A research study in the American Educational Research Journal found that “the average student loses 17-34% of the prior year’s learning gains during summer break, as well as that students who lose ground in one summer are more likely to also lose ground in subsequent summers.” They also found that there was more substantial loss in math and reading. Read more about summer learning loss here from the Institute of Multi-Sensory Education.
How to Address Summer Learning Loss
Summer learning programs can be effective in helping prevent summer learning loss and closing achievement gaps.
Having access to books and encouraging summer reading is important in helping students gain in reading achievement, comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.
Journaling over the summer is a great way to not only capture memories, but also provide writing practice for students. Encouraging kids to write in their journal daily keeps their literacy skills fresh.
Another way to keep writing skills fresh is to encourage letter writing with a pen pal or distant relative.
For more targeted academic support, summer tutoring is very effective in helping students keep current and improve math and reading skills.
Summer Tutoring with TutorUp
All of our tutors are certified teachers and have a lot of flexibility in their summer schedules. If you’re interested in providing some weekly academic support for your student this summer, we have lots of options for you.
How You Can Help Your Child Become a Better Reader
There’s a lot of discussion about how kids have fallen behind in reading and need some help to get caught up. But how do you know which level your child is at? And how can you help match them to the right books at the right time to help them level up?
You can start with a conversation with your child’s teacher, who should be able to share your child’s reading level with you. Scholastic Books has put together a great list of books that are appropriate for different guided reading levels from Pre-K through Grade 3 and up. Some educators recommend choosing at-home books a level or two below the one your child reads at in school.
To choose books for your child that are the right level, you can have your child do the quick and easy Five Finger Test. Select a book your child wants to read, flip to a page in the middle of the book and ask your child to read the page out loud. Have your child hold up a finger for each word he is not sure of or does not know. If there are five or more words on that page, you should choose an easier book. You can use the five finger rule on two or more pages, just to make sure.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you can create a positive environment for your child that will help make reading fun and rewarding. While it’s helpful for you and your child’s teachers to know what your child’s reading level is, you should avoid using labels like “slow” reader or “reads below grade level”. You can be encouraging without communicating disappointment or concern that could make your child worry. Not every child is going to turn into an avid adult reader, but you can help make sure that your child has the reading capability they will need to be successful.
“Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible.” — Barack Obama
Parents can have a significant impact on their children’s attitude about reading as well as their reading ability. Whether your student is an avid reader, excelling at or above their grade level, or your student is struggling with reading, there are lots of resources available to enrich their reading experience and improve their reading comprehension.
Reading is Fundamental
TheRIF website is a goldmine of resources for teachers and parents with children of all ages. From grade-matched book recommendations and corresponding support materials, to Learn at Home resources, word games, puzzle creator and much more, there are helpful tools for all ages.
This is another feature-rich website for parents and teachers who want to improve the reading achievement of children. Reading Rockets has reading guides, videos, blogs, fun activities and more. You’ll find topics, booklists and authors, and recommendations for parents.
Literacy expert Timothy Shanahan has put together a list of 11 ways parents can help their children read. It’s a quick read and all of the tips are basic enough to help even the youngest of students. Bottom line, don’t leave the work to teachers and schools. Parents have a huge influence on their children’s attitude and ability to read and spending some time reading (and writing) with your child can make a big difference.
Scholastic books offers a newsletter just for parents, book lists by age and category, reading resources, printables and activities, homework help and more.
The Pandemic Has Worsened the Reading Crisis in Schools
Dana Goldstein of the New York Times reported this week on the alarming “reading emergency” caused by the Covid pandemic and its severe impact on education in the United States.
Multiple studies are reporting that reading skills of younger students were at a 20-year low at the beginning of this school year. “Children in every demographic group have been affected, but Black and Hispanic children, as well as those from low-income families, those with disabilities and those who are not fluent in English have fallen the furthest behind.”
