How To Stay Sane and Keep Kids on Track During the Pandemic

One of the challenges of writing a guide to education during the COVID-19 outbreak is that each state and district can vary widely in the way it chooses to respond to issues (not to mention charter and private schools). The best source of information about your child’s education is your individual school, followed then by your state board of education/governing body for your charter/private school. These links are designed to start pointing you toward the best resources available. 

Also, it needs to be said that all of these resources will be easier for people with more privileges to access and utilize. If you know of families needing ESL, disability, income, or other supports, please pass these along in more accessible forms, if you can.

School Closures

The only states NOT to close down all of their schools:

  1. California
  2. Colorado
  3. Idaho
  4. Indiana
  5. Iowa
  6. Kansas
  7. Maine
  8. Mississippi
  9. Missouri
  10. Nebraska
  11. Texas
  12. Wyoming

In many of these states, individual school districts are still choosing to close. In my state, Texas, the Education Commissioner left it up to the local school districts, and many of them are closing, especially the largest ones. Where the big ones go the little ones will follow, so eventually most will probably shut down. Plus, with spring break going on in many places, districts might be waiting until closer to the end  of break to make a formal closure. This is a rapidly evolving situation and it would be advised to check in with your school each morning to see if a cancellation has happened. 

Also, in the states that did close down all the schools, some are only closing down the public schools. To find your state to see what exactly is closed, please see the 

State Closure Map: https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html

State Testing

  • This time of year is already often one of great pressure for students who are worried about their state achievement tests. Unfortunately, this crisis is going to add an extra layer of worry to the process.
  • So far, “the U.S. The Department of Education said it would consider one-year waivers of that requirement—and the requirement that states test 95 percent of their students—given the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of the coronavirus.” (Gewertz, quoting: https://oese.ed.gov/files/2020/03/COVID-19-OESE-FINAL-3.12.20.pdf
  • That said, the individual states are still deciding whether to cancel or delay testing. To further complicate matters, it is still uncertain how this will affect students in the long run. For more information, see: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/16/coronavirus-throws-spring-testing-into-disarray.html 
  • The best advice would be to focus on your family’s health and well-being first. There is nothing a test can measure that is more important than your child and family. Plus, this is so early in the process that things may change radically by testing time.

ACT/SAT/AP

ACT

April 4th test date rescheduled to June 13: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/covid-19.html

SAT

The March 14th, 28th, and May 2nd SAT dates have all been cancelled, with promised makeup dates and streamlined tests still coming. https://pages.collegeboard.org/natural-disasters

AP

Still planning on regular May testing(4–8 and 11–15), but reducing the requirements for schools to ask for late testing on May 20-22, plus developing online resources for students. College Board will make further decisions/announcements on March 20: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update

Distance Learning

From an educator’s perspective, making the pivot to fully distance/digital learning will be a tough one. I am fortunate that I’m in a 1 to 1 school (each student had a device) and that I have been using Google classrooms and other resources with my students all year. That said, between class-based Internet access issues, ability needs, and other variables I can better control in the classroom, even someone as tech-involved as I am is feeling the strain. Multiply that by educators coming from underfunded/served schools, rural areas with spotty internet, etc. and we all are struggling.

That said, there are definitely things you can do to help your child succeed as their education is moved online (if you have the resources to do so):

Read

One of the best things you can do is just keep your child reading. If you have a chance to get to the library before everything closes, make sure your child has a stack of books that they chose. If you could not, try seeing what free materials are out there. (I have put a few resources below, but there is so much!). Your student’s school library may also already have online books available. Support may be slow, but contact your school’s librarian if you need help finding access.

  1. The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress http://read.gov/kids/
  2. OverDrive https://www.overdrive.com/
  3. OxfordOwl: https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/
  4. Newsela: https://newsela.com/
  5. PBS Kids/Reading Games: https://pbskids.org/games/reading/
  6. International Children’s Digital Library: http://en.childrenslibrary.org/
  7. Write/respond to reading

Since your student is hopefully reading, try having them write their responses. Doesn’t have to be anything formal, and they can make it as creative as they want (draw a response. dance a response!), but that act of responding to reading engages them even more in the literacy process. If they are more of a verbal processor, try having them record themselves responding on something like FlipGrid (I use it in my classroom and my students love it). https://flipgrid.com/

Keep a Schedule

The has a great suggested schedule that you can adapt to your particular needs:

Balance Learning with Stress-Reduction

Please see my Managing Stress for Kids section, but the International Society for Technology in Education (ITSE) has these suggestions:

  • Take regular breaks.
  • Making time to exercise.
  • Keep to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Limit distractions when possible (turn off social media notifications, for example).
  • Set daily and weekly goals.
  • Make time to socialize, even if it’s virtually.

