As schools around the world close and parents scramble to either work from home or find child care, it can be easy to view this as one big, long holiday. Prop ‘em in front of the TV with some snacks and ride it out. But experts agree that the best thing parents can do for kids off school for the next couple of weeks (or longer) is to get them on a schedule right away.
Schools across the country will vary in whether they offer online learning options; even those that do will have students who won’t be able to participate because they lack the access to the necessary technology. But what’s more important than giving them homework or acting like a makeshift homeschool teacher is to set up a schedule that somewhat mirrors their regular school day—and then stick to it.
Amy Joyce and Mari-Jane Williams write for the Washington Post:
Melanie Auerbach, the director of student support at the Sheridan School in the District, has some ideas about how to keep the kids on track during the hiatus. Her main advice? Make a schedule and stick to it.
“Summer brain is a lack of a schedule, a routine, sleep,” Auerbach says. “They don’t forget how to read. … They’ve forgotten how to do school. After winter break, when kids come back, they need a week to reset. After daylight saving time, they need a week to reset. A change in their regular routine makes a big difference.”
So although you don’t need to stand at a white board and teach long division, you can help structure their day in a way that keeps them in an academic mindset, with a set starting time, breaks, and different “subjects” throughout the day. Here’s one example:
I created a similar schedule for my nine-year-old son. He was resistant at first because, of course, he does want to treat this like a holiday or a couple of days home sick. But we were able to come up with this plan together:
My original schedule had more creative play time, less reading time and no breaks, which is free time that he can spend as he chooses. Those adjustments were enough to get him on board. For younger kids who can’t read or tell time, you can set up a similar chart with images to represent the activities—and a timer to help them know when it’s time to move on to the next thing.
Having this sort of schedule will be useful if they’re going to be home with a parent or other caregiver during the duration of the school closure, but it can also help bring a bit more consistency to their days if their caregiving situation will fluctuate from day to day.
Now is also a good time to dig deep into your closets, drawers and basements to revive old arts and crafts projects, science kits, puzzles or other learning games they’ve forgotten about. I pulled out several options that my son had long forgotten about to give him more possibilities during the “creative play” portion of his day.
He knows he can also use that time to draw comic books or build some kind of LEGO masterpiece—and that he is responsible for figuring out what to do each day during that time—but I wanted to set him up with a few fresh ideas. Because it seems like we’re in this for the long haul.