hard hospitals will be hit in the coming weeks. It’s a lot to take in at any age.
Yuki Noguchi shared her experiences on NPR.org. She discussed transitioning to a remote working environment to prepare for the crisis. Her son was sent home from school with a bag of supplies and an iPad. This would be his connection to the classroom.
It seems straightforward, but Yuki and her son had reservations about how things would work.
“They try to make it as real as possible – as school-like as possible,” her 10-year-old son Kenzo explained. When asked how students will do simple things like raising their hand, he simply said the teacher “hasn’t explained that to us.”
Even small uncertainties can be stressful, especially for children who are accustomed to a structured day.
For people who use eLearning, this may seem like a simple problem to overcome. However, for parents who already have a lot on their plate and learners who are uncertain about the future, it can be overwhelming.
How to Help Students Transition to Home Schooling
Change is inevitable, especially in our current situation. However, there are things families can do to help make the transition easier for their young ones. Try the following methods to encourage success and keep stress at a minimum for all involved.
- Consider the Student’s Learning Style – Consider the learning style your child is used to in the classroom. For example, learners who attended Montessori programs may do better with multiple workstations set up around the home. Those who attended traditional school may do better with a more rigid schedule.
- Keep the School Day Structured – It may be tempting to do things when you or your kids feel like it. Avoid the temptation. Children need structured school days. Teachers often provide this to ensure that learners know what’s expected and what’s coming next. A structured schedule will also make it easier for parents to plan their day around work or other commitments, reducing stress while allowing kids to keep up with their educational needs.
- Get Familiar with the eLearning Interface – If your child will be continuing classes online, get familiar with the app they use. There will likely be a website or information available on the web. This will prepare parents in case they need to assist their child with navigation and to better enable you to deal with technical problems should they occur.
- Let Older Siblings Get Involved – If you have multiple kids, then you can let the older siblings help with the younger ones. Delegate simple tasks to them to better you manage time while giving your older kids a sense of responsibility and participation.
- Manage Noise Levels – Noise can be an issue when teaching multiple students in different age groups. Try to plan noisier activities around the same time for each group. That way, one group isn’t distracting the other during quiet activities. You should also set up separate learning areas and stagger start times to make it easier to manage multiple classes throughout the day.
- Wait for Eye Contact During Lessons – If you will be teaching lessons yourself, remember eye contact is important. Wait until you receive eye contact from your pupils before giving verbal instruction. It’s also helpful to ask the student to restate what you said so you know they were listening and understand. Limit directions to two steps for pre-schoolers and three steps for older children.
- Use Shorter Segments for Younger Kids – Younger kids won’t have the attention span that older students do. Keep this in mind when planning lesson length. Most elementary school students work on assignments for approximately 25 minutes before taking a break.
- Work in Physical Activity – You can use physical activity to break up lessons. Have kids do jumping jacks, take a walk, or play a game to burn off energy and allow them to refocus. Avoid video games, videos, or anything distracting until after the school day.
Be Considerate of College Students Attending Online Classes
College students won’t need the attention that younger learners demand, but you should still be considerate of their needs. They are also facing dramatic changes that have their day and their educational plans in limbo. If your young adult child will be continuing their college classes at home, then remember the following:
- Give Them Space – Allow them adequate space to work without distractions. This is especially important in households with more people or young kids. College students may not be able to escape to a library or their dorm room at home, so be considerate of noise levels while they are studying.
- Respect College Time Limitations – Remember that just because your college student is home doesn’t mean they have no other responsibilities. While it’s ok to expect them to help around the house, be respectful of their time. College courses can be very demanding. They may not be able to take on extra chores while classes are in session. This is especially important for college kids who also have a job or other commitments like tutoring.
- Their Schedule May Vary – Some college students work in the evening or do better studying at night. Remember that your child’s daily schedule may vary from yours. Don’t expect them to wake up early or go to bed early just because they are home. They likely already have a schedule that they are accustomed to and should maintain this while learning at home. Allowing them to do what works best will reduce stress and help them adapt to remote learning.
Our current situation isn’t going to change in a week or two. We need to prepare for the long term by setting our children up for success, even if they cannot go to traditional classes.
Another way to prepare is to become familiar with eLearning and what it can do. You can check out LMS.org to read about different eLearning platforms and the features they offer. The more knowledge we have, the better equipped we will be to navigate changes during the coronavirus outbreak.