(https://www.iste.org/explore/10-strategies-online-learning-during-coronavirus-outbreak)

Internet Issues

If you are having trouble accessing Internet that can handle the interfaces for online education, please try the following resources, as found on the Paradise Valley Community college website (much thanks to them!):

The Federal Communications Commission has an agreement which states that providers will waive late fees, not cutoff service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots for increased accessibility to the internet. Visit https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-363033A1.pdf for information.

Please visit the following websites for the latest details on how to sign-up and leverage these services.

  1. If your service is Spectrum, which is part of charter, also try calling 1-844-488-8395. If you sign up for the free service, you’ll be automatically billed after the first 60 days unless you call Spectrum to cancel.

Priorities

Above all else, just support your child where you can and don’t stress the rest. If you are struggling to balance work, childcare issues, money concerns, and everything else, it will be hard to worry about online education. Schools know this and should be preparing for it. You doing the best for your child to survive and keep going is the top priority.

Other online learning resources:

Food Services

 If you depend on the school food services for your child’s meals, it is currently up to the school district to find a workaround to get your child’s meals. 

Congressional Action

It is currently being negotiated in Congress to pass legislation that will:

  1. Expand the locations where school meals can be served
  2. Expand who is allowed to receive school meals.
  3. Allow emergency food stamp assistance for families of students who receive school food services.

Food Resources

While we are waiting on those items to (hopefully) pass Congress, please contact your individual school district to see what work-arounds they have devised. Many are getting creative and partnering with community services to do what they can. If your school district can’t help, try these services or contact us so we can do the research for you:

  1. https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank (NOTE: some of these banks may be tied to religious organizations)
  2. https://www.nutrition.gov/topics/food-assistance-programs
  3. For non-traditional options more in the mutual aid variety, try scrolling to the resources at the bottom of this article: https://itsgoingdown.org/autonomous-groups-are-mobilizing-mutual-aid-initiatives-to-combat-the-coronavirus/

Information taken from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/schools-scramble-to-feed-students-after-coronavirus-closures

Managing Stress for Kids

School is stressful enough for kids, but obviously in the context of an emergency, it becomes that much more fraught. There are so many resources to help reduce stress for kids and teens available online, but here are a few I would recommend:

Websites

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/helping-children-cope.html
  2. https://www.nctsn.org/resources/parent-caregiver-guide-to-helping-families-cope-with-the-coronavirus-disease-2019
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/atypical-children-extraordinary-parenting/202003/managing-child-and-teen-stress-during-school
  4. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Helping-Teenagers-With-Stress-066.aspx
  5. https://www.anxiety.org/8-ways-to-manage-anxiety-and-stress-about-coronavirus

YouTube

Note: I haven’t tested all the videos in these links, so make sure to watch and use with caution. I definitely like Stop, Breathe, Think, and Khan Academy is generally solid. I use GoNoodle very strategically, as I’m not fond of all of their material.

Fablefy – The Whole Child: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGYeWtdm9GXYcdgkLph9Rcw

Khan Academy meditation playlist: https://youtu.be/K4YoQHjaziI?list=PLSQl0a2vh4HBbhBafKm-m7I-nO3iJLqdV

Stop, Breathe, Think: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkB9zEEqnP9kMIf5VChd99Q

New Horizon – Meditation & Sleep Stories: https://www.youtube.com/user/NewHorizonHolistic

GoNoodle/Focus: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAwOTEJXH-cPTQp0LPG-uMcHtcjYmLRkw

GoNoodle/Calming: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAwOTEJXH-cNd8-2wsz2Y6YcjV5CJVWy5

GoNoodle/Empower Tools:

Apps

Note: I haven’t tested all of these apps, so please check them out with your child to determine the suitability for your child.

App Resource Lists

https://healthyyoungmindspennine.nhs.uk/resource-centre/apps/ (A bank of app recommendations)

https://www.anxiety.org/apps-for-children-with-anxiety-or-stress (another resource list)

Specific Apps:

Calm: https://www.calm.com/

Calm Harm (if your student struggles with self harm) https://calmharm.co.uk/

Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/

Hello Mind: https://www.hellomind.com/

English as a Second Language(ESL)/ Disability Resources

Differentiation for differences like English Language Learners and students with different abilities is such a huge topic that I cannot even begin to cover it enough here, but here are a few resources to get you started on finding adaptations and modifications for your learner with different needs. If you know your student has an IEP or 504 plan, look into resources that will help your learner meet what is recommended there and consult with their teachers and SPED/504 specialists about home-accessible options. 

ESL/ELL

Coronavirus: Multilingual Resources for Schools: https://www.colorincolorado.org/coronavirus

Disability/Different Ability Resources

iPad Apps for students with special needs: https://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/01/a-handy-chart-featuring-over-30-ipad.html

Learning Disabilities Association of America Offers Advice for Students with Learning Disabilities: https://ldaamerica.org/lda-support-during-covid-19/

When not engaging in whimsical witchery, piper is an educator, relationship anarchist, submissive Girl Friday, bibliophile, and eco-anarchist influenced by Kingsnorth, Langer, Ligotti, and so many other wonderful minds.