Social Emotional Skills & Life Skills = Academic Success
During the Covid-19 crisis, teachers and parents have moved into the uncharted territory of distance learning. For many parents this means trying to manage their child's online learning while also juggling their own work from home situation or out of house work without their normal support systems. Not to mention having to juggle the stress and anxiety for both adults and children during this difficult time. We can not compare distance learning in a time of crisis to your average homeschooling experience. This is going to be messy, difficult, and often overwhelming. We will all do the best we can with the resources we have available.
Many people are incredibly fortunate to have online access and dedicated teachers who are doing their very best to make this situation the best they can. However, online learning is challenging to say the least, particularly for our youngest learners (think kindergarten and first grade). Some friends have reported teachers who have limited the online time to a quick connection with the class each day, and others report several Google Slides of information that are overwhelming and frustrating for children (and parents!)
If distance learning is feeling overwhelming and frustrating for your early elementary school student, take a break. Please remember, one of the most important things for your early elementary school child is positive learning experiences. I'll say it again, if online learning is frustrating, overwhelming, or stressful for little ones take a break. Instead, focus on developing social emotional skills through read alouds and play.
Social Emotional Learning skills help students to recognize and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle interpersonal situations effectively. According to the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning, "Students who appraise themselves and their abilities realistically (self-awareness), regulate their feelings and behaviors appropriately (self-management), interpret social cues accurately (social awareness), resolve interpersonal conflicts effectively (relationship skills), and make good decisions about daily challenges (responsible decision making) are headed on a pathway toward success in school and later life. Thus, the short-term goals of SEL programming are to promote students’ social-emotional skills and positive attitudes, which, in turn, should lead to improved adjustment and academic performance as reflected in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and better grades and achievement test scores" (2005). In short, students will experience more academic success if they have developed their social emotional skills.
So instead of thinking to yourself, "All I did is let the kids play with each other today...or I only read them a story," realize that free play and read alouds both provide ample opportunity for social emotional learning and growth. Free play allows children to develop problem solving skills, figure out ways to compromise with siblings, and develop perseverance and independence, all skills essential to academic success. Read alouds develop vocabulary, comprehension, empathy, and concentration among many other skills. So the next time that 'home school' feels like too much, cuddle up and read a good book or let the kids 'just' play.
If you're feeling brave and have the motivation to do more than free play and reading (which are enough!) life skills are so important for our littlest learners and they provide opportunities for kids to feel in control and independent. Often in the rush of life, I find myself doing many things for my daughter that she is perfectly capable of doing herself. Cooking is such a great way for kids to learn important skills and feel incredibly proud and accomplished when they see the finished product. 'Cooking' does not need to be complicated here is a link to easy recipes for little cooks to tackle https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/easy-recipes-for-kids-to-make-by-themselves/. Cooking is also a sensory experience that provides endless opportunities for vocabulary development.
These are not ordinary times, and this is not ordinary teaching and learning. Find opportunities for learning in everyday tasks that need to be accomplished at home and encourage reading and play.