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Teacher’s Note Home: Set Routines, Vary Work, Explain COVID-19

Matt Loew
Eliana Loew, 7, and Isaac Loew, 5, read at their Long Island home last week. Their parents, both schoolteachers, have some advice for parents on balancing online classes, child care and working from home.

Okay, parents – most kids were sent home about a week ago when their schools closed down due to coronavirus concerns. Now the expectation is on you – their parents – to make sure the kids will keep up with their assignments at home. 

But for a family on Long Island that has two parents who are teachers, class is in session.

A day in the life of the Loew family in self-isolation is a pretty regimented routine. 

The kids are up and eating breakfast – and kept busy on their iPads – all before 9 a.m. That way their parents, Matt and Aleeza Loew, can check emails and set up online class assignments for the subjects they teach for their students.

Credit Matt Loew
Matt Loew
A daily schedule enables the family to stay organized and on track with their work.

Schoolwork starts this morning with Issac working on a “Healthy Choices” assignment that explains what germs are and how to stay healthy. Aleeza said it gets to the heart of really what’s important right now.

“You know what, as long as we stay healthy, and our families stay healthy, and our friends stay healthy, honestly, like, the rest is, you know, the easy stuff. Just I feel like avoiding this plague is really the most important thing right now,” Aleeza said. 

Some of the schoolwork will be…unenjoyable for parents. Aleeza, the math teacher, and Matt, the history teacher, said it’s okay if you hate math and history.

“Maybe if the parents learn the math better, they will like it more and then their kids will have more confidence. And they'll like it more,” Aleeza said.

There are plenty of online resources for math and history, such as Khan Academy and Smithsonian Learning Lab, that can help build their skills. 

It’s the parent’s job to be around to help, but Matt said don’t get in the way. 

“So I think allowing the kids to take the lead,” Matt said. “I think really the parent’s role is setting them down, making sure that they put in the time and the effort, but then the kids know what to do. I mean, they're pretty tech savvy, you know, they probably know more than we do.”

Make suggestions and answer questions, but try to let them do things themselves as much as possible.

Mix up the routine with tasks in front of, and away from, the computer. 

Including games that get kids unplugged can help control the amount of screentime they’re getting at home – especially as more of their schoolwork is assigned online.

“I’ve spent a lot of money on crafts. Our kids really like Legos,” Aleeza said. Matt added board games are great indoors and outdoor activities in the yard are a bonus.

They say, in theory, this time at home can be the perfect time for kids to learn key life skills, such as cooking, cleaning and other basic household tasks.

“Hypothetically, yes,” Aleeza said. “Right now our kids have not really bought into that idea.”

Matt said it’s important to carve out time to socialize, even if it's by video calling family and friends. Social distancing doesn’t mean being anti-social. 

Parents, find a balance that makes sense for helping the kids with their assignments and your work. It doesn’t have to be a 50-50 split every day.  

Reading is an activity that can allow parents to get some of their own work done. Maintaining and building reading skills will serve students at every level.

Issac has been reading the “Pete the Cat” series. 

Schoolwork can also be an opportunity for parents to learn with their children and have fun. 

Matt said he would have never started to pick up French if it weren’t for Eliana’s work. 

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coveragehere

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A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.