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Learning doesn’t have to stop amid COVID-19 outbreak: Education experts offer tips, online resources for school at home

In this image provided by courtesy of PBS and The Fred Rogers Company, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” (or Wild Kratts) is among the PBS KIDS programs available online. (Associated Press)
In this image provided by courtesy of PBS and The Fred Rogers Company, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” (or Wild Kratts) is among the PBS KIDS programs available online. (Associated Press)

Only a week ago, more than 90,000 children in Spokane County were getting their education at public and private schools.

Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re home for at least six weeks. Teachers have sent them off with good wishes and backpacks filled with books, lesson plans and links to educational websites.

Teachers also are available via phone or email, but for the foreseeable future, education will begin and end at home.

So what’s a parent or guardian to do?

For one thing, don’t panic, educators say. Certainly there’s some urgency in not allowing an academic slide similar to what happens every summer.

However, structure and discipline will help families get through the crisis – no matter how long it lasts – and dissuade kids from treating the closure as another vacation.

The first and most important step, most experts agree, is to set a reasonable schedule and stick to it.

That will keep expectations clear and discourage from spending endless hours on TikTok or reaching for their phones and other devices.

After that, attempt to identify what sparks a child’s interest and adapt lessons to that.

Alex Solodyankin, administrator at Enlightium Academy, a Spokane-based online learning company, urges parents to discern what subjects will engage their children.

“That’s critical during this period and will affect whether they are just filling time,” Solodyankin said. “Find out what they’re interested in.”

Sometimes the old-fashioned approach is the best.

“My advice to parents is to keep them reading,” said Rachel Sherwood, principal at Bemiss Elementary School in Spokane.

“It’s so important and easy to do,” said Sherwood, who added the district is working on a system to allow families to check out laptops to augment lessons.

The next step is to organize materials, time and tasks so you don’t waste precious minutes looking for worksheets or scrambling to find a storybook. Also consider setting up a filing system for different subjects and organize your library, and keeping a daily journal and homeschool work portfolio.

“It’s interesting, a lot of what we do for work is also mirrored in the experience for my child,” said Jennifer Hertrich, whose school district in Seattle was among the first in the nation to shut down.

“Having things like a schedule is very important,” Hertrich told National Public Radio. An account manager for office furnishings company Steelcase, she sets multiple alarms during the day to keep everyone on task, which enables her to schedule her own calls and web meetings.

Reasonable expectations also are important.

Whatever the subject, keep specific educational goals in mind. Divide the list into short-term and long-term goals. Short term: “I want Joey to be able to add double digits.” Long term: “I want Susie to have a basic understanding of world history.”

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