In March, when schools took an unplanned “spring break” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, educators were thrown into a tailspin over when—and how—to best allow youth of all ages to return to the classroom. What many thought would be a simple solution has turned into an educational, political, socioeconomic, and personal debate over how to provide the requirements students need to meet state and federal mandates.
In California, there is county and state guidance available for administrators and teachers. More than 90% of the state’s students will start the 2020–2021 school year online, and thanks to tech and office supply giants such as Apple, T-Mobile, Office Depot, and Staples, parents can remove one concern off their list—making sure their children have the devices and supplies needed for distance learning, confirmed Gov. Gavin Newsom in an Aug. 14 press conference.
Across the country, in New York City—another area hard-hit by the pandemic—officials have announced plans for a mixture of remote and in-person learning, although more than a quarter of students have decided to go with an all-remote option instead. On Aug. 10, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 74%—more than 700,000 students—will be taking part in the hybrid plan; the rest are opting for digital learning away from a classroom.
As the school year nears (or has already begun) in many districts around the country, the discussion as to how best to proceed is overshadowing how remote learning will impact parents and caretakers. And unfortunately, there is not enough information for parents who’ve been thrown into the role of “substitute teacher” indefinitely.
The following are some tips, online resources, and interactive tools that info pros can use themselves and share with families to help make this “new normal” in K–12 education easier—and successful for all.
Tips for Online Learning
In the classroom, other students are usually the only distraction a teacher must deal with. However, learning from home can make kids too comfortable, as TVs, other family members, and toys can vie for their attention. Be sure to have your kids wear clothes, not pajamas, during class. Create a clean, quiet space for your child that is used only for class time. Similar to home offices for adults, it will help youth learn the difference between work and play.
Just like when physically at school, it’s important for children to take breaks away from the computer. Make sure they eat snacks/lunch away from their “desk” and incorporate breathing and stretching exercises for their physical and mental health.
Distance-learning mandates are changing the current employment responsibilities for many parents. Try not to stress! Talk with your employer to create a temporary shift in duties, which may include working remotely for you, as well. And if you can do any work at home, work alongside your child(ren) so you both/all have free time together.
Boost Online Social Time
For middle and high school students, increasing social time may come in the form of extra social media time. However, that is not always interacting with their peers. Set up video “play” dates with their closest friends. Introduce them to emailing and even handwriting notes and letters (maybe a pen pal?), which are great ways to foster good spelling and grammar habits.
They say it takes a village, and this year, digital villages may be the answer. We saw this past spring how high school students, especially, missed meeting in person and preparing for college in the traditional ways. iMentor matches a high schooler with a college-educated mentor to help ease the transition to higher education and beyond.
It’s true, sometimes school can be boring—but when done right, learning never is. We know that no two children are alike. That’s why finding the right help and supplemental tools for your child’s learning is key to their long-term academic success.
The following are some websites that use fun and creative ways to educate—a perfect approach to boost knowledge or assist with homework.
Books and Literacy
Scholastic: It may not be like the book fairs of old, but reading never goes out of style. The almost century-old publisher provides both online book sales and book clubs—the latter being a great way to reward kids with “sharing” social time.
Epic!: Since 2013, this book subscription platform has provided unlimited access to thousands of videos, quizzes, and, of course, books. It comes with tools to help monitor and engage kids, boosting their self-confidence and awareness of the world around them.
Vooks: This subscription site provides two things kids like: streaming and animated storybooks. And parents will love that it’s promoted as ad-free and kid-safe.
Learning Heroes: This easy-to-use website partners with some of the most trusted education and parent organizations today to provide real-world information and tools to families. It also offers free resources to help start discussions on race, anti-racism, and racial justice and their impact inside and outside the classroom.
Interactive Websites: Younger Children*
PBS Kids and PBS LearningMedia
Interactive Websites: Older Children*
National Geographic Kids
America’s Test Kitchen Kids
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
*Provided by Devora Noboa, a parent-educator for Ready, Set, Read!, during a recent Los Angeles Times Q&A.