It's the time of year where we usually hear commercials for back to school, watching parents sing and dance in the aisle of department stores as they pick up school supplies for their kids.
This year, there is a different tune playing for back to school. As the Coronvirius pandemic continues, it leaves us with plenty of unanswered questions and many parents who are unsure what the best decision for their child and their family is.
Whether you decide to send your child back to school or continue with online learning, in the end, you need to do what is best for both your child and your family as a whole. There is truly no right or wrong decision here. We are all trying to navigate this together. The right choice is the one that sets you and your family up for success rather than adds more obligation and stress.
Things to consider before you make your final decision;
Online learning provides less structure than a classroom environment, requiring more prep time and follow through to be completed by parents.
Children with attention and learning difficulties will need additional support to remain on task and complete assigned work.
Reflect on how you and your family were able to adapt to online learning when it was the only option. Questions to reflect on:
Did it negatively impact your child's behaviour?
How much hands-on support did they require?
Were you able to balance work and life balance?
Was online learning appropriate for your child's learning style?
7 Tips for what parents can do to prepare their child for online learning:
Make Space for Learning - Set up a designated 'school' area in your home. The ideal space would be one that has limited distractions. (i.e. away from televisions and other electronic gadgets other than their laptop for schools work)
Develop a Routine - Kids thrive on routine and familiarity! Just like when they attend a brick and motor school, your child needs to wake up by a particular hour, complete their morning routine, and then go to school. I encourage you to have the same structured routine from day one of online learning to establish clear expectations and for boundaries to be respected.
Create a Visual Schedule - Once you have received the school work for the week, I encourage you to break this down for your child into daily tasks. Using a visual schedule will help your child remain on task and avoid (or at least reduce) them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Depending on your child's age, you can either create this for them, do it together or have them create their schedule independently with you giving it the final green light.
Offer a One-week Trial - Just like when your child attends school, it takes time to adjust to the rules and expectations. Offer to sit close by the first week to ensure that they can log in to their lessons without any glitches or guide them to access necessary documents on Google classroom. Having a parent close by will assist in preventing or reducing unnecessary anxiety and frustration.
Maintain Structure - Just like in school, your child will require some variety to their day. These scheduled breaks will help maintain motivation to complete their work, reduce frustration, and celebrate their accomplishments, not to mention the numerous benefits it will have on their mental health. Have set time for snack, lunch and recess! Encourage your child to go outside and get some fresh air for 30 minutes; maybe a bike ride is in order, drawing with chalk or shooting some hoops.
Make Time for Friends! Your child's accustomed to plenty of social interaction at school, maintaining connections with peers via video chat or in small gatherings (while keeping physical distancing) at the end of the school day is critical.
Connect & Communicate - Learning online will be an adjustment for everyone. After the school day is complete, engage in a preferred activity with your child and see how he/she is doing with the current setup. Are there things that need to be changed? Do they need your assistant more during a particular subject? When is the best time to ask for help? The key is to discuss and adjust to make things work for both you and your child's needs.
While we want to take all the necessary precautions with COVID, our child's mental health should be evaluated daily. There is more to attending school than receiving an education. Things to keep in mind is that your child is receiving some variety in their day so that all their needs are met, socially, physically, mentally and emotionally.
These are exceptional times for everyone. Do what's best for you and your family!