adrianOver the last several weeks, we have all experienced many disruptions to our daily lives—particularly families of school-aged children. This is a truly unprecedented time, and the learning community at BASIS Independent Schools has come together and grown stronger as a result. We understand change on this scale feels unpredictable and often paralyzing, especially when parents must now balance both work and their kids’ education at home.

School Counselor Dr. Marcie Beigel from our sister campus in Brooklyn offers our entire community a reminder: “What an adventure we have started! I know it may not feel like an adventure, but language is powerful. As parents and teachers, we are leaders and each day you need to be leading your family with as much positive energy as you can muster. So, start with your language. When you can, speak to your children about this experience being an adventure, show up with curiosity, and create structure everywhere you can.”

We want to help our parents be a positive force in their child's education and hopefully alleviate some of the stresses families now face by providing a few pieces of advice for navigating this new frontier of online and remote learning:

1) Create a schedule for each day.
Children of all ages thrive on routine. A new schedule will help to establish order in a new situation that’s thrown us all into a bit of chaos. This could include anything from listing basics like waking up each morning and getting dressed for the day, to more specific items like time for school and learning, work time for you, quiet time for reading, reflecting, or relaxing, play time with the family, and so on. For older students, you can have them take part in shaping this schedule. And remember, try to be flexible! Some days, you might not hit everything on the schedule. That’s okay.

2) Make a space for learning and for work.

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This will look different for every family and in every home, and many of you will already have areas set up for your own work. Your children will see more success in a dedicated space strictly devoted to learning. If possible, try to keep it separate from where play time or relaxation time occurs. Collect all relevant materials and supplies they will need and organize them in this space for easy access.

3) Set realistic learning goals.
Be realistic about the work you and your children are able to accomplish each day. We all want to be as efficient as possible, but given the circumstances, expect a learning curve. Start small and gradually ramp up the amount of time your child is spending on school work every day. Regarding the curriculum, BASIS Independent Fremont Head of School Ashley Leyba recommends first prioritizing the core coursework (math, science, English, history), and if it’s causing stress, take a break! She suggests having your child work on a non-academic project, like helping with chores around the house or taking some time to read a book for fun. Do your best!

4) Maintain breaks like snack time and recess.

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Setting alarms that mimic when students would be getting a break at school could help streamline your schedule and help maintain a sense of normalcy. These breaks will look different than at school, but they can offer time for critical movement, fresh air, or the opportunity to eat a healthy snack to get their energy up.

5) Stay connected with school friends and other parents. Your kids are used to seeing their friends and classmates at school every day, and they are likely already feeling the effects of social distancing. Set up online play dates for younger students and video chats for your older students so they can socialize face-to-face (so to speak), which is more personable than social media or texting. This goes for parents, too! We know our parents are going through some upheaval with this new routine. Check in with other parents to see what they’ve found effective, and ask if they need help as well. Parents can also reach out to teachers as needed to provide feedback or ask questions.

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6) Have “check-ins” with your family.
Communication is essential, especially in a time where there aren’t a lot of readily available answers. Ask your kids open-ended questions, listen without interrupting, and don’t stress over providing an immediate solution to their concerns. This could include anything from worries over school work, to sadness over not being able to see friends often, ideas for additional family bonding, and so on.

7) Give yourself grace.  
This is not the norm—we know our families are juggling a lot of expectations. Stick to setting a few goals a day until you get more comfortable with the week’s structure. Don’t forget to factor in your own optimal working hours to your new schedule, or even a bit of alone time. If the days are less productive than usual, don’t beat yourself up. Our entire community is going through this together, and we are here to help wherever we can.

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By formulating a clear vision of what is expected of your child, you can will help them realize more quickly that just because they are home does not mean they are on vacation—it is a gentle, yet organized, reminder that they still have work to do.

Our own Manhattan campus school counselor, Dr. Farris, shares this final takeaway: 

“In the future, when we are reflecting upon this time, I think one of the words that will be used to describe our experiences is resilience. One of the most amazing parts of the human condition is our ability to face challenges, find meaning and purpose, and bounce back from them stronger. We will return from this time as more resilient teachers, students, and families. This is the time to model what it means to be resilient for our children.

"Be comfortable showing and talking about your emotions, your successes, your challenges. Model problem-solving skills and emotion regulation for your children. This will show them it is okay to feel a range of emotions, but that there are healthy ways to manage them. Model empathy, patience, and kindness towards yourself and others. As a family, think about what is the most important to you, and focus on that. Whether it is cooking and eating as a family, regular movie or game nights, or extending a helping hand to a neighbor, this is the time to focus on the positive. Think about what you have rather than what has changed, or the routines you may have lost. Set an intention for this time, even daily. Ask yourselves and your children, 'What do I want from today? What can I do to feel good today? What can I do to put a smile on someone else’s face?' Though our lives may have been put on pause, and we are struggling to find a new normal, there are plenty of things we still do have: Love, family, and our school and home community. We are here for one another, we are strong, we are resilient, we will be okay.”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have additional questions or concerns! Our learning community is tough; we will get through this together.