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Structure and grace form foundation of at-home learning

Structure and grace form foundation of at-home learning

As schools shift to at-home or distance learning due to COVID-19 restrictions, parents and others charged with overseeing those lessons may be wondering what to do.

Editor Daniel Clifton

Leslie Baty gets it.

Parents or other caregivers can feel overwhelmed as schools begin transitioning to distance or at-home learning now that campuses are closed until at least May 4 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It can really be tough for parents if they’re trying do work and do what they can do to support their family, and also have kids at home,” she said. “And now they’re trying to balance all that and help their kids with school.”

Baty, who is the Marble Falls Independent School District director of elementary education, said the first step to creating a good, at-home learning experience for students and adults might sound a bit unacademic.

“They need to be extending a lot of grace,” she said, “to their children, the teacher, and also to themselves. This is all new for parents, but also for kids and teachers. I know parents are trying to balance their roles as being a parent and teacher and working, so just extend themselves plenty of grace.”

While schools may seem like it’s all about academics, Baty pointed out they really try to support the whole child. And this is something parents and adults should also make an effort to do when the kids are at home during this school closure period.

MFISD and many districts address students’ social and emotional well-being as well as their academics. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook those aspects, but Baty said it’s equally, and at times more, important than academics. Especially in a time like now when there are so many unknowns and growing anxiety over COVID-19 and related issues with the disease.

“One of the things I recommend is (parents) limit kids exposure to news reports about all that’s going on, especially about this coronavirus,” Baty said. “That stresses them out.”

It’s okay to talk to children and youth about COVID-19 and what’s happening because of it, but the information should be appropriate for the age and grade level. Too much focus on COVID-19 can cause undo fear, stress, and anxiety.

“Parents and adults need to manage their own anxiety because kids take their cues from adults,” Baty added.

A good way to start each day, Baty said, is by holding a short family meeting. During this time parents and kids can lay out the schedule for the day, set some goals, and talk about how they’re feeling.

“That will hopefully get everyone off to a good start,” she said. “And in the schedule put in times during the day where they can check in with each other and see how everyone is doing.”

When it comes to the academic side, one of first things to do at home is set up and designate a work space for the kids. Parents should also help their children and youth develop a daily schedule for the school work.

“Schedules and structure are good for kids,” Baty said.

For MFISD parents and students, all the lessons will be posted on the district website and each campus has a page where teachers are posting lessons and instructions as well.

“We asked teachers to start slow and small,” Baty said of the early phase of distance learning.

While students are no longer in class with teachers, they and parents can still reach out and communicate with the educators. Teachers across the Highland Lakes, the state, and nation are tapping into technology and finding creative ways to stay in contact with their students whether it’s through YouTube videos, Zoom conferences, or live streaming.

As for the school work, Baty said parents don’t need to be there every step of the way.

“Parents need kids to be independent,” she said.”They don’t have to do everything for their kids.”

She gave three questions parents can ask their children and youth to help establish that independence, and take some of the pressure off the adults:

• What are you able to do without me?

• How can I help you get started so you can work on your own?

• What do you need from me to work on your own?

“Those questions help promote some independence and helps the kids find their own answers,” Baty said. She also pointed out that kids aren’t just learning and absorbing knowledge from school lessons, but are also learning all the time, even from daily conversations.

Other things families should remember to do during this time is laugh and have fun.

“What’s the most important thing right now?” she asked. “The health and well-being of you and your child. We need to take care of each other. In 10 years, most people aren’t going to remember the day-to-day stuff, but you will remember your time together. Just try to practice love and patience.”

MFISD, Burnet Consolidated ISD, and Llano ISD have resources for distance learning on each of their websites. The districts also have a number of spots within their boundaries that provide free WiFi access for students and parents who might not have it available at home. For locations of those spots visit the articles with those listed: Llano ISD, MFISD, and BCISD.

For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the coronavirus resources webpage.