Caution: You will not receive any apps, websites, virtual tours, or downloadable worksheets in the contents of this message.
Enough is enough already. Parents have been inundated with websites, apps, worksheets, pictures of perfect schedules, and a variety of Pinterest mommy-perfect resources. They have been given a boatload of options, yet are told to keep it simple. They have seen the overachieving others and yet have been told to compassionately accept that they are not “that” and it is okay. They dare to ask a question, and suddenly 65 responses from others who “know better” pop up.
While it is great to have instant access to knowledge, it is also completely overwhelming. Keeping track of passwords and app names alone is dizzying. Just because you can tap a link or download an app, it does not overcome this simple truth: Teaching is painfully difficult. If you are like most parents, it was difficult to teach your children how to tie their shoes, ride their bikes, or even how to use a toilet. So do not feel like a failure when you realize that literature and mathematics are not any easier.
A million blogs and posts can tell you “don’t worry.” However, if you are a parent, that is not an emotion that can easily be turned off. You are bound to fight feelings of insecurity, fear, and some days despair. Many families are adapting to job loss and financial strain, making multiplication facts and long division a trivial thing to monitor. I am here to tell you it is!
Remote learning or elearning, whatever your local school district is calling it, is not there to promote better test scores or even meant to replace the rigor found in a typical school day. What educators are trying to provide our children is a continued sense of normalcy when all things feel unknown. They want to offer opportunities for continued connections to the learning communities they were so abruptly taken from.
I know you did not sign up to be a teacher. I also know most of you do not have the time, energy, or focus to spend hours going through the bajillion resources that have been thrown your way. So today I give you some simple “teacher” things to focus on whether you are a “try hard,” as middle schoolers would call it, or you are a living I Will Survive anthem.
- Designated work spaces and times are worth it: You do not need to bedazzle a picture perfect schedule or turn your kitchen walls into bulletin boards – just pick it and stick it. If you keep to a time and space, kids will adapt and respond. You will have less complaining in the long run and who does not want to hear less whining in their house? Also YOU work better on a schedule. Schedules alone can help fight off depression, apathy, and anxiety.
- Know when you are feeling triggered: We have all been there. You show your child twenty times how to do double digit multiplication or thirty minutes have passed and they are still sitting there staring at their paper or screen. Whatever it is, know what your body feels like before you blow and say things you don’t mean. I caught myself, lost from my teacher-self, saying to my child, “Are you serious? Do you NOT get this or are you just NOT trying?” Not a big deal, but in the grand scheme of things, if the content is difficult for her I just basically said you should be smart enough to understand. On the other hand, if she is truly being silly she won the jackpot and got me pissed off. It’s okay to take a break, switch activities, or come back to it. It’s also okay to reward your stubborn learners with candy, cookies, or ice cream. As long as they earn it for doing work and not illegal activities, it is not considered bribery.
- Listen to Lady Gaga and maintain your poker face: Respond with caution to your child’s e-learning plan. When your child receives the tasks for the day or week from their teacher, try not say things like, “This is stupid” or “What is the point of this?” Treat activities like mental exercise. Even if they seem easy or like “busy work,” they are meant to not only maintain skills, but also to keep some form of academic stamina. Also, we all know we are in this for the long haul, so if kids think their parents are not invested in this work, they will cash out as well. And months are a long time to go without some form of emotional investment in learning.
- Make them teach you something: Research has found that when students actually teach the content of a lesson, they develop a deeper and longer-lasting understanding of the material than students who do not teach it. Give your kids a time to shine with you, even if it is them showing you a learning game they completed and what they had to do to win. Your children will not only be rewarded by your attention, but they will also get an opportunity to put their learning into their own words, making individualized connections that will further solidify their understanding.
- It’s okay to not know: If you are unclear about something or do not know the answer, just say it. You are not meant to be the know all for all things e-learning. This will demonstrate to your child that you are human, and instead of getting frustrated, the best course is to seek help. This is also a good time to practice self-advocacy. Have your child email their own teacher or call a friend, relative, or mentor to assist.
- Genius Hour: Now a commonly known academic strategy, this concept was conceived from the business world. Companies like Google had an 80/20 idea where employees are given 20% of their time to work on a project of their choice. This concept gave life to such things as Gmail and Google maps. If your child easily finishes elearning and you want to either keep them invested in academic activities or have them expand on a subject area, give them a ticket to freedom. It starts with a simple question: “What do you want to learn about?” My son has used his time to relentlessly scour the web to read about the origins of Pokemon so he can create his own brand of anime cards. He is reading, drawing, creating, and busy without me yelling at him. That is a win for mom.
- Gush: Yes, this is a good time to give immediate feedback over quality work and display it in your house. Kids still want to be reinforced for their hard work, so make a big deal out of what they are doing and they will be more likely to keep on doing their best.
No matter how learning at home looks for your family remember that the focus is connection over skill. Nerves are in the air and kids can sense the tension even if they cannot put words around it. What your home learning time does is give a child a sense of certainty during uncertain times. And perhaps more importantly it provides an opportunity to stay connected to those whom they have come to see as mentors or caregivers.
School has been a constant in the lives of kids since before most can remember. That presence in their daily lives, even through a computer screen, whispers reassurance to our children that even though things have changed one thing has not: The love their teachers have for them.
A sincere thank you to parents and educators for showing up for kids while the world seems to be standing still.