Making the Best of School in the Time of COVID-19

By Heather Parrott, Newberg Counseling & Wellness

The first day of school looked different this year for most of the country. School districts had to figure out how to safely educate their students during this pandemic. There were many decisions to be made by school officials. Would online school be the best situation? How can we bring students back safely for in-person instruction? Is a hybrid of both of these the best option? What about state and local guidelines? How do we make it work?

Heather Parrott, Newberg Counseling & Wellness

For most of the state of Oregon, the solution for the fall is school online. This means that teachers creating lesson plans and parents are expected to guide their students through these lessons. Helping children with their homework is one thing—but expecting parents to teach the actual lesson to their children is another. Keeping up with the lessons can be even more challenging when one or both parents have to work.

I was able to homeschool my children, starting with my oldest who is now a freshman at the University of Oregon. Although traditional homeschooling is not the same as an online school or public school online because of a pandemic, I have learned a few tricks along the way that will help everyone.

Patience. Patience. Patience. The most important thing to remember during this time is that patience is key. Your children will have some pretty big emotions, such as frustration, anger, and sadness. Be prepared to help them navigate these feelings. Help them understand their feelings are real and help them figure out ways to work through them. Young children may have trouble expressing their feelings in words, so you might have to give them a break or redirect them to another activity. Be patient with yourself, as well. This is not an easy time for you, either. Make time for self-care, even if it is a cup of coffee on the front porch for five minutes while your children are doing work. If the emotions get too big for you or your children, reach out for professional help.

Set up the space. The first thing that should be done is setting up a dedicated space for your child(ren) to do their schoolwork. It should be a quiet space that is free from distractions. This doesn’t mean that they take over the kitchen or dining room table and leave the schoolwork set up 24/7. If the kitchen or dining room table is the best place for your child(ren) to do their work, tell them that is where they need to be when doing their schoolwork. If you are fortunate enough to have a space to set aside for school that doesn’t have to serve another purpose, that is great. Use whatever space you have available. Just make sure that is where schoolwork is always done.

Get your supplies ready. Make sure all of the supplies that are needed for school are in one place. Get a bin or box to keep books, pencils, pens, and anything else your child(ren) might need for school. If you have a safe place to keep the box you can add the Chromebook or laptop used for school. If not, find a safe place to keep it where it won’t get lost or damaged. Make sure to store the bin/box and Chromebook in the same place so your child(ren) knows where it is. Hunting for supplies every day wastes valuable time and doesn’t make anyone happy.

Schedules help everyone. Follow a schedule; not only for school hours but for the entire day. It is important to establish a schedule for waking up, eating meals, doing schoolwork, and going to bed. Don’t forget to schedule in some fun time and outside time!

Kids will be kids. Be sure to allow your children to be children. Schedule socially-distanced or virtual play dates with their friends. Create something special for your children as they do school at home. That could be special snacks that are only allowed during school hours or special supplies they can use to complete their assignments.

We all need help. Ask for help if you need it. Your child’s teacher is a good resource and should be able to help you help your child with the lessons. Reach out to other parents, too. Many of them are going through the same things you are! If you come across a subject you don’t feel comfortable tackling with your child, hire a tutor. The website has tutors available.

If teaching your child using the curriculum and resources provided by your school district and teacher isn’t going well, here are some other ideas to try to make sure your child gets their education.

Pod School. Some parents have set up Pod Schools, where a small group of similarly aged children get together and do their work together. Usually one or two parents do the facilitating of the learning. Social distancing, mask wearing, and other precautionary measures usually are in place.

Family Swap. Families are joining together to take turns facilitating the learning of their children. Two families with similarly aged children set up a schedule where one family has the children on certain days and the other family has them on other days. Each family should ensure that precautions are taken to keep everyone healthy.

Online School (Public or Charter). Some families have decided to leave the public school their children would attend for online public and charter schools. These online schools have been educating children for many years. They are specifically set up to teach online and have students submit their lessons online. There are many to choose from and each one is a little bit different. For example, some online schools have live classroom sessions via Zoom or another website that the student has to attend. Other online schools have a work-at-your-own-pace system where students read books, watch videos, and complete their assignments on their own time. Each online school has dedicated, licensed teachers to help keep students on track and progressing. Parents still play a big role by making sure their students get their work done.

Traditional Homeschooling. If you have decided that any kind of online school is not the best fit for your student, traditional homeschooling might be a good option. You get to choose your own curriculum and a Google search will show you just how many homeschooling curricula there are to choose from. Your students can have an education tailored just for them. The State of Oregon requires homeschooled students to be registered with their Educational Services District (ESD) and to be tested after grades 3, 5, 8, and 11. Homeschooled students are able to participate in extracurricular activities in their local school district if the school district allows.

This is a difficult time for everyone. Education is still a huge priority for our families. It is important that we help our children continue their education the best way we can during this time. Try different approaches to helping your child learn. Experiment with ways that will make their school day easier, for both of you. Be patient. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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