15 Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Education During the Pandemic

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Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

These are difficult days for both parents and students. Parents have not been trained to teach students, and most children are accustomed to learning in a classroom environment with their peers and a trained teacher rather than at home

As an elementary educator, I have been fortunate to have spent the bulk of my teaching career in first, second, and third grade classroom. I’d like to offer 15 tips on how to create a positive learning environment in you home during the time of pandemic.

1. Establish Routines and Procedures

This is the first thing teachers do every school year with their students. You and your children need to know when, where, and how to do things. How do they get online? Where are the passwords? What are consequences for avoiding schoolwork or interfering with siblings as they try to learn? Do they get rewards for excellent behavior? How do they ask for help? What do they do when they are finished with an assignment? You can co-create them because your child needs to be engaged in the process. This is essential: Practice them several times and stick to them even when it is difficult. It will make the educational experience flow more smoothly for everyone as the year unfolds.

2. Communicate with Teachers

As a parent, you have a right to know the expectations, deadlines, and learning outcomes. Find out the best ways to communicate with your child’s teachers. Be sure your child’s teacher knows any issues your child may be experiencing at home that may affect your child’s education — physical or mental health, family situation, technology, etc. Your child’s teacher will not judge you or your child. This kind of transparent communication will empower the teacher to educate your child more effectively.

3. Create a Home Learning Space

At school, students often have their own spot in the classroom. Even in flexible-seating classrooms, students typically have their preferred place of learning. Give your child a place to learn: a desk, spot at a table, their own chair, etc. Preferably this will be in a “public” area, not in their room where they can fall asleep or play. Work with them to create a border around it during school time so they take ownership of their place. For younger children, use tangible items to set a boundary around their desk or table area to signify that this is their area. But be aware that some children need to get up, stand, or even roam. That’s alright. Just be sure they have a spot that they can claim as their own.

4. Make a Schedule

Have a starting and ending time. When are snack breaks? Just as you need to have a schedule, so does your child. This will enable your child start and know when you finish. It creates boundaries, empowers self-reliance, and helps with telling time. Post the daily routine so everyone has access to it. This is something that every classroom teacher does to help structure the day.

5. Know Your Child’s Accommodations

If your child has accommodations or modifications, stay in touch with your child’s special education department. IEP’s and 504’s are legal documents, and your child has a right to equal access to education. Accommodations that are not on plans, are flexible. You can work with your child’s teacher to add to or take away any accommodations as needed.

6. Plan Technology Time

You may run into scheduling conflicts of who gets to be on the computer, tablet, or other electronic device. Creating a schedule of who needs what and when will go a long way to resolving and preventing conflicts.

7. Organize Supplies

At school, your child knows where all the supplies are. Pencils, markers, paper, and other learning tools have their own containers. Work with your children to find places when they can access their supplies without constantly asking you. We want to build self-reliance, and you don’t want them bugging you throughout the day to find a sharp pencil.

8. Create Jobs

Your child needs to learn responsibility. In elementary school, some student jobs include things like pencil sharpener, paper gatherer, floor cleaner, teacher’s helper, lunch box collector, table cleaner. Ask your child what their classroom jobs have been be creative at home.

9. Minimize Contact During Meetings

Children behave differently with their teachers than they do at home. If a child is on a Zoom meeting, leave them alone as much as possible. This is their class time, not yours. Your presence may distract your child from learning, and you may want to “help” your child get the “right” answer. This is not good pedagogy. Teachers need to assess what your child can do, not what you can do. Moreover, other students may be interacting with the class, and you do not have the right to observe their learning. However, if the teacher invites you to join in, you might want to listen. This could help you see how the students learn as well as familiarize you with the content of their education. Finally, you have your own work to do rather than listening to a math lesson about subtracting with regrouping.

10. Be Open to Being Taught

School today is not like it was when you sat in a classroom. Students learn different vocabulary, multiple methods of solving problems, and various ways of demonstrating what they know. Don’t complain, “This is not the way I learned how to do it.” It probably isn’t the way you learned, but you are not the student. Allow your child to teach you their academic vocabulary, problem-solving techniques, and planning skills. If your child can explain it, then it shows they understand it. And you might learn something along the way.

11. Accept the Mess

It will get messy in your home. Books, papers, rulers, notebooks, computers, markers, and other learning tools will be out and about. Some messiness will be required. At the same time, you’ll need to be sure your child know the expectations for organizing their work, cleaning up, and putting things away.

12. Create Recess and Play Time

I cannot emphasize this enough. Children are not mini-adults. Play is essential to learning. Children need and expect time to stop, relax, and play during the day — and even during lessons. Playing allows students to experience freedom and creativity. Additionally, their brains continue to learn as they play. Many teaches use websites like Go Noodle or BrainPop for brain breaks in the classroom. If it is possible for your child to go outside to play for 15–20 minutes, be sure they do that. Schedule time for free play, drawing, rest, games, or even just putting their heads down for 5 minutes.

13. Use Your School’s Website

It has calendars, contact information, and countless links to educational websites. Your child may be familiar with their teacher’s home page, school library, and tech page. Let them show you.

14. Be Patient

Just as you are learning how to best navigate the ins-and-outs of the pandemic, so are teachers. They may be figuring out how to best integrate Zoom, Google Classroom, or Schoology without much support behind the scenes. Remember that we’re all going through this together. That kind of patience will help build a relationship with teachers and will keep the home learning environment calm. If you can afford it, you may even want to send your child’s teacher a gift or gift card to show your appreciation.

15. Be Flexible and Stay Positive

You know things are going to change. Lessons, deadlines, and assignments may not be the same as they were originally intended. That’s alright. Give yourself, your child, and your child’s teachers some grace. This school year will not be perfect for two reasons: 1) The uncertainty of the pandemic. 2) There is no such thing as perfect. No teacher ever taught a perfect lesson, so breathe easy. Don’t fear that your child is falling behind; learning is a process that takes all year. If you complain and gripe, this will cause stress for your child and will interfere with their learning. We’re all doing the best we can in very difficult circumstances.

A former elementary educator with a physical disability. @disabledsaints

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