While it’s true that national tests have shown a stagnant or declining performance in reading for U.S. students since 2019, there is no denying that the pandemic has made all of this worse. Children spent months out of the classroom, and when they did return, they found less help than before the pandemic. A federal survey has shown that nearly half of all public schools have teaching vacancies, especially in special education and elementary grades.
Schools are now under pressure to boost literacy quickly to try to make up for the ground that has been lost. Billions in stimulus funds are going to schools for tutoring and other academic supports, but schools are still having trouble hiring quality staff.
Early on in the pandemic, research suggested that reading skills were holding steady while there was more concern about learning loss in math. Today the research is showing the opposite. Among the youngest students, many of whom spent their entire kindergarten year outside of school, the basics of reading have been lost.
As a result, some states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Massachusetts have begun retraining teachers in phonics. Individual and small-group tutoring is being funded by federal grants, however many educators are leaving the classroom for the more lucrative private reading and speech therapy industry. So even with the budget, schools are finding it difficult to hire experienced educators.
A new Stanford study finds that “reading fluency among second and third graders in the U.S. is roughly 30 percent behind what would be expected in a typical year.” While students are beginning to recoup the losses suffered when schools closed in 2020, it hasn’t been enough to make up for the gaps.
Many states paused academic assessment testing during the pandemic, so definitive numbers aren’t readily available but the evidence is compelling. Children who struggle with reading will be facing lifelong hurdles. What this means is that the critical time to address the problem is now, before more learning is lost.
Private tutoring can bridge the gap
When struggling students are paired with experienced, trained, certified educators in a one-on-one private tutoring arrangement, reading improvement can be dramatic. Due to the shortage of experienced teachers in the schools, and the fact that teachers in the classroom have to divide their attention among dozens of students, the concentrated attention that students need in order to catch up is best achieved with quality tutoring.
The best way to help your student study is to share some tips, help them get started on implementing them, and then let them take it from there. Resist the inclination to step in and handle it every day when they come home from school with assignments or they need to study for a test. In the long run, the more you take over and direct, the less your student will actually learn how to study and get organized.
Setting Up for Success
Regardless of age, here are some basics that will help any student with studying and completing homework assignments.
Don’t try to jump right in to homework after school. Allow for a break and a snack first.
Designate a specific place as the study/homework station. And make sure it’s not on their bed, or in the same room as a TV that is on, or where people gather to socialize.
Institute a “no social media” policy during study time. Your student may need their phone, tablet, or computer to do their homework, so the temptation to check on social media will be harder to control, but it’s a huge time-waster and breaks concentration.
Take breaks. Your student can set specific break times (like every 30 minutes or once an hour) or just take a break at a natural stopping point, but using a timer will help keep the break short. 5-10 minutes is long enough. Longer than that could make your student lose their place and forget what they were working on.
Encourage some physical activity during break times, even if it’s just standing up and stretching.
Starting at about fourth or fifth grade, your student should have a day planner or assignment notebook they write in and keep track of every assignment, the date assigned, the due date, instructions and notes. Younger students may have handouts from the teacher with daily assignments or worksheets and don’t need the additional structure of keeping a calendar.
Train children at a young age to be sure to put all of their school papers, assignments, notes, worksheets, etc. in their backpack every day to bring home from school. Help them review and sort through these papers every day before starting homework. Don’t let the backpack become the Bermuda Triangle.
For schools that send homework, notices, schedules, etc. via email or posted online, be sure to check that right after school so you’re not surprised the next morning when your student says “I was supposed to do…” or “I’m supposed to bring…”
It might help (especially for older students) to have separate folders in different colors for each subject. And for note-taking, a matching spiral notebook for each subject. So if Math is blue, it’s easy to grab the blue folder and the blue spiral notebook to find all the info needed to complete assignments.
Another method of organizing would be a three-ring binder with pocket tabs for each subject, keeping everything in one notebook, organized by subject. This can get pretty big though, so your student might prefer the colored folder/notebook method.
