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Preparing for back to school when you don't know what to expect
It’s the season of barbecues, pool parties, and sunny skies! While you and your family are surely having a blast this summer, remember, time flies when you’re having fun. Before you know it, the back-to-school season will be upon us! Preparing for this normally consists of activities like shopping for supplies and clothes, but surely things will be different this time with the ongoing pandemic. Some of your preparation will look very much the same, like checking your child’s summer assignments, but other aspects will be new, like packing masks with your child’s lunch money and library books. Many states and local school districts have yet to decide between the stay-at-home “click” learning and the in-person “brick” learning; however, there are still ways you can prepare, even for the possible mix of both types of learning! “Click” Preparation The hallmarks of the 2019-2020 school year were virtual classrooms and the burden of “educator” falling on the shoulders of parents; this may very well continue into the new school year. While there wasn’t much time to prepare last time, there is plenty of time to prepare for the coming months! Here are some tips on handling a digital classroom environment: 1. Set up a separate study environment for your child. It can be harder for your child to focus when in the comfort of their own home, especially as it’s hard to mentally transition from school to after school with no physical movement. Make sure you set up an area in the house your child will recognize as a space and time to focus on school. It should be a quiet location void of distractions with a good connection to the internet and other devices, like a headset and printer, if necessary. 2. Prevent distractions, both on and offline. Even with a good study environment, your child might sign off mentally. It can be trickier to engage in a lesson without physically being there. Not to mention, the internet offers a lot of distractions. Consider blocking some websites or putting up parental controls during school hours. You could also make sure they do not have other devices like a phone, tablet, or television nearby, as well as provide a headset with a mic so that your child won’t be distracted by other noises. 3. Minimize screen time outside of classes. Because of online classes, your child may be staring at the screen for longer than normal. To give their eyes and mind a break, suggest that they step away from the screen as often as they can outside of school hours and necessary assignments. Digital breaks are highly encouraged to counteract an overstimulated mind. “Brick” Preparation Some schools may be planning to start the new year by inviting students back into the physical classrooms. However, there will be new protocols in place. Schools may prepare by limiting the number of students in the classrooms, rearranging desks, installing protective shields, and checking temperatures. In case your kid does head back to school, here’s how you, as the parent, can prepare: 1. Read up on all guidelines and protocols. It’s important to stay well informed. As schools prepare to open their doors again, they will likely provide all parents with guidelines and precautions that you and your child should follow. Make sure you understand how the school will be keeping all of their teachers and students safe during this time. If you have any concerns, such as your child is at high risk, address the school and/or a medical professional beforehand. 2. Pack the bags with all the safety necessities. Along with the usual school necessities like pens and paper, your child should make room in their bag for safety necessities like masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves. Explain to them the importance of using these materials correctly. For example, they shouldn’t share anything with others or touch the outside of their mask. They should also wash or discard if disposable, masks after frequent use. 3. Make sure your child understands safety measures. Reinforce the appropriate behavior and rules your child should follow during this time for the safety of themselves and those around them. Students should be able to socialize, but they should maintain a social distance of six feet and wear masks whenever possible. Your child should also perform good sanitation practices, like washing their hands for twenty seconds with soap as often as they can. Hybrid Preparation for Both In many towns, the school year is likely to be a combination of both “click” and “brick” styles of learning. Schools may flow from one type to the other based on the situation (e.g., start digitally then gradually move to the physical classrooms). There may also be staggered schedules, so part of the week is spent in school and the other at home. It may be confusing, but there are ways you can prepare for this hybrid learning style: 1. Set up a consistent schedule. Encourage your child to keep to a consistent sleep cycle to maintain good energy and focus levels. Your child may want to sleep in on days they do not have to get ready and commute to school. They may even sleep later the night before with this in mind. However, consistent sleep and wake times reduce feelings of exhaustion. That’s why it’s even recommended for children to wake up at the same time during the weekends. 2. Make sure that the schedule is very clear. Especially in cases when your child might go back to school on certain days and not others, keep organized to the best of your abilities to avoid confusion. This is extra important if you have more than one child whose schedule you need to keep track of. You should encourage your child to maintain their own schedule, but it helps that you double-check, especially if you need to arrange drop-offs and pickups. A good way to do this is to share an online calendar with the entire family or place a physical one at home where everyone will see it. 3. Help your child adjust to the changes. Constant changes in the school structure will understandably be confusing for children. Talk to your child and explain the differences in how they might take notes, turn in assignments, or navigate their class schedules. More than anything, be there for them emotionally through this complicated time by showing patience and understanding. Soothe them whenever they show signs of stress and gently remind them to take care of themselves and be considerate of others. The new school year will look different from previous ones, but you and your child can still prepare to the best of your abilities by following the tips above. Communicate openly with the school and teachers. Stay well informed, safe, and optimistic as you navigate a new and unconventional school year. As much as we miss our students, JEI Learning Center will continue to offer our State Standard-aligned programs through JEI Remote Learning for the time being. If you are not yet enrolled, call (877) JEI-Math or find a center near you to further enrich your child’s education today. We wish that you all stay healthy during this time and continue to learn and flourish!
Bridge the Gap and Start the School Year Right!
