Written By: Maya Simmons
As schools adjust to a new normal during the coronavirus pandemic, many children are expected to be learning from home rather than amongst classmates. However, “learning” doesn’t happen exclusively in academia. Childhood development requires learning in numerous areas, throughout their personal and social lives. Here are five different types of learning you can promote while quarantined with children in your household.
Homeschooling requires parents to take on the role of educator, in addition to being a caretaker. With kids working on their studies from home, parents will likely be fielding questions in all different kinds of subjects, and the pressure of balancing teacher duties on top of the normal workload is intimidating. However, many resources are available for parents seeking guidance to better aid their child’s academic learning.
For staying organized, I recommend reading this blog from Lucidchart, with interesting graphics and tips for homeschooling.
For educational assistance, I encourage you to utilize these quick links from Common Sense Media for helpful apps, guides to using different technologies, and educational entertainment for children.
For tutoring resources, explore Student Impact’s FREE tutoring events on Tuesdays, which focus on subjects including Chinese, Economics, English, Math, Spanish, Social Studies, and Music!
One of the most important aspects of in-school education is the social learning that children achieve through exposure to their peers. It’s important that parents help students stay connected with their friends while isolating for coronavirus. Parents can assist by setting aside time for kids to engage with peers while socially-distanced in any of the following ways:
- Video chatting (through platforms like FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom); check out this blog with virtual game ideas for younger kids, or this list of activities for older kids and adults to do over video chats!
- Online gaming; your child might already have a preferred gaming platform or system that they use to entertain themselves or connect with friends. If you choose to restrict your child’s gaming time, keep in mind that this may be limiting their contact with their peers, so help them think of alternative ways they could maintain these friendships.
- Social Media; many children already use social media accounts to keep in touch with their friends. Understand that these platforms (like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are not just used for entertainment or as a pastime. When safely monitored, they can be a healthy way for kids to stay in touch with their peers or stay updated about current events.
- Pen-pals; hand-written messages between friends or family members is another way of keeping in touch or building friendships without increasing your child’s screen time. For children who are looking to meet new people through their penmanship in this pandemic, Student Impact’s Pen Pal Program matches students of similar age and interests for snail-mail communications.
Homeschooling also presents a great opportunity for emotional development. These “unprecedented times” are stressful and scary for everyone who is trying to make sense of such drastic life changes. Take these challenges as an opportunity to learn more about how your child deals with stress and how to help them mitigate and cope with their emotions.
In this article by Rebecca Branstetter (a school psychologist), she recommends talking to your children about emotional break-downs or temper-tantrums before they happen. Ask your child to come up with a list of activities that they find calming and comforting; during a break-down, children can choose options from this list to de-stress. For example, playing with pre-made slime, blowing bubbles, cuddling with a family pet, or walking around outside might be good calm-down activities. Once your child is no longer overwhelmed by their emotions, you can have a helpful discussion about what negative feelings might be at the root of the break-down to help prevent them in the future and encourage introspection.
For older children, many of the emotions they’re experiencing may not be expressed so blatantly. This article by UNICEF explains that more open-ended, creative activities can allow children to explore emotions that they may not feel comfortable articulating directly to their parents. Here are some activities you could entertain your child with that may be an easier medium for them to express themselves:
- Journaling, or writing diary entries
- Vlogging, which is essentially a video-recorded diary entry that they may feel inclined to share with friends or on platforms like YouTube.
- Creating Art: drawing, painting, or other crafts may be harder to “interpret” because children’s art may be affected by their emotions either consciously or subconsciously. Talking to your child about the art they made is never a bad idea.
So many memes exist today about the difficulty of “adulting.” Once people start living on their own, they realize how many life skills they’re missing. Don’t wait until your kids are out of the house to start offering them advice. Talk to them while you’re at home together. Teach them about their health, about taking care of the house, about organizational and other management skills. Children are often eager to help (especially when boredom strikes), so let them. As kids get older, they crave independence, so help them become self-sufficient. This article has a great list of things you should teach your kids so they don’t have to figure out “adulting” all at once, but instead learn how to take care of themselves one day at a time.
With so much down time, quarantine is a good opportunity for kids to explore their interests. Take notice of what activities your child enjoys. What movies do they want to watch? How do they choose to pass time on their own? What interests do they share with their friends? What skills do you think your child is especially proficient at?
For younger kids, I would consider this to be “personal” development: learning more about themselves and their potential hobbies. Encouraging these activities can direct them towards clubs and friend groups where they can flourish in the future.
For older kids, this could be considered “professional” development. By the time they’re in high school, children are encouraged to find a career where they can pursue their passions, but this encouragement can be daunting for people who don’t feel “passionately” about an area of study (which is actually a majority of students). Encourage your kids to do things that make them feel energized and important. Group projects and community outreach programs are a good way to allow kids to delve deeper into topics that interest them and do work that they find fulfilling. For example, Student Impact has a Summer Community Leadership Program that enables students to work collaboratively on a project to benefit their community.
Learning isn’t just about helping kids to be better students. It’s also about teaching them to be better people—to be happy with themselves and live a fulfilling life with others. The support and attention they receive at home during this learning process could make all the difference.