Make sure that your student has all the necessary supplies in their backpack every day. Depending on age, pencils, pens, eraser, crayons, markers, highlighters, glue sticks, scissors, notebook, paper, index cards, calculator, tissues, wet wipes, hand sanitizer… you get the idea.
Success with homework and studying begins in school. It’s important that students learn early to pay attention, ask questions when they don’t understand something, take good notes, keep track of assignments and important dates, minimize distractions in class (like keeping their phones in their backpacks), and just take school seriously in general. This includes consistent attendance.
Goal setting –
Whether it’s a certain grade a student wants to achieve, or just mastering a single concept, it helps to have a goal to work toward. Maybe your third grader needs to memorize multiplication tables. Measure how long it takes to get one down, and then set goals accordingly. Breaking big goals into smaller, more easily achieved goals helps your student see how they are progressing.
Note taking –
It’s not possible (or recommended) to try to write down everything a teacher is saying. One way to help students learn how to jot down the important points, so they can review them later, is to have them watch a short video of someone lecturing on an interesting topic or explaining something or giving instructions. You watch the video with them and have them pick out the important things they might want to write down, while you take your own notes. Then you can compare notes and see if your student is on the right track. The best way to learn how to take good notes is to practice taking notes.
Demonstrating mastery –
A great way to help a student commit something to memory, and demonstrate that they have mastered a specific topic, or concept, is to have them teach/explain it to someone else. That could be you, or a sibling, or a classmate.
Study partner/study group –
Studying with a peer, or a group of peers, can be very useful as long as everyone takes it seriously. Of course, fun should also be had, but keep goals in mind when students work together. One way to help influence this is to host the studying at your house.
It’s okay to try different things to see what resonates with your student. And if you have more than one child you’re trying to help, keep in mind that everyone is different, and what works well for one child might not be helpful for another. Listen to your child and take their input into consideration when trying to help. Good study habits for students can last a lifetime, and translate into good work habits and help create responsible adults.
This seems obvious, but bears reminding: “When engaging in a hobby you enjoy, the brain releases endorphins, chemicals that are attributed to creating positive feelings. Over time, your hobby helps to train the brain to be active, happy, and healthy.”
Anybody had a stressful year or so? Could you use some extra endorphins right about now?
We’ve talked a lot about how the Covid pandemic and lockdowns, virtual school, social isolation, learning loss and uncertainty have affected all of us, but it may be hardest on our kids. Which is why it’s more important than ever to encourage kids – and all of us, really – to cultivate a hobby or two that have nothing at all to do with school, work, or anything else that is a stressor.
Emotional, Psychological, and Physical Benefits of Hobbying
Some resources say that healthy eating, exercising, meditating, and reading are “hobbies”, but those are really more accurately categorized as lifestyle choices. The kinds of hobbies we’re talking about are the more fun and creative ones like beading friendship bracelets, knitting, painting, learning how to play a musical instrument, collecting and trading things like stamps, coins, comic books, Funko Pop figures (or really anything). Of course many hobbies do involve physical activity, like dancing, rock climbing, or bicycle riding and the benefits there include feeling more physically fit without technically “exercising”.
The endorphins mentioned earlier are your body’s way of telling you that what you’re doing feels great, helps you de-stress and just generally improves your day and your life. In a digital world where our kids are staring at some kind of electronic screen for hours on end, it’s even more important to find a fun activity that allows them to unplug.
Getting involved in a hobby is also a way to introduce your child to a new social network and group of friends with shared interests, which is another beneficial result.
Don’t Just Encourage – Participate!
It’s great for parents to encourage their children’s hobbies, but it can be even more fun if you participate in the activity with your child. Even if all you do is help with the research for your kid who wants to get into stargazing or bird-watching, your involvement helps reinforce the validity of their choice and is an opportunity to bond. Certainly if your child has an interest in something you already like to do – like going to classic car shows and learning about old cars – it makes it that much more fun to share the activity.
