As the new school year gets underway during the pandemic, many parents and grandparents have taken on the roles of teacher, tutor and tech support.
Thousands of K-12 schools have opted for virtual learning amid the threat of a coronavirus outbreak, or have created hybrid models combining part-time, in-person instruction and virtual options. With students learning at home and many parents also working from home, grandparents have become pivotal figures in the education process.
Below, check out these suggestions from DeLise Bernard, an education expert and consultant, and Susan and Skip Hatcher, grandparents doubling as an educational support team for their two grandsons, for helping grandchildren to have a successful remote educational experience.
1. Create the right space Make sure there's at least one hard surface available for schoolwork (a desk, dining room table or folding table are suitable). The Hatchers’ grandsons have laptop stations and school supplies set up at the kitchen table. Communicate with your kids or grandkids to understand how they like to learn. Some students enjoy working from their bed or a couch, or floating around, while others want structure. Bernard recommends storage options like bins, drawers or a cabinet for binders, books and notebooks, as well as a holder for school supplies such as pencils and markers. Bernard also recommends a whiteboard, pencil sharpener, hole puncher and printer. If multiple students need to learn alongside one another, consider making dividers out of recycled cardboard to create “cubicles,” Bernard says.
2. Consider the technology -A laptop or tablet, if possible: If a student does not have access to a device, check with the school. Many schools are providing devices to students who need them. If not, ask for a recommended brand or model. -Wi-Fi: An upgraded router will help accommodate multiple people working on the same internet service at the same time. For families without robust internet connections, some schools and cities are providing free internet services to students. Check with your student's school to see if it will provide a Wi-Fi hot spot or whether your city offers public Wi-Fi in your neighborhood. In addition, some internet companies offer low-cost plans for students, seniors and low-income families. -An email account: Some school districts create an email account for each student. Make sure you and your student know if such an account exists and how to access it. If not, consider setting up a designated email address for school-related communications. Headphones with a built-in microphone: These don't have to be fancy. Pairs with microphones start at around $15. Depending on the student's age, consider a pair made especially for kids (which have smaller frames and limit the maximum volume for hearing protection). These will help during live class sessions on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype or any other videoconferencing equivalent. -Blue-light glasses: Bernard recommends blue-light glasses to limit overexposure to blue light, which is emitted from screens and can interrupt sleep patterns at nighttime. Blue-light filters can be incorporated into an existing prescription, but nonprescription computer glasses are an inexpensive option. Consider free programs like F.lux, a blue-light filtering software for your computer. (Note: If the student is working on a school-issued computer, downloading software might be prohibited.)
Do you have any additional tips or resources? If you are helping with a grandchild or grandchildren, how has it been going? Share today!
My youngest is in 8th grade. He has four one-hour classes daily with 15 minute breaks in between, and a 75 minute lunch break. Depending on whether I have zoom meetings or not, we get up and go outside for a walk at each of his breaks. And of course lunch time is a longer walk. The change of scenery helps a lot, the movement helps, the fresh air helps. I hate all my zoom meetings and I'm an adult. I feel so sorry for these kids.
I will say that even though we have laptops and other devices at home, the school still recommended that we pick up their chromebook to use. I thought it was just for kids who don't have the resources at home (we only have one child at home still in school, but imagine trying to provide laptops for 3 or 4 kids!), but the school had enough for every student. We got the chromebook because they've installed blocking technology to keep kids off game sites and other distractions.