Virtual Learning amid Covid-19 : A Special Education Teacher’s Tip for Parents.
We have been in quarantine for what seems like years now and many students and parents have given up, or are ready to give up, on virtual learning.
As a special education teacher who works with middle school students, I have seen this firsthand. Many students are no longer turning in any work or responding to emails. Parents are completely overwhelmed. Families are struggling with daily life right now and for some families, academics have gone on the back burner.
It is hard to keep kids, especially middle school aged kids, in any kind of routine after being home all this time. On top of that, parents are trying to work from home, or maybe they still have to go to work, or maybe they aren’t working at all and the family is worrying about having enough food to eat or making sure the bills are paid.
In order for all of us to keep our sanity during this time, we need to take it easy on ourselves and on our kids. We need to give ourselves a break, but that does not mean give up on learning altogether.
My advice is this-KEEP IT SIMPLE.
If you are struggling with trying to homeschool your children right now, just try to have your kids engage in one educational activity a day. And if that’s too much, then aim for one each week. Make it meaningful and keep it simple.
It is close to the end of the school year for most students, and it is tempting to just call it quits. Yet, the longer students go without engaging in their learning, the more difficult it will be for them to transition back to school.
Here are some things you can try to ease the workload without giving up completely.
Modify or Shorten the Virtual Learning From Your Child’s School
First and foremost, if your child’s teachers are offering assignments or creating videos, I encourage your child to utilize these and reach out to those teachers for support. The teachers miss their students and enjoy hearing from them.
Even if you choose one worksheet instead of 3, or just watch the video and leave the worksheet for another day. Pick one subject to focus on a day. This is much better than doing nothing at all.
Even if you and your child need a break and take some time away from schoolwork for a week or two, please consider resuming the virtual learning after taking the break.
If these assignments are still just too much for you and your family to take on right now, here are some other ways your child can engage in learning throughout the next few months.
If you can’t get your child to read assigned texts for class, please encourage him or her to read any book, magazine, article, graphic novel, anything of interest to your child. Try to make it enjoyable. Most children who are not strong readers don’t enjoy reading, so they don’t read independently, and their reading skills do not improve. Just like any other skill, you need to “practice” by reading frequently to become a better reader. A minimum of 20 minutes a day is ideal, but do what you can. If there is something that you can read with your child and discuss together- that is even better.
Struggling readers can listen to audio books and follow along as a book is read to him or her. Another helpful strategy is to teach your child how to highlight and look up the definition of an unknown word when reading a text online. Reading every day will help your child become a better reader and be more prepared to return to school.
Again, if the assignments the school sends out are causing stress and anxiety for you and your child, then stick to the basics. You can have your child make flash cards to practice basic facts. The specific skills can vary depending on what your child needs. These could include adding, subtracting, multiplication, or division facts, but could also include perfect squares and square roots. Flash cards are a quick and easy way to review facts and have your child engage with learning, even if only for a few minutes a day.
Additionally, if you realize you are using math skills in your own day to day activities-point them out to your child. Real world connections make learning relevant to children and help them understand why what they are learning in school is important to their lives.
There is no shortage of online resources and websites(paid and free) for parents and students to access over these next few months before school resumes. However, parents are inundated with online resources and life in general is overwhelming right now.
If you are feeling like you are ready to give up on virtual learning, my recommendation is this: Don’t give up! Just keep it as simple as possible. Teachers recognize and appreciate the fact that it is not easy for parents to facilitate children’s learning while also dealing with all of other life’s responsibilities and stressors right now.
But school will resume at some point, even if we don’t know exactly when that will be. The longer children are out of school and not engaging in their studies, the more difficult it will be for them to transition back to the normal school routine.
Let the kids learn online, or let them learn by trying hands-on activities. Take breaks from school work if you need to, but please come back if you can. Do what you need to do for your family. Read, read, read as much as possible and keep encouraging your child to continue learning in some way.