Why Flexibility & Patience are Essential in the Time of At-Home Education
by Matter and Form
This is a struggle
With schools closed, many parents are struggling to find ways to keep children responsibly occupied. To help, we’re taking a break from our usual STEAM blog topics to discuss coping strategies in the time of at-home education. This is how parents at Matter and Form are managing and we hope it will help other parents as well.
Perspective is key
Most importantly, remember that a few months of truncated or significantly-altered education will not make a difference in a child’s overall intellectual development. Don’t panic!
Many school boards and teachers have already implemented excellent e-learning measures, but e-learning can’t replace the social classroom experience and it can’t keep kids occupied for six hours a day. Having a framework for kids to branch out and find other ways to stimulate their minds will help both parents and kids manage.
A simple daily schedule can really help
The biggest benefit of having a simple daily schedule is that it provides an easy, predictable answer to the question “what should I do now?”.
Rather than say to the child “today is Wednesday so you have to do your math”, instead ask “what do you have on your schedule today?” Giving kids the power to tell the parent what’s happening that day means they’ll be much more willing to follow-through.
Don’t be overly rigorous about enforcement! Do your best, forgive imperfection, and praise kids when they stick to the plan.
It’s important to involve kids in the schedule-making process. Ask them what they’d like to focus their time on and take their suggestions seriously. This collaboration can lead to a dynamic schedule that both parents and children will feel that they own and believe in.
Great activities to include in the daily schedule
Read, Read, Read
Reading is both an escape and a vital intellectual exercise. It’s an introduction to worlds of ideas about things that matter: human relationships, how societies function, different cultures and perspectives, information on fascinating subjects outside our everyday experience. Whether it’s textbooks, fiction, non-fiction or graphic novels, children (and parents!) should take advantage of reading every day.
Do enough math so they don’t forget what they’ve learned. If e-learning is a viable option, great! In some cases, school boards have committed to providing students with 5 to 12 hours of work per week in various subject areas, depending on their age. If structured e-learning isn’t an option, the Khan Academy and other online resources can stand-in very effectively. Another option is to pull out older homework and re-do the exercises.
Daily household chores
Taking out the garbage, vacuuming the floors, decluttering, surface cleaning, putting toys and books away, etc. — these are tasks that kids can own and take pride in. Learning to prioritize household chores can lead to a stronger sense of personal responsibility, work ethic and time management.
Practice a new skill
This is definitely a broad one, and it’s something that parents can defer to their kids on depending on their age. Whether it’s a new language, coding, juggling, sewing, cooking or anything else, devoting some time to a new skill can help boost morale and pass time productively.
It’s essential for everyone to get out and get moving in some capacity, as long as they are doing so responsibly. Pay close attention to the advice of government officials and health professionals regarding going outdoors. If you have a backyard or a driveway, great! Confined inside? Stretching, strength training or aerobic exercises all work well. Whatever the case, make time for some physical activity every day.
Regardless of skill level or interest, kids should have time to tap into their creative side. These activities can be active (making music, drawing, painting, writing, play dough, lego, 3D design) or passive (listening to music, watching drawing tutorials on YouTube), just as long as they are exposed to art in some way. This is a great opportunity for kids to explore and discover what their interests and passions are.
Connecting with friends and family is essential for all of us. Making time for kids to talk to their friends through video chat is a great way for them to let off steam, distract themselves and continue to build social relationships. Playing a board game or watching a movie as a family are great activities that parents and children can look forward to during the week.
Parents should be realistic: there are going to be periods where kids aren’t going to be able to focus. They will want to play with toys, take time to themselves, watch TV, play video games, etc. As long as these activities don’t occupy the vast majority of every day, parents should allow their kids the flexibility to do what makes them feel good.
The schedule is there to be a helpful guide, not to add more stress. Missed a math exercise? Watched a TV show for too long? Forgive and forget about these day-to-day lapses. Remember these principles: Are they sleeping enough? Are they eating healthily? Are they mostly keeping a reasonable structure each day? Are they intellectually stimulated? Is this helping you, the parent, cope?
Consider these sorts of questions and have honest discussions as the weeks go by. Every day will not be a success, but if these principles are remembered the overall situation will be as positive as possible.
Go easy on yourself and your kids. This will pass.
It’s not worth getting worked up about how children spend every waking moment and no schedule or plan needs to be perfect. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Right now, many of us are only on level 2 – “Safety”. If you’re with your family then hopefully you’re at least in level 3 but of course, kids are missing their friends. Our hope is that this simple schedule will help you and your kids hit levels 4 and 5.
Do your best and above all, be kind; maintaining focus is just as hard for kids right now as it is for adults. Fear is prevalent and coming down on a kid for watching too much TV instead of working on math homework isn’t going to make anyone feel better. Instead of working against them, it’s important to work with kids to make their time at home as stimulating and productive as possible.
We can all worry about competition, passing grades, STEAM education, university and careers later; none of that has gone away. For now, let kids dream a little, read a little and relax a little in the midst of this significant life adjustment.
Teachers are amazing
If nothing else, this situation has shone a bright and powerful light on how difficult and important is the work teachers do. At Matter and Form we are privileged to frequently speak with teachers, principals, superintendents, and other educators and we know their work is vital, and that they do it with passion and a mission to help children have good lives.
Teachers literally shape the future of the world, and hopefully, when this is all over and things are back to normal, we will see a renewed and vigorous support for educators, education funding and educational resources throughout the world.
Looking for educational resources? Check out our STEAM education website.
We are dedicated to the value of STEAM learning and frequently share thoughts on our blog. Check it out!