Supporting Academics at Home

With so many students facing the possibility of remote instruction every day, many parents are wondering what more they can be doing at home to give their children the support they need to be successful. We’ve put together some tips and resources, catered specifically to the unique times we all find ourselves in.

1. Digital Literacy

Some skills are universal. They apply to virtually every subject area, and to students’ personal lives as well as academics. Living in the technology-heavy 21st century means that students need to become fluent in digital literacy. This means developing a wide range of skills, all of which have to do with technology. From being able to create digital materials, to evaluating the validity of an article, digital literacy refers to one’s ability to use technology to interact and communicate.

2. Mindfulness

One of the most useful universal skills for anyone is mindfulness. Mindfulness is related to metacognition, or a person’s ability to think about what and how they think. Mindfulness, however, is more involved than metacognition. When someone is being mindful, they are fully aware of what they are doing in the present moment and why. They are able to look at situations objectively and with a clear head, and can avoid becoming overly reactive or emotional. It sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly difficult even for many adults. The more students can practice mindfulness, the stronger they’ll be at self-regulating, avoiding stress, and having healthy and positive day-to-day interactions with others. Guided mindfulness meditations are a great way to begin building this skill.

3. Life Skills

Don’t underestimate the importance of simple life skills like cooking, managing money, and having a basic knowledge of first aid. As schools place more emphasis on reading, writing, math, and technological fluency (all of which are vitally important, we don’t deny it!), students are starting to lose much of their foundational knowledge of things like balanced eating and financial literacy. Take it back to basics at home by helping your child build some of these skills he or she may be lacking.

4. STEM Learning

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math; many schools integrate these four sought-after subjects (some places now offer STEAM classes, which also integrate the Arts). The NASA website has a great resource for at-home STEM exploration, which any “left-brained” thinker will love.

5. Encourage creativity by helping students think outside the box

“Thinking outside the box,” or the ability to problem-solve using creativity and critical thinking, isn’t something students learn easily. There aren’t any one-off lessons that will instantly turn a child into a critical thinker. But there are ways we can help students to build those skills over time. Encourage independent play. Set your children up with projects, even if it just means giving them a pile of clean recyclables and challenging them to build something. Most importantly, be careful how you respond to the way your child approaches a task. We are often quick to correct our children when they “color outside the lines,” both literally and figuratively. Just because children don’t execute a task the way we expect them to doesn’t mean they are doing it “wrong.” Be careful what you correct. Those times when children approach a task differently are often the times they grow the most cognitively!

6. Prioritize play (looks different at different ages and grades)

Everyone knows that play is important for all ages. But not all play is created equal! Educational play looks very different for a preschooler than it does for a high schooler, but both are equally beneficial. Playing video games is not going to be as useful for a kid’s brain as playing a game that requires strategy and organization. At the same time, not all video games are bad! It’s important that some of your child’s downtime be spent engaged in educational “play,” but be proactive in monitoring and guiding what that play looks like.

7. Don’t double dose “dry” academics

One of the best-intentioned but least productive ways to support kids with their learning is to just make them do more of what they already find boring. This is not going to make them learn it any faster or any better, and is more likely to actually frustrate them more! Instead, if there are subjects that your child is either struggling with or dislikes, try to help them find a “way in.” If your child hates math but loves sports, take their math work outside and play a game of math soccer. Or change all their word problems to be sports-related. Supporting academics at home should be about piquing interest and fueling curiosity, not piling on the work!