This will be not a typical school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents may have many questions. Will my child be attending school in person? Only some days? Every day? What can I do to help my child succeed this year?
So, what can parents do to help their child do the best they can academically this year?
Maple Grove Sylvan Learning, a locally-owned K-12 supplemental and enrichment education center, has some tips and options help parents through this unique time for learning.
“Parents can help students this school year by providing opportunities for children to have some semblance of routine that a traditional school day typically provides,” said Jake Engstrand, area director for Sylvan Learning in Minnesota.
Itt may be difficult to replicate a school environment at home, but parents can set students up for success by finding quiet, dedicated spaces for academic work to be completed, and also encouraging students to make a plan each day for completing their school obligations. “Personalize this dedicated space to fit the needs of your individual child, and allow them to be a part of this process as well to help increase their buy in,” he added.
Many area school districts will be starting the school year in a hybrid learning format. There are ways to help a child succeed during this format.
“Sylvan Learning has launched a school support program to help ease this burden on families,” Engstrand said. He said Sylvan offers parents a safe and academically focused environment for children to come to complete their assignments for just a few hours a week, or a full day childcare option while parents work. The academic coaches will help students navigate their assignments, make daily plans to complete at home school components, and remove this stress from the home.
Districts also allowed parents to have the option to choose all distance learning. Engstrand said that change can be difficult for many children, meaning the fall could bring additional stress and anxiety while they learn a new remote learning option.
“Seeking opportunities to allow for your child to ask questions, explore this new mode of instruction, and find ways to make this new path an engaging one will be key,” he said. “Keep in mind your child’s attention span and what is developmentally appropriate, and allow for movement and brain breaks accordingly.”
He said that whenever possible, incorporate opportunities for a child to write, read, exercise, converse with children their own age and have recreation time. A balanced school day is much more than pure academics, and by finding avenues to nurture the development of the child as a whole, the remote education experience will be better received and increase the positive impact on the child’s development, according to Engstrand.
The decision by parents to choose between the different types of learning can be a tough to make. “This decision is incredibly personal to each family, and while it’s an important decision,” he said. “It’s also one that doesn’t have a right answer that can be applied to all families. Some things to consider as you make this decision for your child and your family are: Does my child have the level of independence to choose an online only option? What does my child want to choose and why? Does my child typically receive any additional services or pullouts within the school and how will that look should I choose online only? How will the choice affect my child’s social and emotional well being this school year? Are there adults in my child’s life who can help motivate, encourage, and support during the school day?”
Sylvan also offers some solutions with how to help manage learning at home:
• The time factor — If there is a parent who is working at the same time that their child is expected to be doing schoolwork, it’s hard to juggle expectations, especially with multiple children and not enough devices. Solution: Mark off times on the work day calendar to include a 1/2 hour in morning, hour at lunch, and 1/2 hour at the end of day to make a daily schedule to ensure it gets done.
• Lack of access to devices — In some economic groups, there are problems with access to devices and reliable internet. Solution: Check with the school district to make sure that worksheets mailed, and some are also distributing devices.
• Missing information: The schools are overwhelmed right now and trying to navigate this just as well as parents are. Solution: Join Facebook parent groups and speak with trusted neighbors. It’s not unlikely that someone else may have the same concerns and also may have the school’s answer.
For more information, contact one of the following nearby Sylvan Learning locations — Coon Rapids (763-712-1118, CoonRapids.MN@sylvanlearning.com), Maple Grove (763-494-9676, MapleGrove.MN@sylvanlearning.com) and Saint Cloud (320-345-7150, Jenny.Billstrom@sylvanlearning.com).