School’s out! How to stay sane and keep kids busy learning

32520_schools out.jpg
Photo: Photo by Danielle Burns

Siblings get some fresh air in the alley across the street from the deserted primary school, École Saint-Fidèle, which is closed until at least May 1, 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On March 22, the Legault government confirmed that schools would be closed until May 1, a tentative return date that might again be postponed, depending on the course of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The public is instructed to stay home. Everyone is feeling the effects of the self-isolation restrictions but keeping children occupied is one of the biggest disruptions. After just a week of the young ones at home, parents are scratching their heads and wondering, “Now what?”

Parents who are essential-service providers, including all health care workers, are entitled to send their children to emergency daycare services. But what do parents do with close to a million students at home?

Many parents want to bring back routine. Some have already started a schedule incorporating reading, writing and arithmetic with play, exercise and art to keep young brains and bodies active.

On day one of the closures, Ilana Wiles tweeted, “After an hour of attempting to homeschool my kids, they revolted, went off schedule and started playing nicely together. New rule! If you are playing nicely together, you can continue. If you start fighting, back to the schedule!” While many parents have been asked to work from home, Wiles lamented, “I don’t know how anyone is getting any work done while also keeping their kids busy. I am struggling.” Perhaps parents are realizing just how crucial teachers are. Maybe a pay raise is in order?

The QCT approached the Central Québec School Board (CQSB) to ask about resources for parents who want to homeschool at this time. Board chairman Stephen Burke responded in an email, “Contrary to the CEGEP and university levels of education, providing schooling through the internet would not be an easy task for our school system. And for the parents, imagine a family with more than one child, there would be a need for as many computers as there are children! This is not on the drawing board for now.”

Neighbouring province Ontario announced an online platform Friday called “Learn at Home,” which provides math and literacy content created by Ontario educators, provided in both English and French. Educators know that not all of their students have access to the internet at home, so the Ontario government is looking for solutions to this problem. Everyone seems to be using technology to reach out in this time of social distancing, from video conferencing with friends and family, to taking virtual tours at famous museums (travelandleisure.com), to watching celebrities like Oprah and Betty White read their favourite kids’ books (storylineonline.net).

For example, since the Morrin Centre is currently closed, Storytime has gone online. Staff will be sharing videos of themselves reading their favourite picture books on the Facebook Page, and they have compiled a list of websites with activities to do at home including teacherspayteachers.com, where you can download teacher-made material (select “free” under “price”) for the appropriate age level. Sesamestreet.org uses classic characters that parents will recognize for interactive games and Starfall.com has language arts, music and math games from pre-kindergarten to Grade 3. Older kids might enjoy taking a nerd personality quiz and more at kids.nationalgeographic.com or, for budding astronauts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), engaging activities can be found at nasa.gov/stem.

Due to the pandemic, CBC has decided to make the subscription-based site Curio.ca provisionally free. Various educational materials including worksheets, and hands-on activities that support the K-12 curriculum are available in French and English.

The Commission scolaire de la Capitale (CSC) has been proactive, creating a resources page called Lire, Jouer, Bouger (Read, Play, Move). The CSC recommends a flexible schedule with a minimum of 30 minutes of reading daily and staying physically active through play. It also provides tons of online resources (in French) such as Alloprof.qc.ca and a Facebook support group for parents: Écoles fermées, parents sollicités!

 

Here's another link to a list of the 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours, sent to us recently by David Cusick.