‘New Normal’ comes to classroom

Back to school has different feel due to impact of COVID-19

By Deb Dittner

students COVID19So, how many have started the traditional back-to-school shopping for new clothes, shoes, back pack, paper, pencils, calculators, and so much more?

Some of you may actually be asking “Why?” especially since the school year will likely be starting out differently than we are accustomed to due to the “New Normal” caused the COVID-19.

How do you prepare your children and yourself for the next few months?

Let’s look at it this way. You had actually been teaching at home the last months of the school year. No, it wasn’t easy, but the teachers really came through with navigating the online classroom with success. Handling the teaching responsibilities is not new to you the parent though as you have been teaching your children since they were born.

It may not be the same formal academic education that children receive in school settings, but the continued support that you provide aids in the child’s development.

Home education can consist of critical life skills such as cooking, cleaning, balancing a budget, problem solving, personal growth, physical activities, and responsibilities for pet care.

Students need to engage in activities on their own and not with the constant reinforcement of a parent. Engaging children in a variety of activities that include reading, writing, math problems, and thinking skills outside the classroom will keep them focused and progressing appropriately.

Math skills can come in many forms. In the kitchen, following a recipe requires the measurement of ingredients especially if needing to serve more than the recipe calls. Is there any loose change in the house? Have your “student” sort, count, add and roll. Playing simple board games can include “paper” money that needs calculating, counting spaces to move, and “buying” items. As the student gets older, maintaining a bank account, saving, and learning about financial wellness becomes imperative.

Reading is fundamental

Reading skills develop by supplying books of interest or a new age-appropriate novel series. Possibly each evening set aside time where everyone picks up his or her own book and reads. If you have a young child just starting to learn to read, take turns reading every other paragraph, for example, or have children read to each other. Ask a question or two about something just read as this will aid in comprehension. Reading recipes, the directions for a board game, or following along on an audiobook help in flexing the reading muscles.

Writing skills may be utilized by the student emailing their teacher, writing a letter to a grandparent or aunt and uncle you are unable to visit, making grocery lists, journaling or writing in a diary, making a to-do list of what needs to be done throughout the day, and creating a gratitude list that can be shared at dinner.

It’s important to think outside the box when it comes to education. Doing worksheets or using another app is not always necessary. Young children need play, building things, exploring the yard or woods behind the house, and painting pictures. Even as children get older, they need to create and explore their own interests both on and off screens.

Online education from Google Classroom and Zoom meetings finished out the school year and may well begin the upcoming year. It may be helpful to create a space consisting of a cozy nook for a desk and chair or a simple table where assignments can be done. There is no right or wrong space — it’s what works best for the family. One of the most important aspects is to stick to a routine just like one in school. Home routine will be more condensed and consist of a shorter “school” day since there is no travel to and from school, no changing classes in the hallway or chit-chat at the lockers.

When a student’s work is done for the day, it’s done. Consider video chatting with friends to work on projects so as not to isolate. Change things up and make it interesting.

• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.