Making Back To School Special
This year back to school feels so strange for so many families. The comforting routines and rituals we normally repeat this time of year, from purchasing school supplies to meeting the new teachers to getting back to a schedule of earlier to bed and earlier to rise so that we can be bright and ready for learning are just not falling into place. That’s why it’s extra important for parents and caregivers to take some small steps to make the home learning environment interesting, yet distraction-free.
Setting Up Your Learning Space
It’s important that your child has a special place that they can be to focus on learning. While not every home will have an extra room, making a special corner or section that is just for school work will be so helpful for your child. Make sure they have a comfortable place to sit, and something to write on, like a table, if not a desk. Fill it with paper, pencils, crayons, glue, in tidy containers, so that they’re handy when appropriate, but not too distracting when other tasks are requested of the teacher or school. If you have a digital device, be sure to check it out yourself, and help your child get familiar with it if they haven’t used it before. Consider putting on some parental controls, if possible, for safe searches on the web, and for sleep time at night. Consider getting some noise-canceling headphones, or setting up a temporary curtain for more privacy if the child is old enough to be working independently (usually around 8 years old, but this may vary!).
Becoming Your Child’s Co-Teacher
Most importantly, parents and caregivers should accept and adopt the role of co-teacher in their child’s education. Many would argue that this should have always been the case! But now, more than ever, both your child and your child’s teachers and school need you to help by being a learning coach. While you don’t need to know math, science, or complex grammar, as that’s what the teachers are there for, you do need to help your child develop good work habits including following instructions, paying attention, asking questions, and following through with assignments. Teachers and schools are more than willing to help parents who are clearly working to help their children learn.
Be Kind and Give Support
One of the hardest things for parents to manage is getting the right balance between giving gentle but firm directions, giving no direction, or being too strict about directions. An example of a gentle but firm direction might be: “I expect you to get all your math assignments done by 4:00, and I know that you can do it. If you have trouble, come to me and I will help.” An example of too strict a direction might be “If you don’t get your math done by 4:00, you can’t have dessert or watch television for a week.” Part of why that often doesn’t work is because it’s hard to enforce, and then it’s kind of meaningless to the child. Finally, perhaps the worst approach is to not say anything about the homework at all, or just say, “Do whatever you want, I’m okay with it,” and not check up on the child’s progress. This is your time to shine and to take the right kind of charge of your family, and your children’s learning. Many parents are reporting that their relationships with their children and families are even stronger than before.
Use All Available Resources
Whatever school your child is in, you’re likely to have access to a lot of different online resources. Take advantage of all that your district or campus provides to you. But, don’t forget the old staples: coloring books, puzzles, games, balls, blankets, hats, costumes, and toys. Even a cardboard box can provide hours and hours of fun if you and your child use your imaginations together. To help you with this, BookSpring is launching Weekly Themes for ages 3-5 and 6-8, free open resources full of ideas of activities to do together, and actual full books that you can read together as a family. These themes have been developed with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for pre-kindergarten and grades K-3 in mind, but are designed primarily as home learning aids to help you and your child build and sustain a lifelong love of reading. Please check back with us weekly to see a new theme each week for the next full year! You can jump in with us and start at any time.
Take Time for Yourself
Finally, we all are feeling the stress and strain of these unprecedented times. You can’t be a good co-teacher or caregiver if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat as best you can, and exercise, even just a walk around the block. And reach out to others if you’re feeling overwhelmed. There are many local, state, and national organizations that are working hard to support you, our parents and families so that you can adapt, survive and thrive.
We know how hard it is to be a parent: Most of us at BookSpring are dealing with the same things you are! But together, we can make sure this unusual time is still a learning time, and most importantly, a loving time.
For more tips and resources for parents with kids age 3-5 or 6-8 be sure to tune in each week for a special at-home learning lesson complete with downloadable books and recommended activities.