The unthinkable happened over the past few weeks. The coronavirus shut down schools across the United States and other countries around the world. Although some are offering distance learning, it’s clear that these school shut-downs will have a profound effect on students’ education. Imagine this scenario…
It’s Day Five of school closure. The kids are finally asleep. Susan and Bob are sitting at the table discussing their concerns. This young couple has three children. Tracy is thirteen years old and in grade seven. Although she is good student, Tracy is an reluctant reader. Like so many teens, she can read, but prefers social media and rarely chooses to read books or magazines unless forced to do so.
Tom, their middle child, is nine-years-old and in fourth grade. A bundle of energy, he has a tough time focusing. Tom enjoys the social aspects of school, but academically he sometimes struggles, mostly due to difficulty reading. In the primary grades, he worked with a reading specialist on a regular basis and made good strides. Fourth grade has been a good year for him. Tom’s teacher provides excellent support, his confidence in reading and writing is growing and with support, he is finding books he enjoys. Susan and Bob are worried that he will lose ground during this crisis and are looking for ways to prevent that.
Jimmy, the baby of the family, exudes confidence and has enjoyed his first grade experience. His teacher reports that he is an average student, who meets the benchmark for reading. A typical first grader, Jimmy sometimes loses focus, but with his teacher’s insight and intervention, quickly gets back on track. Recognizing the essential learning that occurs in first grade, Susan and Bob wonder how they can pick the slack.
We are in uncharted waters, and no doubt parents around the world are worrying about how they can possibly support their kids academic growth during this time. Whether or not distance learning is available, parents now need to take a far more active role in their children’s education than ever before. Naturally, unless your a trained teacher, that feels overwhelming. Take a breath…I’ll try to offer a few gentle hints and easy activities that to get you going.
First…relax! No need to overdo it, no need to insist on hours a day of academics, no need to stress out yourselves or your kids. Everyone’s life has been upended. In my opinion, your most important job is to be the calming influence in your children’s lives and help them to look for the positives in this situation. You are the one that will set the stage for this unknown time period.
There’s one absolute that I’ve come to believe about working with kids–if you make it fun, they will buy into it. When my kids were young, they hated it when I put on my “teacher hat”, so I realize parents are in a tricky situation right now. You simply are not their teacher and they know it. Consequently, you have to sneak literacy activities into their daily routine. Here are a few ideas I would suggest to Susan and Bob. Hope they help you, too…
Jimmy is easy. How about writing sight words on index cards and spreading them around the floor? You can then throw him a ball. If he catches it, he can find a sight word he knows. A variation would be to set a timer. How many known sight words can he collect in 10 seconds. Then, review the ones that give him trouble.
How about a game of Homonym Bingo for Tom. Print out (or make) a blank Bingo sheet. Fill it in with pairs of of homonyms. Create a sentence for each homonym. Read the sentence and see if Tom can identify the correct homonym.
Tracy will be your challenge. Search out an interesting article. Maybe it’s a news article related to the coronavirus, maybe it deals with fashion or a celeb that she likes. Simply leave it on the table and tell her you read it and “thought of her”. See if she bites and reads it. If so, make sure you engage her in a casual conversation about it. Don’t give up! Try this once or twice a week to see if you can pique her interest in a bit of reading.
My heart really does go out to parents with school-age children. As the mother of five children who were close in age, having them all home under these circumstances would have been my worst nightmare. Of course, as a grandmother, I view this situation with a totally different perspective. I think of the quality time that families can have together if they accept the challenge and accent the positives. Our world has slowed down almost to a halt. Remember the days when you wished you could just breath and have a little more time with your family? Well, they are here! Hope you can keep positive thoughts at the forefront of your mind. You can do this.
The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship by Annie Fox: I don’t like to recommend books I’ve not read, but this caught my interest this morning when I read an interview with the illustrator. It seems like the kind of book that might just grab a teen girl’s attention (like Tracy). Looks like you can get if for free if you have Kindle unlimited. If not, check it out on Amazon.
For Adults: Greetings from Ventnor City by Jane Kelly: Again, I haven’t read the entire book, but I’ve known the author, Jane Kelly, since first grade. This light mystery draws us back to 1968, when a young girl goes missing from Ventnor, New Jersey. A good dose of wit, an interesting main character and a strong plot will transport you from the problems of the day and give you a few chuckles in the process.
Before signing off, I just want to encourage you to send your questions or suggest topics you would like me to address in this blog during this time of crisis. Stay well!