At times, it feels like we take a couple steps forward, and then 10 steps back. It's hard to believe many of us have been at home (working and helping our kids cope with online and in-person schooling) for over a year. Recently announcements have been made that students will resume online learning and at the same time increased restrictions. We are all in this together - but hoping we are all out of this sooner than later. In the meantime, we have some tips from our friend who is an educator in the TDSB and a mother of three. Here are her strategies for teaching, learning and working from home.
Money- We need iPads, chrome books, paper and desks to work from home! It can get expensive. Be sure to check your government sites and keep an eye out for new announcements regarding financial support. Government Support For Learners Link
Space- Finding a permanent location in your home where your children and you can work and feel comfortable is important to our sanity. Keeping the spaces organized and equipped with things everyone will need (the night before) is essential for keeping stress levels low and student success high, all while considering each individual family member's needs and of course logistics (e.g., outlets, WIFI).
Time management- How are we working, teaching and feeding our family at the same time? The short answer is structure and routine. Having everyone’s schedules posted up somewhere central (e.g., like the kitchen) will help keep everyone on track throughout the day. A menu plan for the week created by the entire family should be handy too.
A time saving hack we use in our house daily is the magic of the charcuterie board. In the morning (during our regular commute time), I create a breakfast/snack charcuterie board in the kitchen for all to help themselves. Get a big platter out and fill it up with foods the family can grab and eat whenever they are hungry. I usually have berries, some kind of bread (croissants, toast and butter, crackers), a protein (nuts, egg bites, salami slices), and lot’s of veggies (cause lets face it, everyone eats veggies when they are hungry and everything is cut up and sitting out). One more thing that helps is having milk, cereal, fruit, yogurt all at the same height as your children in the pantry or fridge so they can help themselves if you are not able to.
4. Teaching- Remember parents are teachers and teachers are parents, so we have a good understanding of what’s going on at home. Teachers who are online, teaching your child, recognize that you are not always around to help their child and that’s OK. Just like in the classroom, the teacher knows who needs more help and who can function independently so don’t worry if you can’t be with your child while they are online. The teacher will provide all the necessary support your child needs and if you have any questions or requests, just ask. We are super flexible and WANT to accommodate all of our students.
Teachers also are aware of the inequities in our system. Not every family has access to internet, devices, WIFI spots in the home, paper/pencils etc. Please let your school administration know what you need, and they WILL provide it for you. That’s their job, do not feel bad about it. Most schools are open right now and if you speak to them, you can pick up any supplies that your child would need. Most teachers will only require you to use what they know you have access to. For example, some students are working from a phone so teachers will only use programs that are compatible with a phone or provide alternate workspaces.
5. Breaks- Taking frequent breaks is vital for students to actually keep their attention when it is required. Your teacher might have them planned into the schedule or you can create them yourself (even mention it to the teacher). Keeping a water bottle next to your child will help them take their own “water break”, if they are feeling overwhelmed. Have them keep something to do next to them if they do need a break (e.g., colouring book, bouncy ball, stickers, puzzles etc.…).
6. Getting outside- The health benefits of fresh air and being outside, especially with your family, are tremendous. The conversations alone are precious and often rare throughout the busyness of the day. Try to take a walk, hit a trail, or bike ride for a lunch break. It will clear your mind and set you up for the afternoon. In my house, we all have different lunch times, so we go for a quick walk after the school day, before dinner, which we make together as a family (doesn’t always happen, but we try).
We are all in this together. If it helps, know that we are all juggling the same things at the same time right now. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your kids because it’s a new time for all. I strongly agree with listening to your child. If your child tells you they are tired or they can’t do this, BELIEVE them! They are using their words (or not) to tell you it’s too much.
Children can also develop and learn new skills at home, for example, cooking dinner using measurements, setting the table for counting, fixing the new desk they got for procedure, making a grocery list, or even a planned geometric shape scavenger hunt around the house.
Hope these tips are useful and help you navigate through the next little while of our ‘stay at home order’. One last thing is enjoy the time you have with your little ones or even your partners. Stay light!
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