Concerns about the coronavirus have closed schools in West Virginia until at least April 30. And in Jefferson County, schools are closed for the rest of the academic year. As a result, thousands of children across the state stay home and attend school in new ways.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting explored some of the resources available to help West Virginia children and their families succeed.
Checklists and Routine Help Young Children
We can all agree, times are pretty tough right now, and that may be especially true for parents and children who now teach and learn from home.
Fortunately, there are many tools to help navigate this new normal.
Clover Wright, an assistant professor in the Department of Early Childhood Education at the University of California, Pennsylvania, started a series of YouTube videos as a resource for parents.
In one, she wears cat ears and places a stuffed dragon next to her while reading a book called “Dragons Love Tacos,” written by Adam Rubin. She put on her YouTube character, “Story Girl,” which she created in response to the coronavirus pandemic to help parents with preschool-aged children trapped at home.
“I thought maybe I could do this, you know, be your son’s teacher for about 10 minutes, so [the parents] you can have a little break, “said Wright, who is married to former West Virginia Public Broadcasting news director Jesse Wright.
Wright worked as a preschool teacher for 12 years before starting her job at the University of Pennsylvania, California in 2009. Every few days, she makes a new video reading a different children’s book. She ends each video with a fun and creative exercise for children watching, like drawing or coloring.
“I can communicate with the kids and provide them with a little bit of comfort, a kind of normalcy for those who are used to a kind of preschool routine,” he said.
The videos Wright makes are just one of many resources parents can use to help keep learning exciting and manageable, while isolating yourself.
Like other West Virginia parents, Wright is juggling working from home, teaching his college students online, and now making lesson plans for his three children, ages 6, 7, and 10.
She said children thrive on routine, not necessarily on a strict schedule, but a handful of daily tasks works well, especially for children. For your children, he provides each with a personal checklist.
“I included their homework on it, and when they’re done with each one, they can mark it themselves, which gives them a sense of autonomy and accomplishment,” he said. “Who doesn’t like marking things on their list, right?”
It also includes a section at the bottom of the list where your children can add what they want to do each week, and keep in touch with each of your child’s teachers.
Tips from a home school parent
But how can parents help their children learn while they stay home?
“The first thing I definitely see is the need for everyone to relax and not feel pressured to have a 9-5 school day,” said Charles Town resident Amy Mason in a Skype interview. She was previously a second grade teacher and is now a home educator. Amy has five children ages 11-21, all of whom have received or are receiving homeschooling. (Full disclosure, Amy is friends with Liz).
Mason has been teaching his children at home for over 20 years, and he has found his children, which has allowed them to drive what they want to learn and not keeping a strict daily schedule has been a fundamental key to learning.
That included many games.
“Board games, card games, video games; they all provide a lot of stimulation to the brain and you can learn a lot. My children are the most strategic and creative thinkers, “he said. “And I’m sure it’s because of the games we’ve played since they were 2 years old.”
Mason also points out free online content to help learn at home, such as virtual visits to museums or programs like the Khan Academy, which offers free online courses for children of all ages. This is also a resource available to all West Virginia public schools, according to the state Department of Education.
“Khan Academy has been a fantastic resource for homeschooling. They have a free engineering course right now, and I know my 11-year-old is taking that, and he’s having a lot of fun, “Mason said.
And West Virginia Public Broadcasting also provides a variety of resources for children and their parents to promote learning at home.
Eddie Isom, Director of Programming for WVPB, said the organization has partnered with the West Virginia Department of Education to offer a new locally produced program on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m.
Education Station is part of the WVPB PBS Kids schedule and has elementary school teachers from across the state sharing their lessons.
“We know that all children do not have access to the Internet,” Isom said. “So we look forward to expanding some of our television programming throughout the day, our children will be able to watch something to keep them interested and learn something during this time outside of school.”
West Virginia Public Broadcasting also airs history and science documentaries on The West Virginia Channel from 12-5 p.m. every day.
The state Department of Education website also offers various digital and non-digital resources for parents and their children.
And in a statement emailed to WVPB, the department said many West Virginia teachers are using social media, YouTube, FaceTime reach, and others for online learning, but it all depends on the availability of the Internet.
If broadband access is not available, the department said many teachers have sent pencil and paper packages home; They make phone calls or send text messages and emails to stay connected with their students.