Is your elementary school-aged child finding it difficult to get their schoolwork done at home? Kids and adults alike typically associate school and home as two places that serve different functions in their life. Though, over the past year, it has been a confusing journey for everyone as we have brought schooling home.Not only has online schooling left a bulk of teaching to parents. It has changed the way we perceive education. Various reports tell us that grades have significantly dropped since the onset of Covid. Parents continue to struggle in an effort to provide their children with all the resources they need to succeed.
According to The Wall Street Journal, students have been falling behind significantly this past year in math as well as reading. The report was released by Renaissance Learning Inc. They described that in order to catch up, students in grades two and three would require over a month to be where they should be. Kids in grades four, seven, and eight would need 8-11 weeks.
While students continue to cope with online learning for various reasons, there are things you can do as a parent or guardian to help bring some normalcy back into learning.
- Get Active:
As a teacher, I sometimes leave feedback for parents recommending that their child engage in some light exercise before their online class. Young kids have lots of energy and this can easily distract them from focusing on their schoolwork. When a child sits down at their computer to learn, it can feel like an eternity.
It could be playing, going for a walk, having a dance party, or doing some yoga. If one of my students is extra jittery, we will do some jumping jacks together, virtually, to “get all the sillies out.” This helps children release some of their nervous energy and channel their focus into learning.
If possible, schedule in movement breaks as frequently as possible throughout the day. Some kids will require more movement than others.
- Maintain a routine and give your child choices:
Building habits in kids will help them understand there is a clear purpose behind everything they do. It will also encourage organization and keep them motivated to learn.
Let your child choose which academic activity they want to do first. This gives them some sense of control and decision making, which will make them more likely to be excited about work. It will also help them stay focused.
- Set up an environment that supports learning:
We want the space the child will be taking their online learning classes from to be comfortable. The student should not be distracted by clutter or noise around them, and should be given the opportunity to put all of their energy and focus into their work.
- Schedule in Breaks:
Use a timer and reward your child with a fun activity that will give their brain a break and give them something to look forward to. Don’t allow them to have their favorite activity or toy mid-day, like playing video games for example. A short-lived break enjoying their favorite activity will make it difficult for them to step away and transition back into schoolwork. Save the best reward for the end of the day when all work is completed.
Your child is likely getting less class time than they were before things went virtual. Make time for reading and math every day to prevent your child from forgetting foundational skills.
- Encourage Meaningful Passion Projects:
Introduce your child to new hobbies that they can turn into passion projects. Maybe you can teach them origami, or they pick up a new instrument or learn how to really sing. You can teach them how to garden, cook, bake, scrapbook, paint...the list is pretty much endless. Maybe you and your child arrange a scavenger hunt or a science project you do with them once or twice a month.
Depending on the age of your child, they may already have discovered some hobbies. If your child loves to write, help them create a short children’s story with illustrations too. If they love math, teach them about sudoku or other related games or projects.
Help your child outline their project and even give them a deadline. Encourage them to work on it a little each night so they always have something to look forward to after their school work. This will also provide them with a goal they are working towards.
Continue to reinforce them as they work on their projects. There will be times they become frustrated or might want to quit. This will not only teach discipline and the value of hard work, but it will build their confidence when they finally do complete the project. They will learn accountability and feel proud of their work.
- Remind your child that you are there to support them.
Your child likely knows that they can come to you for comfort or when something is bothering them. Though, a little reminder here and there won’t hurt, especially during this unprecedented time. Ask open ended questions to your child on a regular basis, and really listen to what they are saying. At this age, children are still learning how to put a name to the emotions they are experiencing. They might be faced with new feelings during this time.
Give your child the opportunity to express their concerns, fears, sadness, and excitement openly. Create and maintain a space where they feel comfortable doing this. Try to avoid saying dismissive things like, “Oh don’t cry, you're a big boy/girl.” While this statement isn’t intended to make less of what the child is feeling, it may be perceived that way. By telling your child they should stop doing something, they may start to believe that crying and showing emotions are bad. This may eventually lead to your child not wanting to share with you when something is wrong.
Remember that every child is unique. Something that works for one child may not necessarily work for another.
The Math Genie Team