As the most controversial “back to school” season in recent memory approaches, you are probably inundated by strong opinions on the subject.
Parents are clearly desperate for their children to have a routine, rekindle in-person social connections, and to simply be OUT of their house.
Educators are desperate as well. They are desperate for districts to follow scientific, not political, guidelines. They want our schools to reach benchmarks of physical safety that were long overdue before our current health crisis (news flash, for those of you who haven’t been past the parking lot of a school in 20-plus years: overcrowded classrooms, non-functional windows, non-existent HVAC systems, and restrooms without hot water were issues in January – now they are potentially life-threatening issues).
And they hope families will recognize that there are two bad options on the menu right now: distance learning and restricted in-person learning are not ideal for any of us (but only one of the two will risk lives unnecessarily).
So take your quarantine superpower – you know, the thing that YOU did to “make it” through March and April, and make that the focus of your family’s at-home learning. Did you sew? Workout? Garden? Bulk order groceries for your elderly neighbors? Make sourdough?
Whatever it is that helps you manage, include your kids in it, and make it part of what at-home learning looks like in your family. I cope by cooking, so it occurred to me that if my teen could emerge from this period of his life being able to make a meal – or two, or five – from start to finish, that his life would be enriched.
So every Tuesday became Taco Tuesday – with homemade tortillas, and a variety of fillings. Very few of us remember specific lessons from any particular grade or class – what we take away from our education is what we can apply to our lives, and the habits of mind to make connections between ourselves and the world around us.
So if distance learning feels too “easy” for your kid, help them fill their days with practical life skills. Even if they weren’t packing their lunches before, get them started on making lunch for themselves – and whoever else is home. Be creative with their remote PE – can they increase their push-ups or sit-ups or steps every day?
And if distance learning feels difficult, as it often does for our younger son, then work with educators to swap activities to make a plan that works. Since March, our major focus for our non-verbal child, severely affected by autism, has been communication. We have molded every activity, every assignment and every therapy session to focus on this singular goal.
In the end, our youth will learn from us, not just those of us with educator titles, and not just between 8 am and 3 pm on weekdays. So put your best foot forward, and together we will get through this.