Support for Parents: Preventing the “Coronavirus Slide”
There is always a concern that kids experience a bit of regression over summer break. Now that states are announcing school closures for the remainder of the school year, educators and parents are voicing concerns about the negative impact this could have on their child’s education, with the loss of three to four months of in-person instruction combined with summer recess. Along with academics, students may find that they can no longer run as they did this winter or play the solo that they had perfected in the spring. Parents may see regression in their students’ social and communication skills, in their willingness to try something new, or in their motivation to do any academic work.
You may have had your child come to you with a question about homework that you just could not answer. Maybe you’ve forgotten which of the gods were Greek and which Roman or you never learned about number bonds. It’s bound to happen that there has been a question that had you stumped. Now, the students are looking to you for help with math, declining nouns in Latin, cursive writing, and the periodic table. For those of you with children in special education, you are now trying to figure out how to also provide related services like speech, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.
On top of that, you’ve heard about learning standards and statewide curriculum and how our students are falling behind many other countries. You’ve heard rumors that students will not be penalized for not being able to accomplish the work that has been sent home, but you are also starting to think ahead to what will happen when the schools reopen. It can be overwhelming!
As a parent, how can you encourage students to continue to move forward, to stay motivated, and keep a positive attitude while doing it when you can’t help them? Here are a couple of scenarios and some recommendations.
It’s 9:00 at night, and Joey has a math assignment due by the end of the day. He just started it and is stumped. He emailed his teacher, but it’s so late at night that they may not see it in time. How can you help?
One strategy is to have your child teach you the previous lesson. Many times, lessons build off of one another. If you can figure out what they did before, you’ll be in a better position to help with what comes next. If a student is stuck on how to add fractions, have them teach you how to do the previous lesson, which may have been how to find common denominators. This allows your child to review the previous lesson and, by talking through it, they may figure out the missing piece for what they are working on now.
Another strategy is “phone a friend.” Is the science unit on electricity? If so, maybe there’s time for Joey to call his grandfather, who is an electrician. Is it a question about graphic organizers? Then he can call his aunt who teaches middle school English. While their teachers may have signed off for the night, it’s also possible that one of Joey’s classmates is still available who can walk him through the problem.
After the initial crisis has passed, you may want to bring up the need for a schedule. Roberto Micheri, J&M Consultant who specializes in education issues, noted that “Students need structure. Have them get out of their pajamas every day and encourage them to contact their classmates about schoolwork and to support each other. Keeping kids connected with their classmates and friends may help keep them motivated.”
You work full-time and have been struggling to motivate your daughter. When looking at your friends’ social media posts, they seem to be doing fun activities with their children who look to be fully engaged in a variety of academic subjects. The stress of thinking that you aren’t doing enough is beginning to impact your health.
As parents, we need to take a moment to recognize that every house, every child, and every situation is different. You may be comparing yourself to all of the positive and outstanding examples of homeschooling that you see on social media, but that may not be the whole truth. First, it’s important to remember that people generally do not post pictures about the “bad.” It may look like everything is going well for them, but what you do not see in those pictures are the temper tantrums and refusal to do work that may have taken place before that post.
Also, think about the home environment. Are you working 40 hours a week while your friend’s hours have been cut to 20? Is your daughter a special education student while your friend’s is an honors student? Do the best you can and remember that your children may still be learning even if it’s not in a traditional way. There are opportunities in everything. Just because your friend is posting pictures of her children doing reading comprehension activities doesn’t mean that they are any further ahead than your daughter who has been spending part of every afternoon using leftover bricks to build a dam in the creek out back.
Joan was going to have the solo in state-wide jazz concert this spring, but the show has been cancelled. With no concert to look forward to, she has stopped practicing unless forced to and then only half-heartedly. The other day, she decided to play the solo but found she could no longer play it perfectly. She slammed the down her instrument and said she wasn’t going to play anymore.
While your first inclination was to tell Joan that this is what happens when you stop practicing, you quickly realized that wasn’t going to help the situation. Parents may be seeing this loss of motivation with everything from sports to academics. What’s the point in trying/practicing if I won’t be able to play/perform? Why should I spend a lot of time doing all of my schoolwork if my only grade will be “pass”? If the intrinsic desire to excel has gone, what extrinsic motivators can encourage our children?
Keeping students connected to one another as well as to their teachers and coaches and exploring alternate ways to celebrate their hard work and successes is important. What if your daughter worked with her music team to learn how to combine sound files and then was able to convince each member of the jazz ensemble to record their part? When everyone was done, she could create a virtual song or concert that could be shared with family and friends.
As parents, anything we can do to encourage students to continue learning, exploring, and growing will be helpful, especially when the transition back to “traditional” school happens. At the same time, we need to focus on what will work best for our children and our families. Take a moment to appreciate all that you have accomplished in the past few months.