5 Tools to Help Parents Navigate Supporting Education During a Pandemic
By Amanda Neely
“When am I ever going to use this in real life?” I think we’ve all thought those words, or maybe we have heard them, when navigating what is supposed to be the “universal language”. In regular times, it seems to be a bit of a cosmic joke played on a lot of us where the only time we actually use the quadratic formula is 20+ years after we learn it, and it’s only to help our own children with their homework. As if that isn’t fun all on its own, layering in the challenges that come along with supporting schoolwork during a pandemic creates an experience none of us could have ever imagined. As I have navigated this process myself over the last few months, I have discovered some tools that have really helped me keep my family on task with as few tears as possible.
As a working parent during a pandemic, time seems even more scarce now. In our house, we were looking forward to school starting in the fall so we could resume some semblance of our pre-COVID life. The start of school came to us virtually and my 6th grader set out to navigate the new world of middle school as well as multiple advanced courses… including math. We soon realized that virtually learning a fast-paced subject comes with a multitude of challenges and it was going to require new resources, 1:1 support from us parents, and some research to refresh ourselves on the concepts we were supporting. I soon found myself winding down the evening tasks and gearing up to dive into integers, absolute values, and word problems. I discovered myself spending most evenings researching the next chapter of content, finding online resources to refresh my memory (and learn the new way to do math!), to then recite it back to my daughter so she would not be left behind. This quickly turned into a part time job of its own.
During my quest for resources to support our new nightly exercise, I stumbled upon some reports regarding the impacts the pandemic is having on education particularly on educators. Global News wire reports the pandemic has constrained the supply of teachers as they leave the profession for reasons such as caring for their own children, the greater need for work life balance, or simply due to burnout that has resulted as the burden to adapt to the rapidly changing educational environment lingers. I found the most impacted area are the STEM subjects.
It is important; however, to give credit where credit is due. School districts, administrators, and educators have worked hard to rapidly meet the demands to support virtual learners with a combination of technology and creativity, but parents are left to fill a major gap when it comes to keeping kids engaged and on track.
In addition to educational constraints, we are seeing an increased number of parents taking extended leaves of absences to support their children considering this gap. Employers are scrambling to define policy that both supports and retains their talent, and law makers are being pressured to pass legislation, like EFMLEA under FFCRA, to support caregivers having to fill these gaps. Ironically though, technology is continually innovating to help fill the void despite previously being one of the most resource constrained industries due to the lack of interest in the STEM fields. If current trends continue, it may reasonably be expected that constraints will continue to increase at a higher rate largely due to the lack of qualified teachers. As we continue to depend on technology for support, this could prove to be troublesome.
The good news!
In my quest to be the best math teacher possible (the jury is arguably still out on this one), I came across some tools that helped keep me balanced as I joined in the ranks of many other brave parents who are also attempting their own overnight PhD in Parenting In a Virtual World. Here are a few of the tools I have found to be helpful along our journey:
- PhotoMath (mobile app available on iPhone & Android) – Not only are we at home educators, but academic strategies for teaching math have changed in recent years. Photomath helps bridge the gap. You can take a photo of a problem from a worksheet right from your smart phone and Photomath will work it out. It will also provide the steps on how to get there to reinforce the concepts ongoing. They also have options for problems to be entered directly into the application when a photo version isn’t an option (think… word problems).
- Khan Academy – This non-profit education platform has endless amounts of virtual subjects that are delivered via short video recordings. The instructors help break down a myriad of concepts and limits the tears shed by us all. Khan Academy has mastered the art of delivering complex content in an easy to digest manner – all delivered virtually. The best part about these lessons are they are offered for free as a part of their mission to “provide a free, world class education for anyone, anywhere”. They have proven to be invaluable for students, parents, and educators.
- Back to the basics – After having been out of in-person school for close to 6 months, some of the children’s basic foundations were rusty. I started to research different options for refresher visuals to help us and I stumbled upon Teachers Pay Teachers. It is a site riddled of resources created by teachers – for teachers or anyone who needs supplemental material without recreating the wheel. I was able to find several visual aids to have handy to help keep us on track and boost her confidence. Th best part you is, I was able to support several teachers in the process!
- IXL – This solution is a web-based learning resource that provides practice problems with detailed steps & easy to understand navigation. We found this particularly helpful for preparing for concept quizzes and unit exams. There is both a free and paid version available.
- Yoga Nidra – 6th grade advanced math moves at warp speed with a new concept almost every day. I found that as we were rolling up our sleeves for hours on end, we were wearing out just as quickly as new concepts were coming in. By mid-week, we were all finding ourselves worn out and exhausted. In college I was introduced to a special type of yoga called yoga “Nidra”. It is a meditative practice between the wake and sleep state that helps with winding down, relaxation, and meaningful rest. The best part is that anyone can pick this method up and use it right away. I modified it slightly to help it resonate more with my young girls and it has proven to be an incredibly helpful tool for all of us.
We are being challenged to adapt to our changing world across all our identities. The path is sometimes unclear, but we are also in a unique spot to be able to define it. The way our children are educated from here forward is going to look vastly different and unlike what we have seen or come to expect before. We can take solace in the fact that kids are resilient and will persevere in today’s climate and beyond. If we show up, support each other, and do our best with the tools we have, they will prosper and lead us to greatness.
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To follow along with Amanda’s efforts by day as a leave innovator and by night as a moonlight math teacher extraordinaire, subscribe here and visit us at LeaveLogic.com to look for upcoming features and journeys as we humanize the leave experience.
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