The following is a column submitted by Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools Michelle Hutchins, published here as a letter-to-the-editor:
MENDOCINO Co., 4/22/20 — In the wake of Covid-19, many teachers are balancing the need to care for their own children while keeping their students engaged in academics, and parents who are asked to telecommute are juggling their children’s needs with their family’s economic realities. Students, meanwhile, are trying to adjust to a new landscape full of uncertainty.
This kind of disruption to our daily routines is rare, and many of us have understandably responded by complaining about all the unwelcome restrictions and limitations. But what if we concentrated on the opportunity, instead? What if we stopped focusing on the things we cannot control and started focusing on how to do things differently? I know this isn’t easy, but I certainly think it’s worthwhile. Although it’s far better for most students to be in a classroom with their peers, there’s a lot they can learn and experience during distance learning.
To help parents inspire, entertain, and engage their children in learning, my colleagues and I at the Mendocino County Office of Education (MCOE) have hand-picked educational resources to meet the needs of children of all ages and capacities who live in all sorts of family situations. We’ve intentionally chosen resources that support the coursework students have already received from school, not to replace it.
When students experience hard times, they can often feel better by working through unfamiliar feelings by expressing themselves and by exploring their own voice in the world, be that through journaling, art, music, poetry, or other means. And having a little extra time on their hands can afford the opportunity to extend their formal learning with new and interesting skills.
On our MCOE website, we’ve uploaded links to fun, engaging activities that cover a range of educational topics: preschool, English language arts, history/social science, mathematics, science, social-emotional learning, games, physical education, and other resource links. Although you’ll need internet access to view the resources, not all the activities require connectivity. View the resources by visiting www.mcoe.us/coronavirus-information-for-schools-and-families.
In addition to the activities on our website, here are some tips to manage the educational and emotional challenges of home study during times like these.
Keep Routines in Place & Create a Daily Plan
One of the best ways to reduce children’s stress is to maintain familiar routines. Create consistent wake-up, mealtime, and bedtime routines. Then start each morning by sharing the day’s plan, so children know what to expect.
Create a schedule that incorporates both work and relaxation time in accordance with your child’s developmental age and stage, including academics, non-screen creative time, exercise, snacks/meals, outdoor time, chores, free time, and more.
Include Exercise in the Mix
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to MOVE. Get kids up and active. Walk around the block or race them to a visible landmark. Do an indoor scavenger hunt if the weather is poor. It’s hard to overstate the importance of exercise during a time like this.
Try New Things or Go Back to Old Favorites
Being at home together allows you to try new things and go back to old favorites. Bake cookies together. Do puzzles. Play board games or cards. Find the Legos. For ideas, visit www.mcoe.us and scroll to the bottom of the page under RESOURCES FOR SCHOOLS, FAMILIES AND THE COMMUNITY and click on Chatter Pack: A list of free, online boredom-busting resources.
Connect with Friends and Family
This is also a great time to connect with friends and extended family. Schedule a time for children to talk to their grandparents or an elderly neighbor about the best thing that happened to them that day or what they’re looking forward to tomorrow. Have them write a letter.
Manage Your Own Anxiety
How we manage our own anxiety has a big impact on our children. Children take their cues from us, and they are perceptive enough to notice body language and other non-verbal communication. Depending on the age and needs of your children, keep your adult concerns private and appropriately monitor or limit your children’s access to newscasts and social media. If you’re upset, take a break. It’s best to tell your children the truth, but not to overshare.
Accentuate the Positive & Be Patient and Kind
During difficult times, the human capacity for kindness and compassion is often on display in extraordinary ways. Share examples with your children when you see them, and brainstorm with them about ways they can be helpful and kind.
Remember, most folks are doing the best they can under difficult conditions. Try to be patient with yourself, your children, your partner, your colleagues, and your children’s teachers. Practicing gratitude and helping your children practice gratitude is a great way to reduce stress and bring joy into your life. Whether we like it or not, our actions serve as a model for our children. Let’s model the behavior we want them to use.
At the end of it all, we’re in this together. Let’s support one another.