Don’t miss these valuable expert tips for adapting to the new home environment for both learning and working.
Orange County families have probably heard “education starts at home.” Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this adage takes on new meaning.
Some parents are working from home while also taking the lead on their child’s education. Managing your workload while ensuring your child doesn’t fall behind can be stressful. Fortunately, there are many experts in Orange County with sound advice.
“Start from a place of empathy,” says Sarah Shawesh, CEO and founder of Orange County-based Building Resilience in Communities and Kids Consulting Group. “[Children] are just as confused and uncertain as we are.”
Another tip: Keep things positive.
“Creating a happy home environment is the most important goal to be achieved,” says Daniel Franklin, PhD, president and founder of Franklin Educational Services, Inc. in Newport Beach and
author of “Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities.” “Learning will happen, but children will remember how it felt to be at home more deeply than which concepts they were expected to learn.”
Loretta Donovan, PhD, and Tim Green, PhD, from Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Elementary and Bilingual Education, say parents shouldn’t feel too much pressure.
“The role of the parent of the at-home learner should not have changed drastically,” they say. “Schools in OC have shifted to at-home learning. Content and learning experiences are still developed by the teacher. The parent should not expect to have to ‘teach’ the child, but should view their role as a supporting one.”
So how can working parents support their new at-home learners?
“It is important to keep to a daily routine,” says Corinne Mosqueda, MA, a fifth-grade teacher at Richman Elementary School in Fullerton.
Get up and get ready, the same as you would for a normal school day.
“As nice as it is to stay in our PJs all day, it adds to the uncertainty, especially for young children,” Shawesh says.
Lead by example.
“The best way to keep working and support your student is to model appropriate at-home working,” says Donovan. “As the parent now working from home, you too must be organized, follow a schedule of sorts, and take breaks.”
It is important to have structure, but not necessarily a traditional school-day structure.
“As a parent, give the student the autonomy, within reason, to be in control of their own learning,” says Green.
One thing almost all parents struggle with is engagement. It can be hard to focus with snacks, toys and pets around.
“First and foremost, provide a learning space that is free from distractions,” says Mosqueda.
This is when some structure comes into play.
“There are so many distractions at home for us all,” says Shawesh. “Set realistic expectations about when and how things will get done.”
Rachel Fisher, MA, executive director at Franklin, recommends examining your priorities.
“Staying calm is most important — so what will help you stay calm?” Fisher says. “Is it time to get your own work done? Then maybe offer creative art projects or allow more fun screen time.”
Mosqueda says it’s important to take “brain breaks.” “This could be in the form of exercise, dancing, creating art or practicing mindfulness breathing techniques,” she says.
Giving children some decision-making abilities helps, too.
“When possible provide choices,” says Shawesh. “For example, if the expectation is that 9:30 am to 10:30 am is work time for the entire family, let the child choose what they are going to work on inside of that hour.”
Providing independence can be key, particularly for high school- and middle school-aged learners.
“My kids (high school freshman and eighth-grader), for example, connect with their friends on FaceTime to work on class assignments. They set up a schedule of when they are going to connect,” says Green.
And if you are working from home, this can help ensure you have time to get work done as well.
“At every age there is some autonomy that can be achieved,” Shawesh says. “We never want to leave young children unsupervised, but we want to provide them with time to work on their own.”
Encouraging reading is another great option.
“Independent reading with student-selected books is a quiet, yet powerful activity students can do while parents work,” Mosqueda says.
Overall, remember to be forgiving with your child and yourself.
Site director at Franklin in Newport Beach, Dominique Marinello says, “You do not need to become a great school teacher, you need to be who you already are — the best parent you can be.”
Here are a list of virtual resources to help at-home learners stay busy.
Libby by Overdrive: If you have an Orange County Public Library card, you can borrow e-books and digital audiobooks that can be streamed or downloaded straight to your device. | overdrive.com/apps/libby
EPIC!: This is a digital library for kids 12 and under. Typically this is a paid app, however, amid the impact of COVID-19 on schools, EPIC! is now offering free access for the rest of the school year. | getepic.com
Khan Academy: This website provides standards-based, grade-level specific videos and practice lessons that can assist you and your student with new math concepts. | khanacademy.org
Physical Education and Movement
GoNoodle: Create a free account for access to movement and mindfulness videos to help maintain physical wellness. | gonoodle.com
Learning a New Language
Duolingo: Create an account and choose from a list of languages, including Spanish, French, German and Japanese. | duolingo.com
— Sarah Mosqueda
Photo: Annie Spratt