This won’t be the predictable school year families and kids typically look forward to, but it can still be safe and successful.
We spoke with OhioHealth pediatrician Patrick Gross, DO, about things parents can do to equip their kids for a year of academic achievements, whether it’s at home or in the classroom.
Above all else, do what’s right for your family
Know that there are no right or wrong choices about educating your kids this year. You know best what your family needs, whether that’s to send your kids back to school or keep them home for remote learning.
Tips for home schooling
Stick to a schedule
Create a schedule that works for your family. You might be working from home with multiple kids of different ages, and that can be a lot to juggle. Many schools will have set times for kids to be online, so be sure to understand what that looks like. Setting a schedule that includes time for schoolwork, meals, and getting your work done, too, will keep everyone happy. And don’t forget to carve out time for physical activity and mental breaks! Make sure your kids and you can get outside to enjoy playing or burn off some energy.
Get your technology in order
Make sure you have all the technology your kids will need for the school year, including computers, tablets, printers and calculators. There’s nothing more frustrating than dealing with technology deficits when it’s time to start your day. If members of your family will be sharing devices, you may also need to build assigned time into your schedule.
Maintain social interaction
There’s no doubt kids will miss the social aspects of the classroom, like building friendships and participating in team activities.
Your kids most likely will have daily video calls with their classmates, but you should still schedule social time with friends and family as well.
“People are still getting together or going to playgrounds.” says Gross. “I think you can do that safely with masking when appropriate, social distancing and hand-washing. You don’t have to stay home the whole time; you can get outside to play.”
Tips for in-person (classroom) schooling
Learn your school’s rules
Each school will have different policies to protect students and teachers from COVID-19. It’s important to understand what the administration and teachers are doing to help keep everyone safe. Take some time to read through the rules at your kids’ schools, and what they’re saying you can do to help. If you have questions, ask! This is new for everyone, and input from parents will likely be appreciated.
Get your masks ready
“You want to have a good stock of masks for your kids,” says Gross. “Aim for five or more, so you can clean them throughout the week and send fresh ones each day.” It’s a good idea to send back-up masks to school with your kids, too, just in case they get dirty.
You’ll also want to talk to your child about the importance of masks and wearing it the whole day. Gross recommends expressing that it’s a way they can help keep everyone healthy.
“You’re trying to prevent spreading the spread of COVID-19,” he says. “Wearing a mask helps protect vulnerable populations – that’s the point of it all.”
Keep hand sanitizer handy
Gross recommends sending hand sanitizer to school with your child.
“My family sends our children with hand sanitizer latched to their bags, so if they ever need to use it, they can,” he says. “The classes are very good about using hand sanitizer when they need to, especially before and after a very touchy project.”
Be sure to check with your school about their protocols for hand-washing and hand sanitizer. A lot of schools will be providing hand sanitizer in the classrooms and encouraging students to use it regularly throughout the day.
A final tip for everybody
Check in on your kids’ emotional health
It’s especially important now to keep an eye on your kids’ emotional health. Whether they are back in the classroom or learning at home, their world is different, and it may be hard to understand why.
“Usually parents are pretty in tune to that. They know when something’s up,” says Gross.
Signs of anxiety or depression in children include:
- Lack of joy
- Not being interested in usual activities
- Acting out
- Sleep disturbances
Gross also reminds parents that kids’ schedules are often different over the summer, so they may no longer be used to waking up or going to bed earlier. It’s good to start slowly acclimating them to their regular school-year routine.