Just Don’t Nag
Interest in hobbies will wax and wane, and something that delighted your child last summer may not interest her right now. That’s why it’s great to help encourage multiple kinds of hobbies that your child can move in and out of as the muse strikes. If that rock collecting kit or custom bowling ball is sitting and collecting dust, resist the urge to complain about it and make your child feel guilty. That’s the best way to insure that they never pick it back up again.
The objective is to introduce and encourage activities that are fun, relaxing, rewarding, distracting, or even just amusing. Remember the endorphins! It can be as simple as setting up a card table in the corner of your family room with a jigsaw puzzle that everyone can spend a few minutes on when they feel like it. Or a dedicated hobbyist can end up spending serious time and money on specialized tools or equipment, traveling to conventions, or taking lessons. Hobbies can take many forms and are as varied as the people who love them.
Some Popular Hobby Ideas for All Ages in 2022
Coloring books (for every age, even adults!)
Fiber Arts (knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, etc.)
In most cases, tutoring expenses are not a federal tax deductible item. There is an exception to this, for special education tutoring. Parents of children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD may deduct tutoring expenses for their special needs child from their federal income tax, according to the IRS. If the child has a medically diagnosed learning disability, specialized tutoring is considered a medical expense if recommended by a doctor, and may be deductible if your total medical expenses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.
Some states allow tax deductions for K-12 education and/or homeschooling expenses. Check your individual state regulations to see if your tutoring expenses may fall into the category of a deductible expense on your state return.
Other Help for Tutoring Expenses
Many school districts have programs that assist with tutoring expenses for disadvantaged or low-income students. Contact your school’s financial aid office to see if they can connect you with financial aid resources for students in K-12. If your school doesn’t have a financial aid office, the school counseling office may be a good resource, or your school district administrator’s office can guide you.
The federal government has approved coronavirus relief money to fund “microgrants” for parents to use to hire tutors or teachers.
One thing most everyone can agree on is that education has suffered a huge setback due to the COVID-19 quarantines and subsequent shutdown of schools and regular school programs as we knew them. Here are just a few reports:
Private tutoring is not a free service, and as such is not the solution for every child. However, many parents are rearranging budgets and prioritizing tutoring as a necessary expense instead of a luxury. For many parents who have found themselves in the role of teacher/tutor/learning coach, being able to hire a private tutor for their child not only helps the child catch up and keep up with grade-level schoolwork, but it also takes the burden off of the parent who may be juggling a lot right now. Lots of parents are either working from home full-time or part-time, and are trying to supervise their children and keep their household going all at the same time. For them, even a few hours a week of professional academic help for their kids is a huge relief.
How Tutoring Helps
The Hechinger Report, a national non-profit reporting exclusively on education, recently published an in-depth look at how tutoring is helping students right now: The Simple Intervention that Could Lift Kids Out of the “Covid slide”. They report that “tutoring is more effective than other measures” and the challenge is to expand it to support more kids. Individualized tutoring gives a child the one-on-one attention they can’t get in the classroom or doing virtual school. The results are impressive.
TutorUp Tutoring Services
TutorUp is committed to providing the highest-quality tutoring services at a reasonable cost, while paying our teacher/tutors a rate that their professionalism deserves. All of our tutors are certified, background-checked, experienced teachers who are professionals devoted to helping children succeed academically, one child at a time.
Whether your child needs help keeping up with the daily/weekly assignments that so many schools are using instead of a typical in-person all day school experience, or they have fallen behind and need help catching up, a tutor could be the help they need.
To find out more, and get matched with the perfect tutor for your child, let’s get started!
At a time when many parents and students are weary of “online school” and virtual learning, some are questioning the effectiveness of online tutoring. After nearly two years of remote learning, why would we think it’s a good idea to sign up our kids for an online tutor? After all, aren’t kids tired of staring at a screen, trying to focus and concentrate enough to learn?
