Of the many disruptions the pandemic has had in 2020, one of the most keenly-felt by both parents and their kids all over the world has been the closure of face-to-face learning in schools. When COVID-19 hit, it was graduation season, and many students were suddenly faced with graduating with an online ceremony. It wasn’t what they wanted, and many felt cheated out of an important milestone. ;
Come August and September, though, America will be facing another challenge—kids starting school. While the government waffles on how schools should reopen safely (or if schools should be open at all), many schools plan to continue offering distance learning.
According to Education Week, of the largest school districts in the U.S., nine out of 15 are developing programs based on remote classes. This kind of learning, though, does present challenges to the student. Here are some of them below, and what you as a parent can do to help.
A lack of Conducive Learning Environments
At home, kids may have trouble learning because of distractions. Or they could struggle with coming to accept their home environment as a place for learning when face-to-face learning had made that separation very clear.
Address this by picking one particular place to learn or study. If space allows, make these places exclusive for this purpose. This makes bedrooms non-ideal. There’s simply too many physical distractions (like the bed just a few feet away) that can make concentrating on work difficult. It should have all the equipment needed and be reasonably quiet. Consider tech solutions like the Krisp app—it eliminates background noise with A.I. during chats.
A big part of school during a child’s formative years is the socialization aspect. Even playschool features this prominently—as much as learning colors, songs, and skills like drawing are important, learning to play and interact with other kids is the real value.
Online, this suffers considerably, especially for younger kids. Interactions online are simply not the same as interacting with another kid physically. For the more social learners, this can become a source of frustration.
Schedule or encourage online playdates with other kids. Lean into the online aspect of their interactions by having them play online games together. Minecraft is always a big hit in my household, and the collaborative construction (or demolition) of virtual game worlds can also help kids learn to play together.
Even better, you can join in the fun. Programs like Tabletop Simulator let you and your kids play with each other and other friends and members of the family play a wide range of games by simulating a table and all the pieces you need for a huge variety of games, from simple board and card games to full-fledged role-playing games.
A lack of Motivation
It’s hard to reward someone during the pandemic. As mentioned above, graduates who didn’t get the chance to march—something which seems so simple—resulted in feeling lost or somehow cheated. Being tactile creatures, we need some kind of physical interaction as a form of validation—whether it’s a diploma and the feeling of wearing the robes, down to getting a congratulatory high-five.
As a result, many kids can feel demoralized or demotivated to do well in school.
Consider creating reward systems for different learning milestones. For children in primary school, it can be something like an extra hour of playtime for doing well on a test, or a small toy for bigger achievement. Older kids can find value in a military-style challenge coin to mark a major step, like graduation—there are challenge coin makers that can personalize a coin, from simple bronze pieces to serious heirloom-style coins made of precious or semi-precious metals.
Remember not to focus too much on grades. Reward achievements in learning by having your child demonstrate what they learned in school, or discuss something they’ve been reading.
Learning and working through this pandemic can be tough. But with indications that this isn’t going to be over anytime soon, it’s time we start thinking in the long-term about the changes we- both kids and parents- have to deal with. Help your child stay safe and continue to learn effectively. The most important thing is that you support them (and each other) through a very difficult time.