The coronavirus has caused many of us to change how we live our lives. For parents of school-aged children, one big change has been adding “schoolteacher” to their job titles. Home schooling has become the new normal for families, and dining rooms have been transformed into classrooms as face-to-face instruction has been replaced by Zoom meetings.
So how should all this work?
We reached out to some of our BlueSky education experts to gather advice to help parents make schoolwork as positive an experience as possible. BlueSky is Blue Shield of California’s multi-year initiative to enhance awareness, advocacy, and access to mental health support for middle and high school students in California and beyond.
BlueSky educators Judith Alcala, principal at Jefferson Elementary School, and Rachel Vatannia, coordinator of Education Services for San Leandro Unified School District, offer these tips to help parents navigate distance learning with aplomb:
Allow time to set expectations - It’s important to be flexible especially during times of uncertainty. It’s a good practice for parents to check-in with themselves, children, and the school community regularly in order to help manage expectations and be able to pivot when things don’t go right the first time. Vatannia says, “Remind your children that we are all learning during this time and that nobody is getting it right 100% of the time.”
Create a daily/weekly schedule - “Getting through each day – especially for parents working from home – is much easier when parents can visualize their children’s tasks and which ones take priority,” Alcala says. “Start and solidify family rituals and routines to foster community and healthy interdependence.”
Take mental health and wellness breaks - “This can be an emotionally fragile time for children of all ages, so take the time to check in on their mental health,” says Vatannia. She suggests creating a “chill zone” - a quiet area to help manage big emotions. For young children, this area could have quiet activities like coloring or puzzles, and comfort objects so children feel safe. For teens, it could be listening to their favorite music, or texting with friends.
Go offline and exercise – “Young people have a lot of energy to burn, but because we’re all cooped up in our homes, shedding that energy is not happening at the pace it once was,” says Alcala. She suggests building in time to shut down computers and schoolwork and add in a little P.E. class. A quick jog around the kitchen, jumping jacks on the front porch, or skipping rope on the back patio can help your kids burn off a little steam. “A physical break also helps them refocus when it’s time to finish up that afternoon math lesson or reading assignment,” she adds.
What does the future hold?
While teachers continue to fine tune distance learning now, Alcala and Vatannia say they and their colleagues are already planning for what school will look like when students return to campus.
“We expect things to be very different when we finally get back to classroom instruction, but to what extent is still unclear,” says Vatannia. “Right now, we are planning and preparing to be ready for whatever our new normal may look like.”
That likely will include regular hand washing and social distancing, a more rapid response to sick students, and lots of patience with students as everyone manages this new normal. Most importantly for many parents, it will allow them to go back to just their day jobs, leaving the teaching to the pros.
For more information on our BlueSky initiative, click here.