The answer is yes and no.
In a recent New York Times article, they point out that “Spending on virtual tutoring is explicitly allowed under federal stimulus guidelines, and the Education Department said quality remote tutoring can be a ‘great option for many students, as long as the tutoring addresses individual students’ needs and produces strong educational outcomes.’”
The Key Ingredients for Quality Remote Tutoring
Individualized tutoring –
A canned lesson or curriculum may serve as an adequate guideline for a classroom situation, but when a student is having challenges and needs tutoring, the learning should be personalized for the specific material that student needs help with. The student’s unique problems should be the determining factor for what the tutor wants to focus on, not a one-size-fits-all solution.
One-on-one attention –
Classroom teachers have to divide their attention among many students, all with varying levels of comprehension and success. Group lessons–even small groups–don’t fix the problem for students who are falling behind. For tutoring to actually be effective, sessions need to be just one student matched with one tutor, face to face.
Qualified, experienced tutors –
There’s a difference between a subject matter expert and a trained educator. Many tutoring companies hire college students or other tutors who may be very well-versed in a certain subject but this doesn’t mean that they know how to help a struggling student. Teachers are trained to be able to identify learning issues and how to address them, adapting their approach to the student’s unique learning style and individual needs.
Tutor/Student connection –
When a student has regular, personalized, one-on-one tutoring sessions with the same tutor, even if these sessions are “virtual”, student and teacher are able to develop a real connection. They get to know each other and develop their own pace for learning. Sticking with the same tutor helps a student develop trust and confidence in the help they receive.
Frequent sessions –
Tutoring isn’t the same as homework help. Sometimes a student is stuck on a single concept, problem, or assignment and just needs one short session to help with that. However a student who is struggling, or trying to get caught up with tutoring, gets the biggest boost with two to three sessions per week. Some concentrated tutoring support has been shown to be very helpful in learning, reinforcing, and improving in any grade and subject.
How TutorUp Measures Up
All of our tutoring sessions are individualized. Designed by that specific teacher for that specific student.
We only provide one-on-one tutoring support. No groups.
TutorUp’s tutoring staff is 100% comprised of certified, experienced classroom teachers.
Once a student is matched with a tutor, they stay connected. Unless the parent requests a change.
We strongly recommend two or three tutoring sessions per week. The frequency and length of the sessions varies based on age of the student, type of help needed, and compatibility of schedules. And at TutorUp, the more sessions you purchase, the lower the per-session price.
School districts are quietly discussing student performance results for this school year, and the news is what you might expect. While many districts are operating under federal and state waivers regarding academic performance tests, the unofficial results show a drop.
Ken Zeff, a former superintendent for Fulton County Schools in Georgia, said every bit of data is helpful. So even though the results are unofficial this year, Zeff said “We should look at it and just recognize that we’ve had a dip in learning”.
The iReady test, administered nationally by Curriculum Associates, shows that performance “plummeted for all students compared to the last time it was given before the health crisis began. Nearly three million students took the test both times.” This decline in student performance is mirrored in the standardized test results that various states are reporting.
“This is a disaster. The bottom has fallen out, and the results are as bad as you can imagine,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “We haven’t seen this kind of academic achievement crisis in living memory.”
What can parents do?
Parents do have options when it comes to helping students recover academic loss and improve test scores and grades.
44 states and the District of Columbia now offer a charter school option to students in public schools, at no cost to parents. Charter schools give parents the option of moving their child out of a school where they may not be thriving, to a school that has higher quality programs and teachers. By 2018 (the latest year for which data is available) 7% of all public school students were in charter schools.
These are free public schools that concentrate on specific skill areas and usually deliver a higher quality educational experience. Students interested in STEM or the arts, for example, can find programs that work for them in magnet schools. The downside is, since they are free public schools, there is often a waiting list to get in.
