In March 2020, parents across the world have found themselves in an unprecedented situation. Schools have closed unexpectedly to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a particularly impactful strain of coronavirus. This virus has been overwhelming healthcare infrastructure in places like China and Italy. And now, the United States is desperately trying to avoid the same outcome.
Parents who would normally send their children to school have suddenly found themselves solely responsible for the daily schedules of their school-aged children. What is the best use of this time? Should we treat it like a break from school or should we try to maintain some level of productive learning?
The best thing that parents can do during this unexpected closure is to keep kids on a schedule. Keep them learning, even if it is not the same curriculum that they were learning at school. And, keep them productive with learning, chores, and physical activity.
Engaging your kids to activities are so much fun while they're at home, so this is our 11 ways on how to hone their skills.
- Learning Schedules
- Keep Kids Productive While School is Closed
- Keep Kids Reading While School is Closed
- Keep Kids Creative While School is Closed
- Keep Kids Involved With Technology While School is Closed
- Keep Kids Active While School is Closed
- Maintain Healthy Socialization While School is Closed
- Make Mental Health a Priority While School is Closed
- Teach a New Skill While School is Closed
- Encourage Kids to Take on a Group Project
- Encourage Journaling
Keep Kids Learning while Schools are Closed
A funny thing happens when the mind is not actively engaged in learning. It begins to regress, forgetting skills and information that have previously been learned. With our current school calendar, teachers face regression from summer and winter breaks every year. The amount of instructional time that it takes to get a class back on track after a break varies, but is proportionately longer for longer breaks.
With the uncertainty of the current public health pandemic affecting the world, we don’t know how long the duration of this closure will be. Parents must take responsibility for their child’s learning during this time.
If kids are left to manage their own time during this closure, most will not seek out learning opportunities. This break, and subsequent learner regression, will make it harder for students to keep up when they do return to school. Some may even face failing grades or having to repeat a grade level. But, the course of this disruption can be changed with a little effort to engage children in intentional learning activities during the break.
Many school districts are doing what they can to supplement learning activities during closures by providing e-learning opportunities. Unfortunately, e-learning is not available in all districts. Internet access is not available in all homes. And, e-learning may not be appropriate for all ages. This leaves a lot of parents at the helm of the academic ship, fully responsible for keeping their kids learning while schools are closed.
Resources for Free Learning Materials
If your school district has not provided learning materials, there is a wealth of free resources available on the internet. Many trusted brands are making their materials available for free in response to the widespread school closures. And, many more free resources already existed thanks to the homeschooling community. Check out our list for some resources to keep your kids learning.
- ABC Mouse Preschool through Middle School Curriculum
- Alchemie Organic Chemistry App
- American Chemistry Society for High School Chemistry
- BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. learning resources for all ages and subjects
- Discovery Education from the Discovery Network
- Google for Education
- com Mathematics Lessons for all ages
- Microsoft Education
- Scholastic Learn at Home Resources by Grade Level
- Stemscopes STEM learning resources created by teachers
Kids normally spend 6-7 hours per day in school when it is in session. But, they do not spend every minute of that time learning. You do not have to fill a full day of learning activities. Instead, shoot for two one-hour learning sessions. Fill in the rest of their time with physical activity, chores, and short leisure periods.
Even one hour per day of learning can help fight against learning regression because it keeps the brain in the practice of learning. Here is a sample schedule for how to break up the time while schools are closed.
7:00 AM Wake Up at regular time and complete morning routine.
8:00 AM One Hour of Academic Time
9:00 AM One Hour Creative Time (do a craft project)
10:00 AM One Hour of Physical Activity (i.e. go for a walk)
11:00 AM Lunch & Leisure Activity Time
12:00 PM One Hour Quiet Time (i.e. read a book)
1:00 PM One Hour Chores
2:00 PM One Hour Academic Time
3:00 PM One Hour Physical Activity (i.e. play outside)
4:00 PM One Hour Technology (i.e. practice typing, use an educational app, etc.)
Keep Kids Productive While School is Closed
More time at home means more messes. It should be expected that the workload of common household chores will increase during this time. Children should be expected to help out with age-appropriate chores. It may also be a good time to catch up on less common tasks like cleaning out cupboards and pantries or picking up sticks in the yard.
Aim for spending 30 - 60 minutes each day working on extra chores, beyond what your child is typically expected to do when school is in session. Now may be a good time to build new behaviors like making the bed each day or loading the dishwasher immediately after a meal.
