“Back-to-School” in Fall 2020 is not quite what we could have predicted.
Districts are still scrambling and have launched their plans, and many parents are scrambling to decide which options to pick, and how to balance work/life/family with the kids being online for a time that is yet to be determined. (My prediction is that if we go back in August or September there will be an outbreak and we may need to go back to online again). We all want the pandemic to be over, yet it’s far from being over. So here are some tips as you decide which option to choose for your child. Keep in mind these are based off of Arizona offerings and not all may apply to your situation.
1) If your child is in pre-school I see very little value in “online learning.” Consider that for 3 and 4-year-olds that movement, hands on play, lots of offerings and stimulation, and zero screen time are recommended. Our neuroscience is very clear that playing and moving in a supportive, caring environment is better for brain development than learning the alphabet at this stage. If your child is in pre-school, I would recommend not trying to force academics online at this time in their development.
2) If your child has a medical condition that leaves them vulnerable if they contract Covid-19, I might consider planning on them being online all year even if school resumes in person. We have absolutely no data on what a return to school will mean for transmission rates and as the pandemic progresses, we do know that infected children can get Kawasaki disease and Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). It may be advisable to be medically cautious over being academically aggressive.
3) Remember your choice isn’t forever. Even though it seems like this pandemic may stretch out forever, this situation is actually temporary. If you make one choice, districts may allow you to change that based on circumstances. Choices can only be made at the time with available information and circumstances. If things change, your choice can change. And in the event your district isn’t flexible, there are home-school options, charter school options, and private school options as well.
4) Consider your child’s need for socialization and structure when considering synchronized learning vs. self-paced options. Synchronized learning includes teachers teaching at set times with many students tuned in and possibly engaging with each other. Self-paced online learning can feel isolative to extroverted children and may not be structured enough for your child to be successful. If your child prefers to self-pace and can create their own structure or you can assist with that, self-paced online learning may be a better option. I know some children with home-school backgrounds who can excel grade levels beyond their grade in just a few hours per day. I know others who need constant supervision and 1:1 assistance just to keep pace. Pay attention to your child’s unique needs and balance that with what you can offer given your family situation and work situation.
5) Beyond all, remember we are all in this together. Many of our children may “fall behind” and need summer school, enrichment, or even to take another year before college. Or, schools may adjust their guidelines to accommodate the Covid-19 year(s). At any rate, know that if you can stay flexible, healthy, and calm during this time, it’s going to pass and with a lot less suffering for you and your family.