In this strange time of staying home with not outings, no therapy, no school, no real world interactions, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused about how to best support your child during this time. There is a lot of misinformation, a lot of not so great advice floating around social media too. I wanted to get straight to the point with you about how you can best support your child’s unique needs until we return to school and a new normal.
- Try not to focus on learning new skills. I know that is a hard pill to swallow, but our focus right now should be on avoiding regression rather than learning new skills. Let’s use this time to truly MASTER the skills your child has gained this year so that when we return to school, the “professionals” can start out where they left off.
- However, you may notice new areas of concern or identify new skills needed. Prioritize those needs. We have this special opportunity to take a look at HOW our children learn best from the teacher perspective. You know your child best! Take what you know about your child, along with these new observations and relay that information to the team. It is absolutely reasonable that you are identifying new life skills as a priority over academics. Keep track of what you are seeing and stay in communication with the team. I’d be willing to bet annual goals will shift once we return to school based off your home learning observations. You are a valuable resource!
- Pay attention to the time spent learning. If Elearning is a battle, how much time are you spending with quality instruction or academic time? Communicate this with your team. If every task is a battle, identify what the root cause is. Is the work too hard? Visually overwhelming? Are they struggling to initiate the task? Overwhelmed by the amount of work? Focusing on the unsolved problem over the behavior, gives you more actionable steps to take to solve the problem.
- Do not spend more time on assignments than typical peers would be spending. Ask the teacher how much time an assignment should take on average. If you are spending WAY more than that on the assignment, reach out to the teacher or the team to brainstorm ideas. Check out this chart to identify the time your child should be spending learning based on age and grade. Keep in mind, this is just a recommendation, what is appropriate for your child may differ from state recommendations. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hPk75wuk0LCmv5s7kvKV14mAZb53FB01/view?usp=sharing
- Pay attention to school accommodations. Identifying which accommodations can be used at home helps keep consistency across all environments and may help them feel more confident in completing tasks since they already know what to expect.
- Support the whole child — their mental health, nutritional needs, and safety needs. Notice academics aren’t the only focus here! Your child’s mental health (AND YOUR’S!) take priority over academics. Your home is a safe space for your child. Protect that space! You are a safe space for your child, prioritize your parent child relationship. I can PROMISE you that you are NOT the only parent and child struggling to get it all done. Put in a best effort approach and communicate with the school.
- Ask to modify assignments when necessary. If the skill is being able to retell a story, can the student choose the book so it is more of a preferred task? Can you video the response instead of writing? If the assignment is addition on a worksheet, get rid of the worksheet and count jelly beans or whatever is motivating to your child. Video the work and send it in to the teacher. Get creative and ask for help when needed.
- Use real world learning in place of assignments if you need to. We’ve been struggling with word problems recently and sitting at the computer is a bore. I saved up grocery sales papers, created a shopping list and a budget to create a real world math experience. BONUS this is a life skill! Communicate the effort, assignment and completed (or not!) work with the teacher so they are kept in the loop on what you are working on. Keep in mind what is appropriate for your child right now! Need to work on those conversational speech skills? Set up a Facetime or Zoom call with a friend or relative. Give them a topic (preferred or not!) and let them chat. Then, communicate the results with your Speech or Social Work team member.
- Keep a log of all special service minutes. Attempt to do each task, each zoom call, each assignment and stay in communication with your special service team members. The expectation is not to complete the same amount of minutes, but we should be putting in our best effort to maintain current skills. The Department of Education has said that compensatory minutes will be up to each district. This means that missed service minutes during this Elearning period, may or may not be made up. Keeping a log and an open line of communication will help you and the team determine what, if any, minutes should be made up.
- Pay attention to the IEP annual goals. Given this unique opportunity of at home learning are the goals still a priority in daily life? If the answer is no, is it due to the logistics of Elearning or is this skill not a priority in real life? If it isn’t a priority, reach out to the team to discuss your observations. While it may not be in your child’s best interest to change annual goals now, it is important information for the team to have in the future.
- Keep in mind that just because it is assigned to your child, does not mean it is appropriate for your child right now. When it comes time for grades, there will be many factors considered, so it is important to keep in close contact with your child’s team about successes and struggles.
According to the ISBE guidelines, “Grading Is Defined As:
- Meaningful feedback
- Assessment of learning (summative)
- Assessment as learning (self-assessment)
- Assessment for learning (formative)
- Student/teacher partnership (home)
- Criteria for work and expectations (exemplars)
- A dialogue
- Part of the learning process
- Focused on student growth
During this unprecedented time, it is likely that there will be students who struggle to maintain the same level as learning as their peers or as when we were in the classroom. Given these circumstances grades will be determined using (but not limited to,) the criteria above. The focus should be to keep children emotionally and physically safe, fed, and engaged in learning. Remember when I said to prioritize mental health? I mean it! Protect your safe place at home.
Need help getting creative or problem-solving ELearning strategies? Let’s work together HERE to create an appropriate plan for your child.