Treat the coronavirus stay-at-home more as a vacation than school...

Treat the coronavirus stay-at-home more as a vacation than school replacement. Credit: Getty Images / South_agency

The internet is overloaded with parental agony.

Parents trapped at home with elementary school children are trying to assist with an outpouring of digital learning assignments from teachers and grappling with filling up time while they work from home. After part of just one day, TV producer Shonda Rhimes tweeted, “Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.”

As a former teacher who worked with younger children, I know you can’t replace their teachers. Relax. Your kids will survive and will catch up on missed instruction when they go back to school. Treat the coronavirus stay-at-home more as a vacation than school replacement.

These are my suggestions for life and learning at home. You don’t have to fill every minute of every day. Kids are imaginative and they will think of things to do for long periods of time.

  • Have a schedule, but it should not be rigid. If your kids enjoy playing with blocks and it is 11 o’clock and the schedule says reading, just let them play.
  • Older children love to play teacher. Let the older teach the younger ones, but with one rule — no hitting or pinching, just as in school. Playing school and teacher can also help with the online lesson packages sent home by teachers. Older children may remember doing similar assignments when they were in the lower grades.
  • If your child is working alone and he or she becomes stymied or bored, a break may be in order. The assignment may be easier to do later.
  • Negotiate screen time, but severe limits might lead to fights. Let them pick the programs to watch, but with your guidance. Try musicals. The family can sing along to “The Sound of Music.” Your kids can then prepare and perform shows, for each other and even their parents. 
  • Do some baking. If you feel guilty about lost academic learning, remember that measurement is math, changing amounts proportionately is advanced math, and changes in state as a bread rises and then bakes is science. Recipes are reading and international recipes are social studies.
  • Set up a weather station in the backyard. Measure temperature, humidity, and wind speed and direction. Did some cloud formations precede weather changes? Children can video weather reports and send them out to friends and family online or post them online.
  • Take the kids to the park. It’s spring and science is blooming all around us. They can record observations by drawing pictures, taking photographs, or writing in a diary. What kinds of trees did they see? Can they chart the emergence of leaves? 

If you think of the next few weeks as a staycation, everyone will be happier.

Alan J. Singer is a professor of teaching, learning and technology and the director of the social studies education program at Hofstra University.

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