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HomeFamilyParenting AdviceLosses in Learning are Relative—Good Parenting

Losses in Learning are Relative—Good Parenting

Dr. Debbie

My children will continue learning from home for at least the rest of this school year. It’s just not worth the risk to expose them to invisible coronavirus germs. My question concerns the “losses” of content and skills due to online schooling.

Between adapting to a whole new way of “going” to school and daily connectivity glitches, I wonder how much catching up they’ll have to do when they finally do get back into classrooms.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Dear BSTS,

Students and teachers have indeed struggled this past year to carry on despite a global health crisis and all the effects this has had on local communities and individual families. With all the uncertainties, adjustments, and losses, the rocky road of education was just part of the big picture.

Learning Never Stops

Many families adapted to at-home learning by creating spaces and schedules to help children make the most of this new way of doing school. Teachers, too, got creative, and showed perseverance in keeping students engaged and moving forward.

With reduced demands on formerly crammed schedules, you may have found that more family time opened opportunities for helping children learn important lessons in cooking, gardening, home maintenance, etc. Maybe your family got into games or hobbies there just didn’t seem to be time for before. Certainly there has been a huge increase in knowledge related to videoconferencing and other tech skills for all ages.

Learning to Cope

But other learning has been happening as well. How have your children handled their stressors? Did they learn they can come to you for help to solve challenges? Parents have had to become de facto classroom aides, whether to re-explain how to calculate a math problem, re-boot a connection, or realize that headphones would help block out the distraction of another student’s online lessons transpiring at the same time at the same table. One of the lessons families had to learn was how to best play these new roles by establishing school zones and help-available times.

Stress relief is always beneficial, but this year’s stresses are still evolving. Vaccines bring much hope of being able to safely return to in-person interactions, although the research on long-term effectiveness and the use of vaccines for children is still a work in progress. What activities have you and your children learned to participate in to ease anxieties and deal with disappointments? Maybe you learned that inner peace returns though: nature walks, silent reading sessions, gardening, journaling, music making, family dancing, water colors, or sharing feelings with a loved one.

Learning to Connect

Did your children find ways to ease the loneliness caused by the pandemic? Maybe siblings found ways to enjoy each other more in order to fill in the gaping hole left from a former life of friends on the bus, friends in the classroom, friends at lunch, and friends at recess. And maybe your children have been clever enough to carve out new channels of communication and safely shared time with their besties.

Parents play a big part in helping children to spend time with friends – but particularly during this unprecedented situation. School, in normal times, provides a natural setting for learning how to make a friend, be a friend, and resolve conflict together. When asked what they miss the most about school, students have said, “Friends” more than anything.

Some educators are much less concerned with determining the depth and breadth of academic losses than they are with just reconnecting with students. Some have had to deal with students who barely logged on at all. The pandemic exposed existing inequities especially for families with economic challenges, and certainly it has exacerbated difficulties some students were already having.

Community organizations, including Chesapeake Children’s Museum, have played a role in keeping families connected to resources during this challenging period. The museum is part of a collaborative of nonprofit organizations that convened just before the pandemic with a goal of jointly identifying and meeting the needs of children and families. We are using a model of Collective Impact to address meeting unmet needs among our community’s children.

Beyond addressing the risk of contagion, schools and communities will necessarily address discrepancies among students who have had greater or lesser “losses” during these highly unusual circumstances.

As we get closer and closer to moving past this disaster we can work together to make education work for all.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist  and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Register for upcoming parenting workshops on Zoom:

April 20 Healthy Habits – Fitting in Exercise and Nutrition

Read more of her Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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