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Home schooling tips for parents

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By now after more than a month of school closures thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have only begun to understand the challenges faced by teachers every day for 170 days.

Fortunately, students in Bander are experienced at working on Chromebooks and turning in assignments through Google Classroom.

While the Bandera Independent School District began providing lesson packets on paper just after schools closed in March, it has transferred its efforts now to a totally online environment, sometimes leaving parents in left field.

The good news is that parents have been educating their children since the dawn of time - maybe not in formal subject matter but in life skills necessary for survival.

The following are three ideas that teachers know but parents may not realize to help make school at home a success.

Not all children can focus for extended periods of time. It goes without saying that everybody is different and those differences do matter. A good rule of thumb when working with your student on learning at home is to take your child’s age and multiply it by 1.5. That is usually the limit of time an average student can focus on any one activity. If your student is 7 years old, their limit is usually in the 10-minute range. To expect them to read a book or do math problems for an hour will result in frustration for student and parent. Plan for changes in activities or subjects every ten minutes for a 7-year-old. For an 18-year-old student, that limit is probably 30 minutes. This is not to say some students cannot extend their focus for preferred activities. For example, kids can play Leggos for hours, but they self regulate by going to get a snack, going to the bathroom or asking a parent to look at their construction to adapt their focus time to the activity.

Students learn in different ways. The three main ways to learn are by seeing, by hearing and by doing. Most students have a preferred way of tackling information. Some can retain new information by reading it or seeing it. Some must hear about the information – a verbal explanation or lecture style. Some even learn best by doing something - using blocks, Leggos and their hands in some other way to reinforce the topic. The secret is that even though students have a preference, they should use all three methods to retain information. Not all information can be presented in their preferred learning style. If your student is having problems, change the format of the work. Instead of having a student read by themselves (visual learning), read out loud together (auditory learning). Or have them construct a manipulative to demonstrate their learning. Teachers use many methods of presenting information. Don’t feel bound by the assignment – use whatever learning style works best to get the information across. Use the internet to find other styles of presenting necessary information.

Most importantly, learning takes repetition. Nobody learns something the first time it is presented to him or her. On average, students must be exposed to information seven times before it begins to stick in their brain. If you are working with your student on a rote memory task like the multiplication tables, drill it and kill it. Flash cards are useful at all ages and can be made cheaply using a pack of 3x5 notecards. This repetition process helps students solidify their learning. Memory work is a part of learning. Don’t give up when students need extra time and practice.

Teachers learn to teach through college studies, professional training and through their actual experiences in the classroom. As a parent, you are play

As a parent, you are playing catch up on that playing field. With a little time and patience though, you can school at home successfully.

Tracy Thayer spent 37 years in public education as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and district administrator in four school districts. Her last assignment before retiring last year was as principal at Alkek Elementary, director of federal programs and communications and at-risk coordinator at the Bandera Independent School District. She i is a contributing writer for the Bandera Bulletin.