There are many different types of private schools, including traditional private schools, boarding schools, Montessori and Waldorf schools, and parochial or religious private schools. For families who can afford it, private schooling offers the most parental influence and freedom of choice. These tuition-based schools do sometimes offer scholarships.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and because it offers flexibility, innovation, and customization, is becoming more popular. Due to Covid and parents working from home, more families are opting to homeschool their children. According to Focus on the Family, homeschooling is “a flexible learning format where parents can weave learning preferences, curriculum, lifestyle, home responsibilities, career, and family needs into a holistic picture of what it means to learn together.”
Regardless of the type of school a student is in, all students can take advantage of private tutoring support. Having the undivided attention of a highly qualified teacher/tutor who spends one-on-one time focusing on an individual student gives a student a great advantage. Whether a student is falling behind, finds it challenging to learn new material in a group setting, or is just having difficulty with a specific subject, project, or concept, tutoring can help them overcome. No matter what type of classroom situation a student has day-to-day, getting one-on-one attention and support is extremely difficult. Teachers have to divide their time among multiple students while tutors can personalize lessons to suit the individual.
It will take some time for our public schools and students to make up the losses they have suffered due to the Covid pandemic, closing of in-person schools, and the focus on remote group learning. McKinsey & Company published the results of their research into recovering from the pandemic, and one of the things they found was “Disruptions to learning are not over, and student attendance rates lag significantly behind pre-pandemic levels. While actual closures of whole schools or districts have affected just 9 percent of students, quarantines and other disruptions have affected 17 percent of in-person students. On top of school closures, absenteeism rates have risen, with 2.7 times as many students on a path to be chronically absent from school this year compared with before the pandemic.”
While school districts have access to funds to support educational programs, including academic and mental-health recovery programs, they don’t seem to be allocating the funding to the programs parents want. For example, they are allocating 34 percent of funding to summer school and after-school programs, and only 7 percent of funding for tutoring. But parents are four times more interested in tutoring services for academic recovery than summer school.
Start 2022 off right – get tutoring help
This means that in many instances, parents are on their own to pay for tutoring support to help their child recover academically. For more information on the high-quality personalized tutoring services we offer, at affordable prices, please fill out the form below.
It’s important to remember that, though they may have ground to make up, kids also need a break. We as parents may be a little too focused on pushing our kids without allowing for the mental and physical fatigue that can result.
The end of the calendar year is a great time to incorporate helpful study breaks and get your game plan for 2022 in place.
Students are feeling the pressure. Most have missed a lot of in-person school time and are very aware of being behind and needing to catch up. Parents, teachers, news media, social media, and other kids have been talking about “Covid learning loss” and how students’ test scores and grades have suffered. As a result, many students are feeling anxious and worried.
But has anxiety ever made anything better?
It’s important to remember that, though they may have ground to make up, kids also need a break. We as parents may be a little too focused on pushing our kids without allowing for the mental and physical fatigue that can result.
Taking Breaks Results in Better Performance
In “The Science of Taking a Break” researchers in various studies looked at the effectiveness of prolonged work or study periods without a break. One study had students perform the same repetitive, computerized task for 50 minutes. Not surprisingly, students who took breaks and had diversions from their studying actually fared better than students who didn’t take breaks.
Another study on “overlearning” showed that students who studied for a vocabulary test were divided into two groups. One group read the list five times. The other group read the list ten times. Students were given study breaks from five minutes to one month. Initially, students who took a one-day break had the best scores after 10 days. But after six months, the students who took a one-month study break performed best on the vocabulary test. And students who read the vocabulary list five times had the same results after six months as the ones who read the list ten times.
Whether it’s homework, online school, reading, or studying, it’s important for kids to take a break before frustration sets in. For grade-schoolers that is typically after 10 to 15 minutes of work. Middle schoolers and high schoolers can work for longer, 20 to 30 minutes without a break. This doesn’t mean it’s time to start playing and quit for the day.