Keep Kids Reading While School is Closed
In addition to any academic lessons that your child is completing during this time, independent reading can help keep the mind in an active learning state. Go to your local library and check out some books that are age-appropriate and encourage 30 - 60 minutes of independent reading each day. For elementary-aged children, it is good to balance independent reading with time parents spend reading to their child.
If you do not have a library in your area, or it is closed due to quarantine restrictions, try Amazon Freetime or Amazon Kindle Kids for digital reads. If you are not an Amazon-friendly household, check out Magicblox.com for a free library of children’s books.
Keep Kids Creative While School is Closed
Without school, many kids lose the only creative outlet that they have. Art classes, classroom projects in regular subjects, and music programs are some of the ways that the school system fosters creativity. Creative skills have been shown to promote cognitive learning and develop problem-solving skills. Continuing to encourage creativity while students are out of school can also help fight learner regression.
Grab some craft supplies and do a few projects. There are hundreds of tutorials available on Youtube if you don’t feel inspired or particularly crafty.
Keep Kids Involved With Technology While School is Closed
When everything is business-as-usual, many households restrict or limit the use of electronics at home. If that sounds like your home - consider that you may have to ease up on that restriction while school is closed. Like it or not, technology is very much a part of the world that we live in. Adults without basic skills in typing in common computer programs are often unemployable. Computers have found their way into every industry from business to healthcare, automotive, machining, and more.
Instead of giving your kids free-reign with video games, try to incorporate educational technology time for 30 - 60 minutes per day. Depending on age or skill level, this may come in the form of keyboarding practice, educational apps, or educational games like Minecraft: Education Edition.
Keep Kids Active While School is Closed
Without school, kids are now out of recess, P.E., and extra-curricular sports. Rather than letting them sit around all day, encourage kids to maintain physical activity. Take a walk as a family, go for a bike ride, or take a virtual Yoga class right in your living room.
Check out these fun activity cards from Barefoot Books to get kids interested in yoga.Watch this video as a guide on how to utilize time with kids at home:
Maintain Healthy Socialization While School is Closed
During a pandemic, social-distancing is all that anyone is talking about. But, it is still important to help your child feel connected to others during this time. Isolation often leads to depression in adults and children, as social beings it is a basic need. It is important to find other ways to fill that void.
Technology can help out with this. You no longer have to be in the same room as another person to have a meaningful, face-to-face conversation. Video chat from services like Skype can help individuals connect virtually. Instead of having your kids spend time engaging in potentially dangerous social media or chat room activities, try to find healthy ways for them to socialize.
Organize a group video chat between your child and some of their friends. Give them a time limit and allow them to interact normally - with no agenda, simply for the sake of healthy socialization.
Make Mental Health a Priority while School is Closed
Two weeks of quarantine sounds like a nice break for some people and an eternity for others. The reality is that many schools are closed for longer, up to 6 weeks in some areas and indefinitely in others. Maintaining structure in day-to-day life with schedules and expectations is one way that you can help your child maintain positive mental health.
Open communication is another way. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now and a lot of fear being communicated through our news outlets. Even if you do not allow your children to watch these things, or you think they are not affected - they are. Take time to talk to your children about what is going on. Reassure them that it is ok to be scared and help them face their fear.
Teach a New Skill while School is Closed
Since everyone will be spending more time at home, there are many more opportunities to get in the kitchen and do some cooking (or baking)! Take the time to teach your children some new skills and get them helping in the kitchen with meal prep and cooking.
Encourage Kids to Take on a Group Project
If you have a few kids at home, encourage them to work on a project together to promote sibling bonding. Hopefully, this will also result in less tension and fewer fights as everyone gets tired of being stuck at home.
- Have them write a play, create costumes, and perform it while you record it on video.
- Have them work together with copies of family photos to create an art project like a mural or pixel art.
- Have them work on a service project together like writing greeting cards for soldiers or nursing home residents.
- Create a fun bulletin board design on an empty wall in a shared bedroom.
- Have them build an idea for a summer business that they can implement when school lets out for summer (which is coming up in just a few more weeks).
Another way to help your children with social-emotional issues during a quarantine period is to have them a journal. Sometimes there are fears or concerns that kids are too afraid to share with anyone - even parents. Give them a notebook and encourage them to write it down in a safe space. This can help get their feelings out and onto paper so that they can process them in a healthy way.
This unexpected school closure that is affecting families worldwide should be seen as an opportunity and not a restriction. While social distancing may be important for public health, it is providing time and opportunities for families to connect.
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