Liz: COVID-19 has changed our lives, the way we work, and the way we learn. It gave us no time to easily transition into it—it all happened at once, giving everyone so much to deal with emotionally, physically, and financially. One of the big topics now is educating kids at home, and while we can find humor in a lot of the situations, parents truly have a lot of questions as what to do. On today’s episode of Life Well Learned, we’re going to answer all those questions and make you feel better about your new situation.
*Life Well Learned Intro*
Liz: This episode is going to be an interesting one, and hopefully by the end, you’ll feel better about your situation because, let’s face it, your situation has changed—everyone has changed, we’re now working and living and learning all under one roof, and that’s hard to navigate, but throughout this episode we are going to give you the tools that are going to help you make your way through these truly unprecedented times. So, let’s start where we always start, and that’s at the beginning with our expert.
Faunce: Hi, this is Doctor Jeff Faunce, I am an associate professor of education at Medaille College.
Liz: Doctor Faunce is also a former teacher and building principal, so he has a really good 360 view on how to handle all aspects of educating a child. So, we’re going to start where we always start, the beginning, and the first question that a lot of parents have is “where do I start?”
Faunce: Two things keep coming back to me, and the first one is routines, and the second one is schedules. I think parents would be surprised if they don’t already know, especially in elementary schools, at the routines that kids have when they come in the building. You know, they put the red folder here, they move this clothespin here, they tap their heels three times, you know all this kind of stuff, so I think routines would be really good and I think schedules will be important too. You know, talk to the kids and kind of establish this is when we’re going to do some school-type stuff. I think those two things would really be helpful.
Liz: So, if your kids haven’t already told you that you’re doing things out of order, it might be a good idea to ask them what they normally do at school. Maybe you do the pledge of allegiance every morning and then talk about what day it is and what the weather is like–follow their morning routine, it may help, and when it comes to a daily schedule
Faunce: Talk to the kids and establish, you know everything is age level appropriate, but these are the times when we’re going to do school. I would even go to the point where as silly as when snack time is going to be so the kids aren’t grazing all day and maybe even pack a lunch for the kids and have everybody eat lunch together. Let’s say we’re going to work on school stuff from 10 a.m. to like 11:30 or something like that and kind of keep that as part of the routine–same thing as screen time and all that kind of thing. It doesn’t have to be formal school, but I think that’s a good place to begin, is to establish some morays that you’re going to go back to on a daily or every other daily basis.
Liz: Think a little beyond just schoolwork when it comes to routine, it’s important to get up and take a shower and change, and maybe not come to school everyday straight out of bed. It’s the little things like that that can help set up for a successful day. We’ve established some routines and schedules for the kids, but Doctor Faunce talks about how it’s important to be flexible because this is a new situation for everybody, but what exactly should the parent’s expectations be going into this day to day.
Faunce: I don’t think they should expect to recreate the whole school day at home at the kitchen table, but I think they should expect, or try, to have some kind of learning going on or engaging the brain every day or every Monday through Friday or something like that.
Liz: It’s important to remember you’re not a teacher and that your house is not a school.
Faunce: Parents need to take some of the pressure off themselves and understand that if they’re doing activities with their kids, that’s engaging their minds, that’s teaching them learning so it doesn’t have to be traditional worksheets—it could, there’s all kinds of resources for parents of worksheets and videos, but it doesn’t have to be that classic of what we have in our head of what school looks like. It can be anything, it can be cooking together to work on math and fractions, it can be planning a dinner to work on nutrition, so it doesn’t have to look like “traditional school.”
Liz: So as parents work with the kids to try to figure out what their structured day is going to look like, how do they know if they are successful? What should they consider a win?
