As a former school administrator for over 30 years with the Boston Public Schools, primarily working with students with disabilities, my first words of advice to parents are "MANAGE EXPECTATIONS". Many parents see the schedule going around on social media which outlines a full day in 45 minute increments, including school subjects, snack, and chore time, etc. While maintaining a routine is a good thing, it doesn't make sense to try to replicate a school day to the minute and can lead to frustration, particularly if the parent is also trying to work from home. I’ve included a sampling of resources at the end of this blog, and many more are available on educator and parent websites and social media groups, but don’t set the bar too high that is leads to frustration for both parent/guardian and children.
It is important to not overlook the emotional needs of students, while trying to provide for academic needs. The news gets scarier by day, and if the parent is older or with a chronic health condition, their children may have fears that the parent can become ill or even die. Tuning in to how students are feeling and what they might not be saying is just as important as math worksheets. Introducing or expanding simple mindfulness tools with children can help reduce fear and anxiety. Adding pressure of “school as usual” to scared and upset children will do little good, and your goal should be to create a safe, comfortable home atmosphere allowing space for fears and feelings, with a lot of honest reassurance from the adults. Once we pass this crisis, students will remember how they felt, not whether they memorized their times tables. You are not alone in this, as many therapists are using teletherapy for remote services. Check with your child’s counselor or pediatrician, local mental health agency, or school district for resources.
Rather than stick to an unrealistic, confining school schedule, try to use the time creatively to teach things that often don't get taught at school and students often wonder why. For a high schooler, financial literacy skills are important and not always addressed. Use your own household bills to teach budgeting, responsible credit card use, and the ever-present tax filing that teens will soon need to do. Other great skills can include cooking, home repairs, or yard maintenance including planting seeds and watching them grow. Ordering online meal cooking services like Hello Fresh or Dinnerly can help avoid social contact at a grocery store and provide a step-by-step meal plan that kids of all ages can prepare with appropriate adult supervision. And don't discount the importance of movement, perhaps in the yard or neighborhood walk, as well as many exercise or yoga videos online. Since students will be cooped up, virtual field trips to non-local places can provide a great escape. Or international concerts for artists they normally wouldn't be exposed to! And who could resist actor Patrick Steward reading a Shakespeare-sonnet-a day ?(in resources, below!)
Since many schools cut back on arts programming, this may be a great time to expose children to online concerts and shows, virtual museum tours, as well as allowing them free creative play to make their own paintings, sculptures, multimedia presentations. Perhaps they'd like to put on a theatrical or musical show for you? Give them the space to do so, and see how they might surprise you. (Bonus: you can get your work done if you are not over-directing them!)
Have a look at free resources online that I’m sharing, but first, why not tap into your child's interests to see if there is something they have always wanted to learn about but didn't get a chance to at school. Even younger students might have a burning passion and can be adept at using online searches to find information and put it together in a report or presentation. Much like the Montessori approach, letting students take the lead on their learning can lead to much more meaningful outcomes. This could also be a good time for students to work on social justice issues that they are concerned about, such as climate change or injustices that they see around them. You can also share social justice issues meaningful to you and jointly compose letters to policy and lawmakers, create social media campaigns, networking, and resource-sharing.
If students have diagnosed learning disabilities, autism, or ADHD, the parent's job becomes even more difficult and forcing students into a rigid academic structure may lead to tears and fears about learning. Most parents or guardians know that their children struggle more with them as teachers and may not want to show their weaknesses. Students may be used to using apps for learning, so continuing that practice can be helpful. Websites related to the child’s disability can also help, but again, “manage expectations” is a key phrase.
Many students who are from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) or LGBTQA+ communities sadly may not always be represented in the teachings at their schools. Many families report switching up the curriculum provided by their schools to fully incorporate diverse histories and people. We are currently still in Women’s History Month and with Black History Month in February, there are many online resources, some listed below. It might also be a great time to teach about your family’s ethnic histories (interview a grandparent or other relatives remotely) and child can do a multimedia presentation on their heritage. If your child is not represented in the teachings at their school, starting a social justice campaign to be more diverse could also be a worthwhile activity. There are probably many injustices that students might want to address and many online guides for contacting legislators and policymakers.
Schools have made arrangements for academic work, either online or through packets of work distributed to families. Make sure to check first with the school, where teachers may be available remotely and using google classroom to offer enrichment activities. The school’s homepage on website can direct you to online learning tools. Check with your school or district if you need an electronic device, or know of families that are in need. Please remember that due to equity issues, work cannot be required nor graded, not students penalized, so it’s another reason to lighten up and offer alternate learning. Schools are also offering meal pick-up in many locations, so feel free to use those services listed on school website.
Try to make it fun! This is scary and uncharted territory for adults and children alike, so instead of repetitive worksheets, try math card games. Instead of conjugating verbs, try read-alouds in the language your child is studying. Take a deep breath and realize that a brief break in high-pressure academics will not negatively impact your child, and everyone is in the same boat! You also should be aware that due to equity issues (both access to technology and adults to assist as well as special needs students’ IEPs not being met) schools will not be able to grade or penalize students, and have been advised to only provide enrichment content, not teach any new concepts.
FEEL FREE TO SHARE ADDITIONAL RESOURCES IN COMMENTS
Some free resources:
To help students keep calm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TvmU8Y2qgM&fbclid=IwAR0yqU-rE1LIvkUR8ggFWfgXW_HEO2z-bWmTfMxP3TQxAoBbGMGNrVohNZI
To reduce anxiety:
Apps such as CALM, HEADSPACE, coloring apps
Free SEL (Social Emotional Learning) https://respectfulways.com/free-sel-access-coronavirus/
A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus
Activities and Resources for all ages:
Khan Academy - students are familiar with this academic site as teachers use this often https://www.khanacademy.org/
Parent’s Guide to Google Classroom https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1PDVZvie0DnFbFEVFB8U3j89o1mD5BCUXTE6ymbb9y_k/mobilepresent?fbclid=IwAR0Qml4a88YnzVPz6B-3djyZ13GOIfYGfB-dEuMOKSkmTS1jZo2Wivf8Qzs&slide=id.g4f60ec15fb_1_0
Patrick Steward Reading Shakespeare
Free puppetry performances for younger kids: https://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/center-for-puppetry-arts-livestream-performances-for-free/KuBGQBiqLKxYs2l0WORhWO/
Ipad apps for students with special needs
Parents of Students with Special Needs Face Acute Challenges https://www.npr.org/2020/03/22/819725466/parents-of-students-with-special-needs-face-acute-challenges?fbclid=IwAR3IXEyO0guPPWv3icto7WITJBumAoCp743iVL-KTiBDIXtD6g
Parenting Your Challenging Child; Resources from Dr. Ross Green
Black, Indigenous People of Color Project ,https://www.thebipocproject.org/
Black Homeschooling Resources:
Indigenous Peoples Curriculum Resources
Latinx Peoples Resources
Free online cooking classes - for older students and a bit more upscale
Virtual Field Trips https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SvIdgTx9djKO6SjyvPDsoGlkgE3iExmi3qh2KRRku_w/previewfbclid=IwAR0rwJvo3T38icyOLrxwSg6FN1NBCzlUX9hHP0vwP0TnYZ1K2stJ7tteEcc&pru=AAABcQNaOrs%2Azmgr95BXTWdTxU3znzpIOw
Stories in Spanish
Free coloring books from museums
Math card games:
Resources from homeschoolers:
Apps that integrate with google classroom: https://lnkd.in/ed-Hkxu
Educational companies offering free subscriptions