Stay-at-home orders, public gathering bans, and temporary institution closures in the name of protection against the COVID-19 pandemic means that many parents have taken on the dual role of schoolteacher.
But what’s the best way for adults to juggle their busy work-from-home schedules with the unfamiliar (and often forgotten!) territory of balancing recess and snack time with arithmetic worksheets, book reports, and science homework?
We turned to four UNLV College of Education experts for strategies and resources for establishing daily structure for academic tasks for children.
- Elizabeth Greer, Assistant Professor in Residence, English Language Learning
- Cori More, Assistant Professor, Special Education/Early Childhood Education
- Alain Bengochea, Assistant Professor, English Language Learning
- Micah Stohlmann, Associate Professor, Math Education
Here’s what they had to say:
Create structure in your family’s daily routine
Most children going to school are used to having some level of daily structure, and that sense of structure should continue if possible. Structure helps to keep kids on track by focusing their attention on each activity and reducing the constant questions of "what now?" For children with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well as children who experience anxiety, knowing what is coming next can help them work through the day. It’s important for each family to determine how they can create structure in their days in ways that will work for them based on the parents’ and children’s needs.
Schedules can be made daily based either on time (i.e. 9-10 a.m. math, 10-10:30 a.m. snack) or on tasks (Reading. Science. Recess.). Depending on your child’s level of independence, it could also be a list of ideas for your child to choose from or a daily checklist with activities that they check off as they complete (Complete daily journal entry. Clean up the toy room.). They should be visual and could be written on paper or on a whiteboard.
Some families might use a points system or allow opportunities for children to earn stars or stickers as they complete tasks. When creating the schedule, in addition to learning activities, be sure to include opportunities for fun, play, and rest as well as alone time and family time.
Here are some online resources for schedules or choice boards:
Extend patience and understanding to one another
Be gentle with one another. Heightened levels of emotions and stress are to be expected for both adults and children during the pandemic. Practice empathy as you work to create an environment that will be enjoyable and productive for all family members.
If you and your child need space from one another, be clear and assertive. Say: “I need space from you for 10 minutes. I trust that you can find something safe to do during that time.” Help them to express their needs as well. Practice sayings such as “I need some alone time right now” or “I’m feeling sad. Can I have a hug?” Being open about your emotions and your needs as a family will help you grow in your relationships and thrive during this time.
Talk with your child about coronavirus
You might begin by assessing what they have already heard or know about the coronavirus. Use age-appropriate terms to explain what the virus is, how it is affecting our daily lives, and what precautions we can take to keep ourselves and others from getting sick. Acknowledge their emotions (as well as your own!). Refer to these resources for more specific guidance on how to talk with your child about the virus:
- Conversing About Coronavirus: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Pandemic
- How to Talk to your Kids about Coronavirus
- How to Talk to Children about the Coronavirus
Learning Resources and Activities to Support Academic Progress
Encourage your child to read daily and to incorporate a variety of materials: fiction books, non-fiction books, magazines, online articles. When possible, make reading a family activity. Schedule a daily story time or start a family book club. You could also contact other parents to help create a virtual book club between children and their classmates.
Write every day! Encourage your child to write for different purposes and audiences. They could keep a daily journal documenting the experiences of each day. They also might have longer writing projects involving different genres (a creative story, a poem, a play, a report, etc.) that they work on each day. They can share with you their progress and you can provide feedback, edits or revisions. Once they have finished their piece, they can “publish” it on fancy paper using a fancy pen and then read it aloud to the family during an Author’s Night.
Help children find math in your daily life. Encourage counting, basic arithmetic, and measuring in daily activities such as cooking and cleaning. Teach them how to tell time and keep track of the weather each day. Play board games or strategy games, and model your thinking about how you are using math while playing.
Online learning resources
- Khan Academy
- Math - 3 Act Lessons
- Math Problems to Ponder
- Math Games using Dice
- Math Card Games
- Home Learning Packets
- Desmos - Middle and High School Math
- Math Activities for Middle and High Schoolers
- Scholastic Learn at Home
- ABC Mouse
- Top Educational YouTube Channels
- How to Homeschool during Coronavirus Crisis
Plan a long-term project that can provide some continuity each day. Your child can map out the different steps needed and add to it in pieces. Some ideas:
- Complete a large art project
- Make a scavenger hunt or obstacle course in your home or yard
- Create a family cookbook
- Stage a family photo shoot
Involve your child in everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning rather than doing them while they are playing. Use it as an opportunity for them to do or learn to do some tasks independently (i.e. setting the table, washing the fruits/vegetables). Embed new skills and learning in your everyday routine.
Include opportunities for fun as a family in your daily routine. These might be strategically placed after an academic activity, during a remote-working break, or at a time when all family members can participate. Some ideas:
- Dance party
- Meditation or yoga
- Write a letter to your family or friends
- Do a puzzle or play a board game
- Create a family video diary
- Connect with friends/family virtually
- Go for a family walk or bike ride (Just remember to keep six feet between you and others!)
Connect with your child in their free play. You don’t always have to play with them but you could have conversations with them where they share their ideas or report back from their play. If they ask for your attention and you cannot give it at the moment, you can video record the play and then watch the clips together later. (Suggestion from Maureen Nichol, Teachers College, Ph.D. Student)
Virtual Field trips
Take a family field trip virtually! Many museums, zoos, aquariums, and tourist attractions offer live web cams or virtual tours. See a list below: