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Preparing for School in the Fall

Even in the midst of what feels like social chaos, I still believe that we are all are in a season of Reset. Let me explain.

If you are a parent, you are probably asking the question: “What does school look like for my child in the fall?” If you search for an answer to this question, you’ll find many responses, which makes planning for next year really, really frustrating.

If you’re like me, you are longing for straight talk, honest answers, and for someone to stop tiptoeing around the issue and provide direction. Obviously, no one knows what the future holds, but after many hours of conversation with leaders in education, here’s my take on school this coming fall.

Plan for back to school to look very different. Expect something similar to a hybrid or blended learning model. This means that most schools will offer students the chance to go back to school in person, in a limited fashion due to restrictions of in-person contact. This will likely look like 10-15 students in a classroom at one time, on a rotation so that the other 10-15 students can attend too. Translation: your student will probably have about two days in school per week.

On the days that your student is not in school, plan for the online learning to reemerge. More Zoom, more assignments through Google Classroom. This time, from exhausted, over-stretched teachers who are also teaching live classes at the same time.

Then, after some time, plan for another outbreak to interrupt the school year. No one can know this for sure, but given the uptick we’re seeing this summer it seems pretty likely. If it happens, over-night your blended classroom experience will turn into a fully remote, at-home classroom once again.

Which then begs the question every parent is asking: how can I do my job and take care of my children at the same time? Teachers with small children of their own are asking the same question. Districts are working hard to come up with solutions for all possible scenarios. Some businesses are doing the same. Here’s my advice for all parents reading this.

Be prepared!

Don’t sit back right now, disengage and hope others figure out these issues for you. Your child’s education is your responsibility. What are some ways to set healthy expectations and patterns for your child now—before school resumes—to practice the skills they will need once the school chaos begins?

Here are some things we are doing as a family. We’ve begun shifting the standard-centric paradigm of school on its head. Instead of waiting for instruction from teachers, we’ve already begun inviting our children to explore Khan Academy online for topics that are interesting to them. 90 minutes per day. On their own.

Every morning, they look through interactive lessons on math, science, history, business, engineering, coding and so much more. I don’t tell them what to do or require them to turn something in to me. Instead, they are growing their skills of curiosity, responsibility and leading their own learning. At dinner, they tell us what they learned and what they are most curious about. Last night, my 11 year-old told me all about Elon Musk and Space X. My 9-year-old showed me a robot picture he created from code. They are reading books they love (but know they need to include more biographies and non-fiction in the mix). They are learning ratios, animation, properties of numbers, how to create a webpage and so much more. On their own, without instruction or assignments.

Online learning is only one part of the equation. What about the challenges that come from experiential learning, working on real-life projects, problem solving, communicating and creating with their own two hands? What about teaching our children how to think critically on their own?

We began by doing the Generous Leadership® Challenge together as a family to grow in mindset and leadership together. Then I limited my kid’s screen time. Instead, they have to create something, lead something, cook something. My son looked up recipes and found one that he wants to cook on his own. I gave him a budget that he must stick to and instruction to find and purchase all of the ingredients. That’s math, chemistry, initiative, professional communication (with the cashier), and a tasty product to enjoy at the end.

Yes, I believe this is still a season of Reset.

What didn’t work for you last semester? Ask yourself “why?” over and over until you get to the root cause. If the root cause has anything to do with attitudes, habits, needed skills, collaboration with others, or finding resources, what would it look like if you began changing these now? One at a time.

The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Parents, we’re in this together. We can do this. Our children will be better and may rediscover a new love for learning that might shift the trajectory of their lives.

by Tricia Halsey, Executive Director