Director of Pre-School Programs Kathy Carpenter has some wise words for the parents of our littlest learners.
Have you started on the paper mache projects that your neighbors seem to have accomplished? Built the fort your children have always wanted with recycled wood you have gathered as a family and engineered with math and science skills you have researched together? You haven't? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! You are simply falling behind!
Truly, do you feel like this? If you are thinking that suddenly you have been thrown into a "home schooling position" that you had never applied (or hoped) for, then you are not alone.
There are many factors that are impacting how we as parents are handling distance learning. For one, you may be working from home and are not available the entire day to sit and engage with your child’s activities. Your child may have other siblings who are expected to be on the computer for a portion of the day, or a younger child who needs more attention – or quite simply, your child is not interested in you as a teacher.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE! As they always say on airplanes, put your mask on first before you help your child. But remember, School is not “closed.” You are not homeschooling. Teachers are providing the tools you need to make distance learning a success. Take advantage of them but also recognize the many other opportunities that will be coming your way and don’t worry if you don’t “get through” every last option offered by your teacher..
Here are some thoughts on how to support your child:
- A child’s academic growth in Pre-School doesn’t rely on repetition of traditional lessons that require rote memorization. If you are worried that your child may “forget what they learned,” lean on the lessons the teachers are sending home. They are there to deepen your child’s engagement in the concepts already introduced. Don’t worry about the progress ahead. Think of it like a building structure. The stronger the foundation, the higher your building can go eventually.
- Recognize that not going to school or seeing friends, etc. is very confusing for children. (On the flip side, don’t worry if they are perfectly content NOT to go to school.) Children are masters of living in the moment, so if they are spending time with you and their siblings, they often embrace having that time with the family. Be mindful of these different emotions and just as you may be feeling anxious, recognize how this may manifest in your child. Fighting amongst siblings, extra anxiety, or moodiness can be seen in even our youngest friends. If you need support in how to handle these emotions do not hesitate to seek help from me or others at our school. But also know that this is a great opportunity to walk your child through understanding confusing emotions and model strategies that have worked for you and your family.
- You are the best judge of your child’s limits and interests. If your child is not interested in a particular activity, don’t sweat it. If they want to simply repeat one they enjoyed the day before – wonderful! If you look at the ideas for activities on a Tuesday and there is no way you have the energy or inclination to try them, don’t. It will be okay! Use the scaffolding as a guide for your family. If it helps to have a schedule in place for your sanity and your child’s developmental need for routine, then take advantage of these suggestions.
- The most important skills in our mission statement for Pre-School students are to develop a love of learning, learn to cooperate with others, think creatively, feel wonder and joy, become explorers, challenge oneself with physical growth and develop resilience. These are the skills that will ultimately prepare your child for his/her-educational future. These opportunities come from both school and home. As a parent you are doing these every day and probably not even realizing it!
- Pace yourself, don’t over-schedule yourself just as we recommend during the school year. It is OK to be a little” bored.” Children learn a great deal by coming up with ideas by themselves. If we are always trying to schedule everything or design every second of their day, we lose great opportunities to teach them some self-reliance and creativity.
- Social media is your friend and foe at times like this. Be wary of focusing too much on information that gives you fear or angst. Limit your exposure to this and pay attention to one or two reliable sources. Likewise, social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family but remember that recycled fort picture I referenced earlier? Stop feeling guilt that you haven’t yet started and probably don’t have any intention to do so!
- If I had to name a few things that you could with your child, they are:
- Read with your children (and don’t feel pressured by how much). Simply enjoy that special reading-cuddle time when it works for you and your child. I cannot express enough the value of your child listening to you each day. Numerous studies indicate how important this cozy activity is for your child’s growth both academically and emotionally.
- Include your children in relaxing activities: family walks, dance parties, cooking classes. Some of the best insight you will have with your child is to listen to him/her, side-by-side with you on your walks!
- Try to do something for others. Send notes, draw pictures, use this time to encourage and continue empathy. Our children are so good at this. It will also help you as a parent recognize blessings together.
- “Let it go” (no, don’t sing this song unless forced), but learn when to just bail and change direction if everyone needs a break.
- Above all, remember, your children think you are enough just the way you are. And I do, too!