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What's Happening at School this Fall? (and what parents can do)

This post is an excerpt of mine from an October 2021 BACKYARD CAMP issue/email newsletter! (You must check out this Canadian website for families. I’ve copied some information below about the creative, fun, and smart activities and challenges they share for parents to keep their kids busy, active, and learning.)

We’re well into the school year now. Thanksgiving is behind us and Halloween’s around the corner! Before we know it, teachers will distribute fall progress report cards, to share updates about what’s happening with our kids at school.

What kind of news will we get in these progress reports? Are our kids making the grade this fall?

Now that many aspects of life are back to usual (and we can see a light at the end of the COVID tunnel), we wonder about impacts from last year’s lockdowns and pivots to at-home learning on our children, academically, socially, and emotionally.

It’s early still, but there are signs that the kids are behind (and that’s okay).

So far, teachers report that settling into classroom routines is taking longer than ever this year. Many students need several reminders to listen during class and follow instructions. Some of the most basic activities, such as getting into a straight line to move through the hallways, are taking forever to master. Routines are really important and teachers have to be consistent and thorough about the tiniest details! Having routines in place sets the stage for learning in the classroom.

It makes sense that it’s taking longer this year. Our kids have not had a regular school year since 2019. For some primary students, they may be in their first classroom setting, ever! Usually the preschool teachers pave the way for kindergarten readiness, and then kinder teachers make sure grade one students can follow instructions and routines.

It’s taking longer to settle into school this year, in every way and at every level.

This makes sense.

Some good news: parents can help teachers get their kids caught up!

Here are some simple things parents can do to promote their kids’ academic/social/emotional progress and development:

Encourage your children to be social, as much as possible. Set up playdates for them. Spend time with friends, relatives, and neighbours. Hang around on the playground with other families before and after school. Try to socialize your kids as much as possible so they’re exposed to kids from different ages and backgrounds. Children and teens have lost precious social opportunities due to the pandemic lockdowns. Let’s get our kids socialized, comfortable with both positive interactions and awkward conflicts.

Assign chores to your kids, so they’re contributing at home and to the family “team.” Set expectations for the quality and timing of getting chores done. Delegate responsibilities so they do some of the grunt work that’s needed to make the family home run efficiently.

Resist the urge to do things for your kids that they’re capable of doing, such as packing backpacks and making beds. Fight the temptation to fix their problems. During the pandemic, many parents did too much for their kids. Now it’s time to encourage them to step up and figure things out. Try not to fuss if they trip, struggle or fail! Setbacks and challenge are important parts of growth, and they’re capable of way more than we give them credit.

Do quick quality checks of homework, after your kids complete it on their own and before they hand it in to teachers. Look for basic work organization and legibility. Notebooks and assignments may be less organized than usual these days, because students have not had the same “quality checks” and expectations from teachers during remote learning periods. Students submitted homework and class work digitally for most of last year! As a result, some organizational, handwriting, and grammatical skills may be messier than they should be. Point out obvious mistakes and encourage your child to make corrections. Get picky!

Since March 2020, the pandemic has prevented optimal learning and skill development to occur. Under the circumstances, our children and teachers faced difficulties working on some basics as well as specific curriculum outcomes. And that’s just the way it is! It’s okay.

As parents, let’s be patient. Let’s support our kids’ skill development and encourage high quality work from them. We can promote learning skills such as time management, organization, collaboration, responsibility and independence, and make sure they’ve got lots of opportunities to be social — at home, every day.


More about Backyard Camp:

Backyard Camp offers a free and paid email newsletter for parents and caregivers who would like help programming their child’s play activities. Unlike the various blogs that list many ideas for parents, Backyard Camp’s uniqueness is in the specificity and detail of its programming. This newsletter is personalized to the needs of each family’s circumstances, meaning the content received will be tailored for factors like the child’s age, activity preferences (e.g. crafts, sports), number of children and if they’re living in a house or building.

The content is provided by a range of contributors, from teachers to experienced camp counsellors. They’ve also partnered with existing programs, to share their expertise with the broader community and contribute to helping parents.



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