Homeschooling has left many parents expressing frustration over the online-learning model.
An Eastside mom shares on her social-media page, “My kindergartner is miserable, and online learning is emotionally draining for her. She’s now expected to learn how to type on the computer, when she hasn’t even mastered handwriting. She is not OK in all of this. She is being left behind with this way of schooling and I feel like I am failing as well.”
With seven weeks left in the school year, parents muddle through assignments, balancing family, work and school each day.
To help wade through online learning difficulties, Barb Haaland, a kindergarten teacher in her 29th year of teaching, says, “Talk with your child. What’s hard for them? If they cared about school before, ask them why their behavior or motivation has changed. Teachers are still working, many parents are still working … and kids have a job, too: they are students, and their job is to keep learning.”
She says parents must validate their children’s feelings of insecurity and fear, while also encouraging a growth mindset. “Encourage your child to think about how they are building their own strong muscles of flexibility, resilience and perseverance, and developing the habit of doing their very best, even when things are more challenging than we could have ever imagined.”
Sophie Nelson, an elementary-school counselor for the Northshore School District, wants parents to “remember that it is OK to not be perfect. Give your child and yourself grace; this is a new, unprecedented situation for everyone.”
Nelson says what she is seeing from families is that “parents are equally as stressed or more stressed than their children. Kids are adjusting to this new life of online distance learning, and parents are having to navigate the nuances of that, as well as managing their jobs and other household duties.”
Her advice to parents: “Take time for themselves and prioritize what is most important for your family. Be flexible and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to your students’ teachers, school counselors and principals to ask for support,” and model positive behavior at home.
Parents may find it hard and scary to let their children slow down learning with the possibility of falling behind when regular school resumes, but Seattle-area teachers have assured parents that “we will ALL be behind next year. Parents should prioritize their own mental health and well-being; The teachers will work with students on the academics once we return to school, but the social and emotional well-being of kids and adults, right now, is what will get us through.”
Even still, families need ways to help their children learn through the online system, at least until summer vacation arrives.
Seattle-area families and teachers shared their tips on how to make at-home learning work:
- Communicate with your teacher, principal, counselor and ask for help. Reach out and let them know what is going on with your child. Barb Haaland recommends reconnecting with the child’s teacher (or another favorite school staff member) over a weekly Zoom chat to establish a connection.
- Maintain a routine with lots of breaks. Work together on a schedule so your child can make decisions about how her day goes. Try to keep online learning to the morning, leaving the afternoons for reading, free play, art and time outdoors. Set short goals and break up work into parts.
- Ask your teacher and brainstorm other ways of learning a new concept. Example: Learn fractions by baking or cooking.
- Reassure your kids that this unusual time will pass and that we will be able to go back to school again.
- Stay connected with friends and family over the phone, via FaceTime, or another chat platform. Schedule one-on-one virtual playdates – play a game or draw together with a friend. Ask your teacher to be your penpal. Write letters and emails to friends.
- Ask your teacher for encouraging comments on a student’s work. This assures your child that their work is being evaluated and they are doing a job well done.
- Know that there is no judgment; do what you can and let go of the rest.
- Choose topics that interest your child and have them work on that for a few minutes before beginning schoolwork.
- Use positive rewards and choices when work is completed.
- Set realistic expectations and do what’s right for your family.
With kids studying at home, teachers reflect, “We have lost the dynamic of collaborative learning, brainstorming and growing our ideas together” while other educators responded that this type of learning has been successful for students who are highly distracted in the traditional learning environment.
“I do have families, who because they are home, have more time to work with their child and are enjoying and engaging in the learning with them. I feel some of my parents are more connected now than they were, prior to the closure,” shares a teacher from the Northshore School District.
All is not lost with online learning though, when asked what teachers will take back from this experience, most said, they liked project-based learning and found that it allowed their students to incorporate more creativity and choice. Others responded with ideas on using more technology within the classroom, planning things like videotaping more critical lessons, so students can review them with parents at home.
Just as our kids miss their educators and friends, teachers miss the reason they got into the profession. “I miss my students! I miss their smiling faces. I miss guiding them to discover how much they are capable of, and I miss those ‘aha!’ moments when they discover that they have learned a new skill,” says Haaland. We don’t know what kind of reality this crisis will lead us to in terms of schooling in the Fall, but we can all hope to be together, learning in a sustainable and less challenging way.
Jasmin Thankachen is a contributing writer and an Eastside mom of two boys, ages 6 and 8.
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