Monday, October 18, 2021

Educating Children at Home While Sheltering in Place

By José V. González

There is no doubt that the current pandemic is causing stress, and dealing with the pressures of preserving one’s health, fluid emotions, unstable finances, and changing labor is impacting families a great deal. In addition, parents who have school age children have the added responsibility of providing academic support in the midst of having to work from home or having to find childcare with friends or family. Below you will find some ideas that may help alleviate some of the pressures and help your child continue their learning from home.

It is evident that technology has been the premier mode of learning for our children while sheltering in place.  Here are some concepts to consider as you get ready to use technology, followed by ideas for learning without the use of technology. If your child does not have an electronic device like a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you can reach out to your child’s principal or school district and request one. On the other hand, you can also purchase a cloud-based laptop or tablet at reasonable prices online or local stores. Once you have it, you will need to connect it to your home’s Wi-Fi or internet network. If you do not know how to connect your device to your home’s Wi-Fi, you can reach out to your network provider or your school district’s Information Technology support. On the other hand, if you do not have internet service at home, you may use your cell phone as a hotspot, however, this can become expensive as you will be using your data plan while connecting to your hotspot. Some neighborhoods have free Wi-Fi and you will have to explore that by checking your electronic device’s Wi-Fi indicator and join those that are unlocked but be cautious that you do not provide personal information, like credit cards, because those networks are not secure. If you are not sure about certain free networks, call the company that is providing it. Furthermore, you can also call and partake on the specials that some of the internet companies are currently offering.

Once your electronic device is ready to go, be sure to get guidance from your child’s teacher, principal or district office. Schools are providing distance learning instruction and that includes access to online programs paid by the school district that have been vetted to be safe for your child. I would be weary of programs that offer deals and are not recommended by your school or school district. In addition, if you would like guidance from official sources, visit the California Department of Education parent portal (by visiting here: www.cde.ca.gov/re/di/po/parents.asp) or the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) website (here: https://www.pta.org/). Furthermore, there are excellent sources free of charge that can help your child in mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. One of these websites is Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org/) or various educational channels on YouTube. In addition, many museums and zoos throughout the world offer virtual visits that you can take with your child and have amazing discussions. Last but not least, the San Jose Public Library system provides online resources and you and your child can access them here: https://www.sjpl.org/eresources.

What if the use of technology is not an option for you or you would like to enhance your child’s learning without technology? Depending on your personal home library, you can select some of those classical books you have around the house. Depending on your child’s reading level, you can have them read these classics.  Afterward, you can hold a discussion with your child about what they read or have them write a journal entry on what they think. If you do not know your child’s reading level, you can employ the Goldilocks Reading Strategy: have your child read a paragraph, if he or she reads it and understands it completely, the text is too easy; if your child reads it and does not know more than five words, consider the text too difficult; but if he or she has trouble with two or three words, the book is just right. If your home library is limited, you may think of using newspapers and keep in mind that they are written for a high school age child. You may also have religious books or a Bible around the house that you can use for critical thinking discussions. With any text that your child reads, make sure that you have a conversation to verify that comprehension is occurring. Furthermore, you can ask your child to write, journal, or create graphic novels (comic books) or any other creative writing, summary writing or reports. Just keep in mind that checking for grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax is for editing and should not limit your child’s writing. In other words, just let them write!

In order to address your child’s mathematical skills, you can provide opportunities for them to use addition, subtraction, division or multiplication in helping you solve some home economic problems. You can have them solve problems using real life skills like developing a budget and using it to buy food or paying bills. You can ask your child to work with you and help you measure ingredients as you cook or bake. This is also a great opportunity to teach your little ones about money, telling time, or taking the time to learn math facts. These are a limited number of ideas that should spark you to think of other ways to find math in day to day activities.

Creativity has no limits and you can have your child design, build, sew, cook, draw, etc. using home materials as long as they are safe and you or another adult supervises them. You can also do gardening if you have the space but you can also grow indoor plants or legumes that sprout in jars with water and soil to have your child understand the life cycle of a plant. You can have them create dioramas that represent something learned on television, magazine or a book. Keep in mind your public television channel and shows that teach about history, nature, animals, or science.

As you plan for your child’s learning, create a schedule that your child understands and has input in its creation. Provide incentives and focus on your child’s effort and not talent, creativity, or intelligence in order to develop a growth mindset. And just like you, your child wants to be recognized and celebrated. Have small celebrations and take this opportunity to bond and make history as we go through these unprecedented times together.