There has been, understandably, a lot of parental handwringing over this whole learn-from-home situation (I still refuse to call what we’re doing right now “homeschooling”). Up and down my social media feeds, parents are worrying that they’re failing their children academically during the pandemic because they’re also working from home, or they’re working outside of the home, or they’re simply anxious about the state of everything at the moment. Surely one of the things falling through the cracks right now is our kids’ academic advancement.
Some schools are offering up more guidance, support and structure to parents than others, which means that some of us are completely overwhelmed and others are wishing they had more resources or direction. Enter, the Illinois State Board of Education over in the U.S., which has created a comprehensive (and thoughtful) report about what remote learning should look like right now—but also, why it’s ok if it doesn’t look like that for everyone.
The recommendations in this 62-page report were drafted by a committee of dozens of administrators, teachers and students across the state of Illinois. And they start with these words of wisdom:
As educators work to implement these recommendations, we call upon everyone to assume flexibility and grace for all. At this moment, we will all need to model resilience, critical and creative thinking, thoughtful responsiveness, and empathy to ensure that students continue to grow personally, academically, and linguistically.
Preach, Illinois. Preach.
Anyway, the board then goes on to give a helpful chart with ranges for minimum and maximum times kids should be engaged in remote learning activities by grade—plus how long we should reasonably expect them to actually concentrate at one sitting:
The board also recommends that educators provide families with additional optional work, engagement opportunities and enrichment opportunities—but only if it is also made clear that the work is optional and will not negatively impact a student’s grade. In fact, here’s what the report says about grading:
Grading should focus on the continuation of learning and prioritise the connectedness and care for students and staff. All students should have the opportunity to redo, make up, or try again to complete, show progress, or attempt to complete work assigned prior to the remote learning period in that time frame. A focus on keeping children emotionally and physically safe, fed, and engaged in learning should be our first priority during this unprecedented time.
The report goes on to provide a framework for teachers as they develop instruction for students of different grade levels, as well as for special education students.
But the chart, as well as the overall tone of the entire document, is helpful for parents to refer to as a reminder that we’re not able or expected to be hosting hours-long homeschooling sessions each day. Rather, if your kindergartener is getting a good 30 minutes of learning in (broken up into smaller chunks of time), you’re doing just fine.