When reviewing your school plans, be sure to take into account the amount of time you or other adults will need to spend on supervision. The younger the child, the more help he will need. K12 suggests setting aside 4-6 hours a day to help your child if they are under 5 years old. Older children will need supervision for about 1 to 3 hours.
Social skills matter more than social studies
Every educator I’ve spoken to has claimed that kids don’t go to school to learn math and English, although those are important too! In a school environment, children learn conflict management, discipline, and emotional regulation, all of which are difficult to understand from a distance.
“In mainstream education, the standards never say, ‘Make sure the kids make friends,’” says Khan. “Teachers and educators need to be careful that distance learning does not lose this element. Educators must take students off the screen, make cold calls, do virtual workshops, ask them to convince each other of solutions or to teach each other.
Whenever you can, facilitate in-person interaction, which can be as simple as reading to a small child or asking an older child for something they learned over lunch. Pandemic pods, in which a few children congregate in someone’s house or outside in their garden, can be a controversial solution. But they don’t have to cost money. “I think there is nothing wrong with trying to find two or three families that have children of the same age,” says Khan. “You don’t have to hire someone.
Another important life skill that children learn in school is self-management: learning to keep a schedule, reduce their workload, and meet deadlines.
Valenzuela provides a model for a daily schedule. But this schedule should include plenty of free time and physical activity, especially for young children. “It’s impossible for children of any age to be sedentary in front of a screen all day,” says Devorah Heitner, media expert and author of On the screen, a practical guide to help parents manage their child’s relationship with technology.
“They also need physical breaks and a screen break,” Heitner explains. “Do push-ups or eat a snack. Playing video games isn’t a big brain break in school.
Smooth the way
“A big part of the challenge with distance school is that it hasn’t been very parent-friendly,” Heitner points out. School districts are not always consistent across platforms. Maybe one teacher uses Seesaw, while another prefers Google Hangouts. This can be difficult to deal with, especially if you have several children of different ages.
If you are a parent or supervising adult, Heitner suggests setting aside time to deal with technical difficulties, especially for children under the third grade. Their inconsistent typing skills regularly prevent them from accessing their own computers.
Hopefully your school stays consistent, with at most three separate platforms. But if you are swapping supervisory duties with other adults, Heitner suggests writing down each website, username, and password on a whiteboard. Display the whiteboard prominently and take a photo to send to each adult who supervises your child.
My colleague Boone Ashworth once wrote about set up a workspace for your child. But Heitner has a few other suggestions. A cheap printer is a good solution for a child who is easily distracted or who has to share a computer or tablet with a sibling. Just print pages to read, edit, or work on spreadsheets away from a screen.
Sal Khan also recommends breaking free from digital media whenever possible. He recommends ED Hirsch Fundamental Knowledge Series for each level, as a good addition for a parent or learning coach who is worried about skipping fundamental steps.
If you are reading this, I am sure your children will be fine. It is likely that you have access to the Internet. And possibly discretionary income, if you subscribe to WIRED. Perhaps the most helpful piece of advice for you and your family is to accept that experiencing a global pandemic means that a lot will slip away.
Sometimes you won’t be able to register your child on Google Meet because you had to take a phone call. It’s good. “The good news is that kids are wired to learn, and they’ll be learning things this year,” Heitner says. “If they don’t learn every element, most of the kids will be in the same boat. “