Why you should keep your child from overstimulation
Children these days are facing more screen time than ever. If in the past, they were limited to television at home, now they are given cell phones at an earlier age and reaching for their parents’ tablet at restaurants. Instead of looking at the scenery out the car window on road trips, they watch movies on DVD players or play games on handheld devices. The increased screen time and outlets for distraction introduce the problem of overstimulation. No longer are children told to keep themselves busy, but they have various tools already at hand to keep themselves busy. As a result, they grow a lower tolerance for boredom, and they do not know what to do with themselves when there is nothing stimulating them externally. Children no longer give themselves the time to be bored, yet it is time worth having. That is why it is very important to limit stimulation so their brains can get a rest. Let them be bored. It can do wonders for them. Here is how boredom can help your child: Fosters Creativity It is natural for children deprived of outside stimuli to occupy themselves with whatever they have at hand--which is their imagination. When the mind feels disengaged, it will wander in order to find engagement, leading to creative thinking. This is an important skill to exercise. Sandi Mann, a researcher specializing in boredom, stated, “Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place.” The idea that wandering minds lead to deeper thinking was backed by a study at the University of Central Lancashire. 80 participants in the experimental group performed a boring activity before having to think of as many uses for plastic cups as possible. Those 80 participants came up with many more creative answers than participants within the control group. As previously written, creativity is already deemed a very desirable trait in employees (LINK). Companies look for this when hiring and are likely to value it even more in the future, so have your child practice thinking outside of the box! Let them make up games in the backyard or chat with imaginary friends. Let them consume less and create more! Increases ability to focus It may be worrisome for some parents to see their child constantly staring out the window and daydreaming. However, believe it or not, letting the mind wander will actually increase their ability to focus on a task later on. A brain that is constantly stimulated will lead to shorter and shorter attention spans. Think of all the overwhelming apps and perks a phone has to offer. Dr. Joseph Firth of Western Sydney University said, “[T]he limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet encourages us towards constantly holding a divided attention -- which then in turn may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task.” This also leads to constantly multi-tasking, and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says, “[Y]ou’re rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, depleting neural resources as you go.” This kind of overstimulation and bombardment of tasks will decrease the efficacy of your child’s brain functions. If you remove things that will distract or overwhelm them, your child will be able to space out, which will then give their brain a rest until they need it for a specific task, such as studying or solving a problem. At that point, the brain will have reached its full potential for focus from the recharge. Hones observation skills Lack of stimulation would not only increase the ability to focus but also hone observation skills. It may seem boring to a child to sit on a blanket in the park and view the scenery. It may seem pointless to sit by a window and people watch. However, just because it seems like nothing is going on does not mean your child is doing nothing. No matter what, the brain is working to a degree, whether it is active or passive. In this case, your child may be observing what is going on around them. Rather than being bombarded with information, your child is calmly taking note of things, whether they recognize this or not. This is a practice of meditation and mindfulness. Removing stimulation gives them an opportunity to take in what is around them and notice things much more keenly than if they had been distracted by something or many somethings. Have you ever experienced this after playing the same game over and over again? You still see the Tetris or Candy Crush screen in your mind’s eye, whether you are sitting around or trying to sleep in bed. Even after, it inhibits your observation skills and holds your mind captive. Quiets their mind Building on the previous point, your child needs to quiet the mind. A lot of times, being busy is a distraction. It can distract them from things that actually have to be done, like choosing to read the news over working on an essay. It can pull them away from troubling feelings, like the pestering thought that they do not belong anywhere or stress that they will never be good enough. Preoccupying or diverting themselves does not solve any problems, nor does it actually make them feel better, because those issues are still there. Once they remove all the stimulants, your child will be able to actually listen to their thoughts, or even to quiet the mind if the thoughts are unhelpful. This will help them figure things out, trust their voice, and learn to take effective action. Sometimes, it is good to be alone with your thoughts. Improves self-discipline and patience This then leads to an improved self-discipline. Your child may feel like they have to be doing something all the time in order to feel productive, even if it is constantly researching or watching TikTok videos. However, nothing is actually being done. By encouraging your child to take a break from YouTube or Snapchat, you are really encouraging their self-discipline. Once they learn to fight the urge to flood their minds with irrelevant information and all the emotions that come with the Internet, they can redirect that newfound self-discipline to purposeful action. They will stop procrastinating. They will be better at time management. They will actually pay more attention to their surroundings and friends. This will also increase their patience. Often games and apps give frequent rewards with fanfare-like music or fun graphics to provide a sense of achievement. That is a lot of stimulants, and also sets up unrealistic expectations for real-life success. Staying away from that may help them work on long-term goals with patience instead of striving for quick gratification. == All of the advantages mentioned above will lead to many more advantages in your child’s life, and it all stems from removing stimulation and embracing boredom. That is where it starts. There is such an emphasis on the hustle these days, but more and more people are realizing they need to take a step back and truly live in the present, let their minds wander, and embrace the excitement of life. Let your child appreciate the wonderful portals that boredom can open up for them if given the chance. Set restrictions on their Internet usage. Free up their schedules. Let them wander and play outdoors by themselves. Whenever they whine, “I’m bored!” tell them, “That’s good.” Create times for you to sit with your child and do separate activities together in silence, like painting or fishing. Now that you have finished reading this, you can unplug and let your own mind wander into fun daydreams and imagine a brighter future for your child!