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Dear Dr. Cherrye,
In the era of COVID-19, virtual learning and home schooling has brought about many anxieties. The 2019-2020 school year ended with the virus, and the 2020-2021 school year has begun with the virus. Parents are stressed and are looking for tips. What advice can you give, Dr. Vasquez? Help, please!
Dr. Vasquez loves helping parents think through troubling times, so I’ll do my best. Before I get started, I do want to say that perhaps online learning/home schooling will give families the break needed from school bullying. We’ll see.
It is expected that parents are feeling lots of anxiety these days. Some parents work and have to leave their children at home alone, or with grandparents to manage their children’s learning. Other parents may be fortunate enough to be at home with their children, but have limited knowledge of curricula and what teachers are expecting of their children. And, the stressors of technology IS the ‘bigger elephant in the room.’
Knowing these things, parents need helpful ideas of how to make the environment well-rounded for all involved. Parents can start off by assuring their children that virtual learning is just a phase they’re currently in. One day, and hopefully within the near future, there will be a vaccine to help subside COVID-19. Everything will go back to our old ways of doing things once again, and they’ll be back at their schools, and hopefully appreciating being there.
It is a great idea to explain to children what COVID-19 is, and how it could invade their bodies in uncomfortable ways if we don’t take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves. This way, children can help alleviate their own anxieties determining what’s best for their lives. Parents can do this in the simplest, less complicated ways as they choose age-appropriate vocabulary their children can understand.
So, whenever you learn that health experts will discuss the virus, pop a bag of popcorn and plan on your children sitting with you to watch COVID news. Afterward, discuss what the doctors have said. Students usually feel anxiety when they see their parents anxious, so be sure to exert a calming spirit.
Children are usually resilient and bounce back from setbacks much better than adults, but whenever you notice your child feeling anxious about online learning, it’s a good idea to intervene quickly. Acknowledge your child’s mood(s). Talk to them about it. Ask them what’s going on. Observe them during online class time to see if you can pick-up on anything that’s different, or odd. Keep records in your head so that you can be as helpful as you can.
Remember to periodically review virtual learning rules with your children. This will help ward off anxieties.
Believe it or not, teachers also experience anxieties. Teachers are human too, and virtual teaching is new for them as well. Teachers have had to go through many professional developments learning how to navigate systems (Microsoft TEAMS, Zoom) and more programs/tools in order to make teaching more seamless. Teachers have to plan ahead for virtual learning. Some create PowerPoint presentations, and scrounge around for items to share with students online. Keep in mind that such things like Science experiments may look differently on line than they did in previous years.
Many teachers are teaching from home. This means they’ve had to rearrange their homes finding quiet places to set up virtual classrooms. Some have families, children (who are also virtual learners in the same home environments – imagine that), pets and spouses. Their Living rooms and Dining tables have now become places to teach, grade papers and create activities. Please be mindful of these ideas, and be kind to your teachers.
Be sure your child has a designated learning space, and it is set-up to look school-like (if possible). The child should be free from home distractions during learning periods. Your child should have a desk, school supplies, and a quiet learning space. You may want to think about putting a map, globe, magnetic board, or academic style carpet piece in your child’s learning area.
Attend parental online meetings with the teacher
Obtain reliable internet service
Obtain reliable electronics (desk top computer, laptop, tablet, I-pad)
– Ask the school district to assist with electronics if your child does not have one
– Ask the school district if they have a safe area at school, or a designated location such as a Digital Learning Center if you have to work and your child needs virtual school monitoring
Establish rules such as:
- -schedules (breaks, lunch, ancillary)
- -review established teacher virtual rules with your child
Keep a working relationship with your child’s teacher/administrator
Establish a quiet space for your child to learn
Have your child get dressed for learning
Ensure that your child has learning tools (pencil, paper)
Divide your child’s notebook into sections for each subject
Ask your children to sit still as much as they can
Allow your children to have a bottled water at their work area
Ensure that your child’s work space is comfortable, but the bedroom isn’t ideal UNLESS they have a work desk
Review with your child how to mute/unmute microphones
Tell your child to keep their cameras on. The teacher has to check for participation and understanding
Ensure that your child turns in his/her homework as required
Encourage your children to take their restroom/water breaks at the scheduled times.
No eating in the work area
No pajamas during online learning
No toys in the work area
No blankets in the work area
Don’t turn cameras off
No swiveling in chairs, please
No rocking chairs in the work area please
No using beds as the chair, please
Don’t give your child all the answers in a lesson. Teachers can see your child’s expression as they turn to look at you. Teachers realize that you’re giving your child the answers. It’s your child’s time to shine
Allow two students in the same work area. When it’s your child’s turn to unmute his/her microphone, the other teacher can be heard and it’s distracting to students, his/her peers and teacher
Allow small siblings in the room with your learner. If a small child cries, it drowns out the learning/teaching
Don’t ask your child to learn from the kitchen while you’re cooking. When it’s your child’s time to unmute his/her microphone his/her peers and teachers can hear pots and pans tingling.
Don’t ask the child to sit or do fun things at his school/work location on weekends.
Books are always a great way to share stories as children learn, and it’s always a great idea to keep home libraries fresh and updated. I’ve added a new book to my repertoire, and it’s titled: BYRDIE IS BIG ENOUGH! During these times, we have to teach our children how to continue having big thoughts and minds. We have to help them affirm their greatness and need to live strong, healthy lives. I want to invite you to take a look at my storybooks, writing journals and preteen books.
MAKING LEARNING AT HOME FUN
Sitting at the computer and in the same chair for minutes at a time can be very difficult for children, so parents and teachers will be charged with creating out-of-the box, clever ways to make learning upbeat and fun.
Just like in-person school, teachers can have students act our scenes from a story book. Seniors can create safe home Science projects.
After online school/home schooling, give your children a reason to look forward to going outside for fresh air. They’ll need the vitamin D and exercise anyway.
On weekends, find and plan fun activities for your child to participate in. Remember, Ancillary classes such as P.E., Art and Computers are all online, so try to avoid screen time.
Find ways to reward your child for completing his/her assignments, and remaining attentive online. Go to a museum or park. Drive-in movies are coming back and are very popular these days. Yes, virtual learning/home school has taken us to new ways of doing these, but we can also find ways to rejoice and share positives.
Please send me positive stories about your child’s virtual learning/home schooling experiences. I’m happy to add them to my website’s KUDOS page. Photos are completely optional, but encouraged.
I’ve made it my mission to assist parents in resolving the bullying issues their children are suffering. Offering your feedback and suggestions in the comment section could facilitate meaningful dialog on this critical issue among ourselves and I encourage this. I will respond to each comment in a timely way. Should you wish to speak privately with me, please email be at CherryeVasquez@gmail.com, and I will reply promptly.
Use my free resources, Self-Identity Worksheet: Sharing My Goals & Positive Attributes and The Bully Band: Parents in Rhythm as tools to help you help your child with bullying, and to help build your child’s self-esteem.