Will your kids be ready to go back to school post-pandemic?After many months of home schooling in self-isolation – and a spring and summer like none other in recent history – the next school year is rapidly approaching. With the exception of some children in Quebec (where schools technically re-opened in mid-May), children have been physically away from their school, teachers and their friends for months. This begs the questions from most parents: are my kids ready to go back? How can we prepare them for it?
Don’t wait until the last minute
“Don’t wait until August,” says Andrea Laurel, proprietor of Learn@Home Education Services. Most educators, including Laurel, are expecting an extended period of review when kids return to the classrooms in the fall, but she believes “in the power of being proactive. Learning can happen all year round, whether in school or not.”
Keep a schedule through it all
Laurel recommends a Monday to Friday routine be set up so children have a consistent plan for their day. Laurel says parents should create and maintain a weekday schedule of learning and relaxation sessions, either for each child individually, or as a family. Snacks and meals should be a part of this routine.
Create a designated place for each child to do their structured learning. Keep learning fun by creating games. Older kids can help create games for their younger siblings. Keep the length of learning sessions age appropriate. “Alternate learning sessions with physical and creative activities (music/art/drama/dance). This will help exercise both sides of their brains,” adds Laurel, the author of the book, The 5 Rs of Education.
Parents should pick topics that interest their child and that hold their attention. Also, find online resources instead of creating plans yourself. And most importantly, go easy on yourself. There’s no need to plan six hours of schoolwork every day.
Take a day trip – or just a drive
There’s a real possibility that this summer’s vacation plans, which kids and parents alike always look forward to, will somehow be scuttled. What to do?
Take the entire family on a day trip, with no particular destination in mind. It’s perfectly OK to play some learning games along the way. License plate BINGO is a fun game to play and always a hit. Prepare a card with a list of town and city names, plus other points of interest you might drive through. Have the kids put an X through each one when observed.
During the car ride, talk with your kids about the history or geography of key places on their lists. Stop the car at convenient intervals.
Don’t just stretch your minds; stretch your legs, too. And click a few photos.
During July, your teens might benefit from taking a day course in an area of interest, like computers or photography, chemistry or anthropology. The Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) offers a good variety of summer school credit programs at the high school level. For more details, visit: conted.ocsb.ca
Enjoy the time with your children – because this will be over before you know it
Building strong relationships is more important than ever, according to Dr. Elizabeth Paquette. “Spend quality time together, having fun. Listen to each other, ask them about their day,” says Paquette, the OCSB’s chief psychologist. “Show a genuine interest in (your kids’) interests. Help them set realistic goals, both academic and social.”
The grind of learning, especially when cooped up at home for months and months, can be mentally taxing on you and your kids.
When it comes to promoting positive mental health, children and youth need guidance, instruction and positive role models. “Modeling self-care, calm problem solving and nurturing relationships are all part of our role as parents,” says Paquette. “Children are like mirrors. They reflect what they see in their environment. Creating a positive, safe environment is one of the most important jobs a parent can do. Staying calm in the face of calamity will mean the door(s) between you and your children will remain open when they have a concern,” she says.
Brian Lamb, head of school at Joan of Arc Academy in Ottawa’s west end, says he and his private school were forced to adapt. As such, students at Joan of Arc Academy have continued to get their education all along online.
“It has been business as usual (through) this pandemic,” says Lamb. “The Monday after March break, we had a P.A. day where we met virtually and received some training from our tech expert. The next day we were up and running and following the students’ schedules in virtual classes.”
However, as most parents and teachers know, the majority of kids will need – and receive – a refresher come September.
Get ready for the 2020-21 school year:
1) Create and maintain a consistent routine for Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children need structure and consistency to feel safe and secure.
2) Balance physical activity with creative activity and pencil/paper activity.
3) Help your child feel safe and secure, by helping them to realize that in the big
picture of their life, this will only be a fraction of what they will experience. “This,
too, will pass.”
4) Social and emotional well-being and learning precedes intellectual/cognitive
learning. We learn facts and figures faster, more efficiently and permanently if we
feel calm and secure.
5) Parents: be gentle with yourselves. You may not have trained to be a teacher, but
you are and always will be your child’s first and best teacher.
6) Children learn as much, if not more, from our actions and behaviour than from our
spoken and written words.
7) Practice reflection and create resilience!
8) Seek assistance and guidance (and respite) from knowledgeable and caring others:
grandparents, neighbours, extended family members and community leaders.
SOURCE: Andrea Laurel, LEARN @ HOME (5RsOfEducation@gmail.com)