Advice to the Caregiver Community about Distance Learning

By: Lily Koblenz, MD, Regional Medical Consultant, Region 3 

During this time of uncertainty, we wanted to recognize the strain that having children home from school all day may have on parents and foster parents. Some of you may be feeling pressure to continue your children’s education while they are at home. This could be a wonderful thing if the children are eager learners and you have an abundance of patience – we applaud all parents who are able to do this well. However, we also recognize that for many reasons, these attempts at continuous learning do not go well for others and may lead to additional undue stress for others.  This is true for many reasons:

  • Children do not always perform the same way for their parents as they do for teachers. Children are accustomed to “behaving well”, sitting for long periods, focusing on their work at school - they are not accustomed to doing this at home.
  • Children and parents are currently stressed and that can create tension and difficulty in the home.
  • Schools may be sending homework materials that are geared toward the “average” student, yet each child is unique and some children may be ready for the work while others are not.  Some parents may not understand this and insist that children complete assignments that they are not developmentally capable of.
  • Parents may feel they are failing if a child does not do all the work that is suggested.
  • Parents may not be particularly skilled at teaching children new information and may become impatient when the child not making the progress they believe is appropriate.
  • Parents may not feel particularly skilled at teaching new information and may become impatient or frustrated.

So what can you do if your child won’t do the suggested school work?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • If your child is struggling to complete reading assignments, you can consider reading to your child instead. This could be a simple picture book or a chapter book and you can read several times a day. If you have more than one child, get all the children involved in listening to a story. Even if a child is not reading well he or she can benefit from the enrichment of contact with literature. Also, they can become inspired by their parent’s reading and the family can bond together over their excitement about a story.
  • If your child is having trouble doing written work, then get out art supplies and color, paint, draw, scribble or complete coloring pages together. Just keep those little hands moving doing something fun and creative! You could also get out playdoh or make some and sit at the table and play and build together. Other ideas might be Legos, Lincoln logs, building blocks, etc.
  • If a child is having trouble with math work, put the paper aside and do some time counting things together just for fun.
  • Don’t forget children need gross motor activity as well as fresh air.  Take children outside every day.  While sports are cancelled and playgrounds might be closed, a simple walk around the neighborhood will give children a chance to notice plants in bloom.  A bike ride (with a helmet) is another great family activity.  If there is no way to out of the house, then put on some fun music, open the windows and have a dance party!

Remember - keeping a child safe and as healthy as possible are the main goals here. Everyone is going to be dealing with some lag in academic accomplishment but it is not worth jeopardizing a child’s emotional and physical safety trying to force them to do schoolwork if they are unable or unwilling to do so.

OSPI Parent and Family Resources for Continued Learning 

This article was adapted from communication from Lily Koblenz, MD, Regional Medical Consultant in Region 3. Fostering Well-being CCU. DSHS/ALTSA.