A few minutes of stretching and deep breathing can help reset the brain and get students back on focus. Sometimes having kids listen to music or take a “dance break” is just the right reset button.
After longer periods of study, longer breaks are helpful. Given a choice, most students would spend their breaks on social media, or texting friends. And while it might be enjoyable, a recent survey by Huffington Post found that these activities can actually increase stress. And some really fun distractions online (like googling cat memes) end with kids being sidetracked for way too long and finding that study time has been wasted. Setting an alarm might be a good way to remind the student to get back to studying.
Exercising the body a bit during a break is a great alternative to getting (or staying) online. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is another way to lower anxiety and boost personal health. And many students (not just the kindergarteners) can benefit from a 10- or 20-minute nap.
Having a healthy snack break is also a great way to improve concentration and help enhance brainpower. Fruits, nuts, lean proteins and other healthy options are better than soda, chips, and junk food which can actually cause a crash.
Even picking up a physical book or magazine or newspaper can provide a helpful break that not only refreshes the mind, but also give eyes a rest from staring at an electronic screen.
Every student is different, and the type and duration of break time depends on the student’s age and individual needs. But incorporating breaks is an important part of studying for all students.
Something as simple as getting a day planner for your student and teaching them how to use it effectively can seriously boost academic performance. Paper and pencil are tools that can reinforce the things students need to remember as well as keep them organized. A bonus is that you will help your child be less dependent on electronic devices for scheduling, reminders, notes, and important info.
More Than 11% of Students in the U.S. are Homeschooled
The U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey has found that the number of homeschoolers has increased sharply to 5 million students. In April of 2020, 5.4% of U.S. households with school-age children reported that they were homeschooling. By fall 2020, that number had jumped to 11.1%. This represents true homeschooling and does not include numbers for children who were at home enrolled in virtual school.
Homeschool Groups Growing Rapidly
Homeschool groups and co-ops are reporting increased interest in their programs and some are even reporting that there is a waitlist for families who want to join. Traditional homeschooling, which has used similar methods to those used in public or private schools, is being joined by a variety of new homeschooling philosophies. The pandemic has seen the creation of “learning pods” where families who live near each other have their children attend “classes” in one of the homes, where the instruction may come from one or multiple parents. Some families adopt a less structured, or “unschooled” child-led approach to homeschooling. Some choose a hybrid structure called the University Model, where students attend a private school for 2 or 3 days a week, and then complete schoolwork at home, under the supervision of their parents.
Many parents admit that they are “making it up as we go” in order to find the model that works best for their child. The goal is to keep the child engaged and learning, and measure success by their performance on state-required standardized tests.
A Response to the Pandemic Provides New Opportunities
Many of the families who have chosen to opt out of traditional schools and begin homeschooling have done so as a response to the pandemic, and the forced virtual school they were suddenly faced with. Parents were able to witness firsthand what their child’s school day was like, and many parents saw their children falling behind in academics they used to be able to master.
“Homeschooling became a viable alternative for many parents who had considered it in the past or who were curious but never prompted to change,” William Heuer and William Donovan, authors of a new study on the shift, said in a summary of the Census Bureau’s research.
Parents have been concerned about many issues, including exposure to COVID-19, the lack of social contact, the concern over what was being taught at their child’s school, and the new rules and restrictions being put in place in order to return to in-person school.
Even working parents are finding ways to homeschool. Parents who have the option to work from home find that it can fit pretty seamlessly into their day. Some parents who have flexible work hours spend a half day with homeschooling, and then go to work. And some parents who have the option, bring their child to work with them and provide learning activities throughout the day while also teaching their child about their work.
Now That In-Person School Has Resumed, Are Homeschoolers Going Back to School?
The controversial mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccinations are almost certainly going to affect enrollment numbers. The governor of California has announced that all students in the state would be required to get the vaccine, and homeschooling may be the option that parents will choose who are reluctant to vaccinate their children.