Faunce: I’d consider a win any kind of brain engaging activity, any kind of reading, you know you were talking about routines before if I can circle back, so I don’t know if people who don’t spend time in elementary schools realize this, but in the younger grades, in a lot of classes, the first thing they do is called circle time or calendar. It can drive you crazy as an adult but it’s as simple as “what day is today?” “today’s Friday,” “what day was yesterday?” “yesterday was Thursday,” “what day is tomorrow?” “tomorrow is Saturday,” “what’s today’s date?” that kind of stuff. So, that would be a win in the sense that it would be a routine, but that’s also sequencing, that’s also learning the days of the week, learning to count, all those things, so I think something like that would be considered a win even though it may not feel like I just learned some great new theorem. Just something like that to engage the brain I think would be considered a good thing, and a family could feel good about it.
Liz: So, routine and flexible scheduling, that’s important when educating your child at home, but don’t overthink it—it can be something as simple as circle time, as Doctor Faunce said, but when it comes down to it, what are the most important skills that a parent should be focusing on?
Faunce: Everything in education right now is based on literacy K-12, so any kind of reading and writing skills. You know, I’ve been thinking about this kind of a lot since we started talking about this and you know obviously younger kids—ABC’s, and sounding out words and stuff like that, but even something like creative writing, you can tell the kids are older in like fourth grade “hey we’re gonna write a book, and every day we’re going to write a couple pages, and that’s that literacy piece that’s continuing. I think basic math skills, you know the company line is “they don’t teach basic math skills anymore,” that’s not true, and so reviewing your basic grade appropriate math skills is a great idea, you know you can make flash cards out of index cards like I used to do, but there’s also a lot of great online study sites for kids of all ages where you could do multiplication tables and things like that, so I think those two would be the most important.
Liz: A lot of teachers have made sure that they put packets together with worksheets and all of that, that can be hard though for parents to stay on top of so Doctor Faunce is talking about the important skills to focus on if you’re trying to win a battle, but it’s not just school work that you should focus on, there are other aspects of your kid’s day to day life.
Faunce: I think it’s important to talk to the kids and let them talk about, draw, write, whatever they’re feeling, because it’s got to be disconcerting for them to be out of their routine, to not see their friends. When kids are young, for the most part—I’m in elementary schools all the time—they just adore their teachers, you know they hug them, the whole thing, and to not be able to see their teachers, it has to be rough and for that routine to be broken so recognize that and talk to them about it and it might help.
Liz: Doctor Faunce brings up a great point there’s a reason that all this is happening at home, it’s what’s going on in the current environment. How do you approach that with your kids?
Faunce: What the danger is in a critical situation like this, because we’re all in shock, we’re all confused, we’re all angry, anxious, whatever it is, that we forget that the students are feeling the same way. My suggestion is, the first thing would be to talk to the kids, you know “what do you think about this?” Don’t sit down with a six-year-old and ask them how they feel, so do something play Legos, do drawings and as you’re doing that, ask them how they feel and then I think it’s okay for parents to say “this is feels weird, I think this is strange and I’m not sure what to do,” and to try and recognize that everybody is in that situation where they’re just unsure and not feeling well, I hope that would help.
Liz: This also might help you understand why maybe your kid doesn’t want to learn from you, doesn’t want to do schoolwork, really doesn’t want to do anything that you want them to do. It’s actually one of the signs to look for that they might need a little more emotional support.
Faunce: Acting out, or however you want to define it, seems is mostly a symptom that something is going on with the kid. I think being in touch with them and talking with them is important if parents are feeling like their kids are extra stressed or have extra anxiety, I would start with talking with them but also consult your pediatrician because they may have some online stuff that’s available, I think there’s lots of good resources about at kids level, what do you do when you’re sad, what do you do when you’re anxious, what do you do when you’re scared, those kind of things and I think that we need to do that. I think not pushing your kid past when they’re appearing to be agitated. There’s a fine line between sometimes you gotta do what you don’t want to do, but using your Spidey-Sense to know when it’s more them and talking with them and giving them a break I think sharing our feelings as adults may help coming alongside using our empathy words like “jeez I know what that feels like, I feel kind of the same way,” or “yeah that would scare me too,” or starting a conversation with “boy you know I really wish I could be back at work, how about you?” You know, trying to empathize and come alongside.
11:26 (transcription still in process)