The New One-Room School: Challenges of Home Learning During the Coronavirus

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Education, as most people know it, has changed quickly and dramatically over the last few weeks. School buildings are closed and students are separated from their teachers. Parents are overwhelmed at the thought of supporting and monitoring their children’s work through the end of the year.

While children who usually attend school are now at home, the parents are not homeschooling, which is more parent-driven. Instead, teachers are still responsible for the curriculum being delivered, albeit in a much different fashion than it was a month ago. And admittedly, each teacher is approaching the remote learning opportunities in different ways. Families are required to adapt, yet many parents are still struggling. 

Why are these challenges creating such difficulties?   

Everyone is at Home

One of the difficulties parents have during this time is learning how to manage the household differently since most if not all family members are in the same place at the same time. Whether parents are working from or away from home, children are schooling at home, which means everyone is trying to share the same bit of space.

Multiple family members now need to use the internet simultaneously and may not have the infrastructure to support their needs. Routines and schedules are jumbled and the household can seem disorganized. Kids seem to want more snacks and meals. Life at home is just different.   

Multiple Children at Different Grade Levels

Another challenge is having children in the home at different age and grade levels. While schools have students at various learning levels, classrooms are contained to students similar in age and in the same grade level. Full-time teachers go through years of training to understand how to meet the learning needs of all students in their classrooms.

In this new home-classroom, teachers are still creating lessons, assigning the work, and grading it, but parents are thrown into a multi-learning level environment and sharing more of the load than before. Stress levels are high as several children might have questions or need help organizing their assignments, all while a parent is juggling his or her own regular responsibilities that also look different.  

We could go on discussing the struggles parents face during this “lockdown.” But instead, let’s focus on ways to help and support them.  

Supporting Parents

Parents are under stress from many angles and should not feel pressured to be their child’s teacher. They didn’t choose this isolation, and teachers can help them through it.

When parents feel so out of control, they need options. Communication between teachers and parents is key. Schools and teachers should be communicating what is most crucial out of the assignments that need to be completed, so parents have a way to prioritize. Providing parents with suggestions for fun family activities would be a great optional idea for teachers to consider. Educators should also have set “available” hours, primarily expected during regular school hours, to answer questions, check-in on parents and students, and even conduct regular video calls with the class.  

The well-being of children and parents, not academics, should really be our main focus during a pandemic. Encourage families to have regular discussions with their children to find out how they are feeling, sleeping, and what may be bothering them. As instructors, we should also strive to have regular communication with the parents to find out what their challenges and struggles are, and let them know we are there to help. Find out what they need, and then do what you can to reasonably support those needs. 

Tips to Share With Parents 

Kids need a routine, but it can’t be too rigorous or inflexible. A schedule that blocks off time for schoolwork, exercise, and other required daily events would be helpful. This schedule could be kept in a place where everyone can see it. Kids should have set times to be in bed and should be awake by a certain time each day. There should also be regular times for meals. Parents can do some meal prep ahead of time and even create an area where students can access their own snacks. It is good for parents to provide favorite and fun snack options, but they should also try to keep them as healthy as possible. All family members should get dressed every day and have regular physical activity. 

Screen time should not be rigidly limited during this time. Allowing more screen time than usual may be appropriate. For example, if children usually have one hour of screen time, parents might consider up to three hours of closely monitored access to electronic devices. With restrictions on many typical kinds of activities, screen-type engagement can be a helpful option for entertainment, education, and interaction. Encourage children to use educational games or watch meaningful, wholesome movies. Regular family time or a daily family activity is a great idea, but each member of the family should also have a time and a place to choose to spend a little time alone. In addition, this would be a good time for everyone in the family to get in extra reading time.

Conclusion

It’s true that schooling does not look the same as it did before. And while this way of education may be temporary, it does need to be manageable and as profitable as we can make it. Supporting and caring for each other is what needs to happen. And that will have greater, long term benefits for us all than assessing the children’s learning of math and science skills.

Kristin Bird
Dr. Kristin Bird lives in Northern Kentucky with her husband and three girls. Her PhD is in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership and she consults with Christian schools and educational organizations to provide teacher professional development and mentoring. She also teaches online graduate and undergraduate teacher education classes for several Bible colleges.