The Chicago public school districts are also reporting that enrollment is down this year and local Catholic schools and other private schools are seeing boosts in enrollment. Seattle and West Virginia are reporting enrollment declines as well.
A Side Effect of Dwindling Public School Enrollment
School districts receive funding based on how many students are enrolled and attending school, so the drop in enrollment means a drop in funding. Last year school funding was frozen at the 2019/2020 spending level, but this school year funding will be based on actual headcount. And while fewer students should mean that less funding is required, it’s always difficult to adjust to a reduced budget.
The exodus from public schools can mean a positive educational change for families who have expanded choices and learning opportunities. The increase in homeschooling is evidence of the desire for change.
Homeschooling Parents Need Support
In addition to joining groups, co-ops, pods and other support groups, homeschooling parents are increasingly turning to tutoring to help fill gaps. While it may not be necessary or desirable to enroll their child in a part-time private school to help bolster the homeschooling curriculum, a once-a-week or twice-a-week tutoring session with a certified teacher can be a viable option.
You can find some local homeschool support groups here:
Help improve memory and retention simply by writing things down
You already know how much time your child spends using electronics. It’s easy to depend on automated calendars, reminders, appointments, and notes. But did you know that the simple act of writing these things down on paper helps to reinforce them and make them easier to remember?
It seems easier and faster to type things into a laptop or tablet, or even a phone, but various studies have shown that when we write things down, something actually happens in our brains that reinforces what we’ve written, and we retain the information much better.
There was a side-by-side study done earlier this year using fMRI neuroimaging to identify specific brain activation differences when we use paper notebooks versus mobile digital devices. Interestingly, the participants who filled in a paper calendar did it more quickly than those who used a tablet or a smartphone. In addition, the accuracy was much higher in the group who wrote notes down manually.
One hour later, participants were asked a series of detailed questions related to the personal calendars they had created and their brains were imaged during this process. There was significantly more robust brain activation and better memory recall in the group who wrote things down on paper. The conclusion? ”Use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorize.”
Get your child a day planner
A simple day planner book with a calendar section and a notes section can help your child enter due dates for assignments and projects, reminders about class schedules and extracurricular activities, and any appointments they may have. To make it even more useful, they can include birthdays, holidays, vacation dates, and more. The act of writing these things down will help them remember, but it also produces a handy reference where everything they have going on in their lives can be viewed at a glance, in one place. It also becomes a great way to check things off of a to-do list and refer back to past events and accomplishments. What was I doing on March 13th this year? Oh, there it is on my calendar.
Are there apps that can help you do those things? Of course! And that’s the problem. It could require multiple apps, making it harder to find the thing you’re looking for, and science has already shown that you’ll remember it better if you write it down. Is your child already making notes and writing down assignments using pencil and paper? Great! A day planner will help keep all of that information organized and easy to access.
Letting your child choose the planner and pencil or pen they want to use with it helps them to be invested in the new process. Tip: using a pencil makes it easier to edit and update. Helping them get started, and offering suggestions and support will help it become a successful transition.
Dependence on electronic devices
If you need any more reason to encourage your child to learn to use handwritten calendars, planners, and notes, consider this information from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital: “We have become increasingly dependent on our devices, and now, more than ever, we are using our devices to communicate, get information and remain in contact 24/7. This lends itself to feeling anxious or stressed when we don’t have that source close by at all times.”
One of the negative outcomes of the pandemic has been the hugely increased amount of time children spend on video games, social media, and electronic devices in general. Many parents had to relax their rules about how much screen time their kids could have because suddenly everything was online, the kids couldn’t go to school and couldn’t get together with friends. Data shows that children’s screen time has doubled this year as compared to the year prior.
Returning to in-person school will be an important factor in weaning kids off of their addiction to electronic devices. Providing them the memory-enhancing tools of pencil and paper to incorporate into their daily habits will help retrain their brains and create a lifelong tool that will improve their lives.