The Eclectic Observer asked Eclectic Middle School teacher Lana Hebert her thoughts and recommendations as to what parents can do to enrich their children during the extended break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Q: What issues, if any, might the extended pose for students who may not do any educational activities?

A: Studies show that the biggest issue that arises from extended breaks is the decline in reading and math skills. That is why so many teachers have to spend the first few weeks after summer break to review the previous year’s content.

Q: Do you have any children in K-12? If so, what are you doing/planning to do during the break to keep them engaged?

A: I do not have any K-12 students at this time, but when my children were younger and we had extended breaks due to hurricanes I would make sure they always had something to do.

We always had several books around the house, or they would work on pages out of old workbooks I could find. If I didn’t have those things, they would draw or help me cook. 

Q: Do you recommend parents reach out to their teachers during the break? If so, what questions should they ask their teachers?

A: Absolutely. Some content is not easy to understand especially subjects like math. I believe most teachers would rather a parent ask for help than incorrectly teach.

Q: If parents are limited as to what they can do with their children due to time constraints or lack of access to technology, what are some things they can do around the house to keep learning skills fresh?

A: Cooking is huge when talking about fractions and proportions; building things out of blocks or LEGOs and discussing shapes (geometry); showing them how to change a tire or the oil in their car; maybe giving them a problem to solve or allowing them to create the menu for the week; playing games, like checkers and cards, where they are using different strategies to keep their mind stimulated.

Q: Is structure important? If so, explain. What would be an example routine? Do you recommend putting the routine on a calendar or piece of paper for the kids to see?

A: This break, even though extended, is relatively short. Structure is very important because we don’t want students to waste time getting back into a routine once school resumes. 

I always tried to keep the schedule as close to “school” as possible. We did what we could to learn new things throughout the day and “play” time was after 3 p.m. 

Knowing your child will determine whether a schedule needs to be written down. I had one daughter who did not need one. She worked great on an internal schedule. My other daughter needed a checklist. This is a great time to get to know these things about your kids.

Q: Other than traditional learning exercises, what are some activities you recommend families do?

A: Bake together, show your children how to balance a checking account, build something together even if it’s just a house of cards; create a family book club and discuss different things you’ve read; design some form of art and share the meaning behind it; take virtual field trips and research things together.

Q: For households that have internet access, what are some websites or online resources parents can access? 

A: Elmore County students can access IXL which practice many science, math and language arts skills. They can also access vocabulary.com to practice language arts, history and science terms. Many of the big zoos are now offering online videos and lessons. 

Even websites like alabamawildlife.org offers lessons and activities. NASA is another source to consider. 

There many things available if parents Google virtual field trip.

Q: Any additional recommendations or advice you recommend? 

A: Do not be afraid to reach out to your child’s teachers. We are here to help. 

We can tell you what content should be taught and practiced, and many of us have tons of resources we can share with parents during the extended break.