COVID-19 has created uncharted territory for all of us. With school closures affecting large parts of the country, parents and teachers are scrambling to provide quality educational support for children. Now, more than a month into the crisis, it is time to take a step back and reflect on how we've handled education during this crisis. What can we learn so far from the experience of parents and their children that might help ease the challenges they face in the months ahead?
Parents and their children face new challenges during school closures
In April, Study.com conducted a survey of over 500 people to learn more about the challenges faced by parents, students, and teachers due to the COVID-19 crisis and school closures. This survey uncovered that students are struggling most with transitioning to remote learning and social isolation during shelter-in-place.
In the survey, parents were asked what were their biggest concerns about the school closures. About half of the parents who responded to the survey expressed that they were concerned their children would fall behind in their learning because of school closures.
Unless parents have prior experience homeschooling their children, it is safe to say that many feel unprepared to effectively support their learning. Routine-setting, designating time for learning, helping children understand schoolwork across a range of subjects, and keeping them motivated while they are schooling from home all present their own difficulties.
Academic challenges of distance learning
Given that students are separated from their typical classroom settings, and lacking in everyday interactions with peers and teachers, they are having difficulty staying motivated. Being cooped up in a room with a computer is not the method of education that most students are accustomed to, so this is having negative impacts on their ability to learn. While half of teachers have attempted to facilitate online learning, only a third of students from our survey have experience taking remote learning courses. Unfortunately, this lack of familiarity with online education has presented negative impacts on students' ability to learn.
According to our survey, many students feel easily distracted, less motivated, and less effectively able to study as they adjust to their new home lives and academic habits.
Overall, frustration around the transition to distance learning has lent itself to a myriad of complications in students' educational pursuits.
How can parents help their children with their schooling?
Working from home in any capacity can be difficult since home is normally a place for relaxation. To make a space specifically for work can be a luxury but designating an area for learning can help with the separation of work and relaxation. This spot could be in the living room, a dining table, or the kitchen counter. Allowing children to work in a spot with few distractions can simulate a 'learning zone' that they come to associate with schoolwork. In our qualitative research from our survey, a common issue with students was adjusting their sleep habits. Not having to get dressed and ready to go to school can blur the lines between relaxation and work. This distinct separation between where they study at home and where they rest at home can help them more effectively do both.
Students are used to the structure and schedule that school provides, where teachers decide on the order, scope, and time allowed for assignments. In the present circumstances, parents can help by acting as educational motivators and support their children in creating a suitable schedule. Assisting students in committing to a regular schedule, with consistent sleep, schoolwork, and break periods, can mimic the routine they are accustomed to when they are taking in-person classes.
Negative impacts of social isolation on students
I can't really interact with my teachers/friends as much as I was able to before
Now more than ever, children are missing the social interactions with friends and teachers from school. From our survey, it seems that some parents are most concerned about their children's ability to succeed academically, but student data reveals that they are also struggling with lack of social interaction, which has implications for their mental health. On top of support for their educational endeavors, students also need emotional and mental health support from their parents.
What can parents do to emotionally support their children?
Despite parents' primary concern that their children will fall behind in their schooling during this time, it can be helpful for students if parents adjust their expectations. This pandemic is a stressful time and being more empathetic about how this weighs down all of us can cultivate healthy communication in a parent-child relationship.
One student in our survey commented: 'It's exhausting and then you have to focus and study and try to put the concerns aside and act like COVID-19 doesn't exist so you can concentrate on class assignments, homework, and test prep.'
This statement is a harsh reminder that students are not blind to the world around them and have worries surrounding the pandemic. Open discussion about emotional issues can help children three-fold by giving them the social interaction they lack during school closures, helping them feel understood, and allowing them to process their emotions.
In addition to empathetic communication, now can be a good time for parents to instill healthy coping mechanisms in their children. These conversations can be achieved by using strategies such as filling time that would be spent worrying about the pandemic with productive tasks like reading or playing. Empathetic communication can also lend itself to practicing mindfulness activities: being aware of the present moment instead of getting lost in anxious thoughts. Mindfulness exercises include passive, calming activities like coloring, doing jigsaws or meditation practices.
Taking a break from learning
Parents should also remember to set aside time to engage in non-academic activities. To quote another student respondent to our survey, 'learning to take breaks and balanc[ing] school work with play/hobbies' are extremely important to children in these times.
COVID-19 presents challenges, but they can be overcome
COVID-19 has caused growing anxieties for everyone, both parents and students alike. While parents have primarily concerned with the academic obstacles students are facing, it is important to remember that students are also facing social and emotional challenges due to school closures.
To alleviate some of the academic stress from social distancing, parents can step in to create designated spaces for their children to learn and help them create an effective schedule.
To manage frustrations due to lack of social interaction, starting the conversation about feelings towards the sudden changes to academics and social isolation can bring some peace and normalcy during this tumultuous time. Parents and students are going through both academic and holistic struggles, and if they both acknowledge that, they can have a little more patience with themselves and each other.
It is also important to find a balance between work, rest, and play. Children are not immune to the stresses and strains of the crisis, and it is important for them to have outlets for fun and relaxation. By ensuring a healthy balance between schoolwork and a normal home life, parents and children will be better placed to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19.
At Study.com, we are dedicated to making education accessible. Every month, we help over 30 million students, teachers, and homeschool families achieve their educational goals by providing quality video lessons, online courses, informational resources, and more. For homeschoolers, we offer a personalized online homeschool platform that includes curriculum for all subjects grades 3 through 12, including electives and courses for college credit. Beyond our comprehensive course catalog, we also provide homeschool families with answers to homeschool questions, including homeschool laws by state.