Many of us find ourselves engaging in many Zoom meetings during this current crisis, and exploring whether and/or how to use screen technology to reach our children while they are sheltering at home.
Our EC faculty is in communication with AWSNA and WECAN/International Association for Steiner/Waldorf Early Childhood Education(www.iaswece.org) and we are working on ways to prepare lessons, assignments, and resources that will allow our educational program to continue remotely in light of the extended school closure.
Early Childhood teachers will support families by sending out recommended daily rhythms, activity ideas, and other suggestions for the young child. We will continue to send little stories, finger plays, templates of projects. We also will share articles on imitation, nutritional information, sleep, toys for the young child, goodness, gratitude and inspiration, recipes, verses, the importance of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, working with the will of the child, practical activities with children, the four lower senses, family stories and more.
We encourage parents to resist the urge to entertain the children with screen time. This is not supportive to their overall development and will very likely make their time at home more difficult in the long run.
Please keep adult conversation among adults: Children need protection at this sensitive time from the anxieties of our adult world, away from the news. They should know that the adults are taking care of things and they do not need to worry.
We will keep in touch with the parents and the children through weekly letters, emails, phone calls, one-on-one conferences, Zoom interaction, Facebook private group postings, videos and recordings of stories, songs, crafts and activities.
Parents of Young Children during COVID-19 - How to make meaning of remote learning
By Alison Locker, PhD
This is a confusing and scary time. For those of us who are healthy and safe, however, there is much to be grateful for. I am most grateful for the fact that my children are 21, 19, and 16, so they are capable of entertaining themselves all day and would prefer to see me as little as possible. I often yearn for the younger versions of my children, but not right now. Parenting young children is relentless under the best of circumstances. It is often filled with joy and pleasure and poignancy and delight, but relentless nonetheless. Parenting during this particular time is even more so; it is like an endless game of tag when you are “it” all the time.
We are all scrambling for ways to make ourselves feel regulated and safe. So are our children. In addition to our homes, the space that children feel most regulated and safe is school. It is therefore totally logical and understandable that parents want school. They want online school in their homes TO BE school. They want their children to be in a safe space and to be occupied so they can recharge their batteries and restore some semblance of calm. Parents are feeling understandably overwhelmed in the face of their children’s unrelenting needs.
I have worked as a clinical psychologist with parents and young children for 20 years. In the past two weeks, this is what I have been hearing from parents... “We need more help. This is not school. Online learning is lame. My kids are getting nothing from this. Where is the rigor? Why can’t the teachers do more? What exactly am I paying for?”
First, it’s time to reflect upon and to shift your expectations of what school can be right now. School for young children during COVID-19 is simply NOT school. It is not supposed to be school. It cannot be school. There is no way to re-create play-based learning over a computer screen. You will not be able to plunk your children down in front of a screen and walk away. It would be best if you could let go of any fantasy that you will be “dropping off” your children in front of a screen for a few hours while you tend to work/other responsibilities/trying to restore your sanity.
Teachers are able to create safety in their classroom by setting up clear and consistent routines and expectations and limits. The best of them can coax a sense of wonder from the world that makes their space seem nothing short of magical. Teachers are able to facilitate experiences that allow children to express their inner lives and to encourage the kind of play that best promotes their cognitive development. I could never come close to that. My guess is that you probably can’t either.
WHAT MATTERS - SAFETY AND CONNECTION
Despite the fact that you cannot create anything that resembles school at home, keeping a connection to teachers through this crazy time is meaningful and will help children feel safe. Safety and connection are the two fundamental building blocks of healthy emotional development. They are what matter most. Schools are working hard to promote connection and to keep reminding children that they are safe and that their teachers are safe. Its connection and safety over and over and over through real-time meetings and video posts and activities.
One of the most insidious effects that the COVID-19 virus has had on all of us is that it has disrupted our sense of safety. That is true even for those of us who are healthy and living out of the city. We are all on high alert, wearing masks and wiping down groceries and Amazon boxes and speaking to friends and family who may be ill. We are all dysregulated and, to varying degrees, living in an unrelenting state of anxiety. Children are both sponges for our anxiety and are contending with worries of their own.
This virus not only turned your world upside down but also made your children’s world implode. All of their routines have been disrupted, and they lost contact with their teachers (and in many cases caregivers at the same time), who are the adults who make them feel seen and safe. Staying in touch with school -- even if it’s only 10 minutes a day -- is meaningful despite the fact it may not seem that way for your particular child. The message children get is “my teacher did not disappear” and “this is what it means to be safe. Everyone is doing this not just me” and “my teacher can still see me.” These are the messages children need to get over and over and over. As confusing as it is for all of us, this is also a very confusing time for young children. Just because they are not asking questions does not mean they understand what’s happening.
What matters most at this time is NOT the content of the material your schools are sending (I say that with great respect for all of your hard-working teachers) or the worksheets or activity time fillers you are desperate for. The activities are meaningful only as a bridge between the classroom and your home.
WHERE IS THE VALUE?
We will not be able to understand the psychological impact of all of this for a very long time. The value cannot be measured right now and you may not see it in the moment. Your children will make meaning of this experience in ways none of us can anticipate. What I can tell you, however, is that the lessons they learn from this and the memories that will shape them will not come from the specifics of online learning but rather what it felt like to be home with you as they are engaged with it. The shape of the memories will be determined by their sense of safety and connection.
WE ARE ALL DOING THE BEST WE CAN
Since a parent asked me specifically about educational “rigor,” I will say that, emotionally speaking, just being a child (not to mention a parent) at this time is rigorous enough. Children are as disoriented as you are. Most lack consistent structure and miss their classrooms and their friends and caregivers and all the fun things they did before they got stuck in the house for reasons they cannot understand (even if you have told them a million times). Their frustration tolerance is being tested constantly, and they have parents who are feeling anxious and preoccupied by the state of the world and work and endless other responsibilities. None of us have a playbook for this. Getting through each day with some fun and not too much yelling is enough.
Perhaps most importantly, the “doing the best we can” also extends to teachers. They are all managing their own lives and families (often with kids the same age as yours) as they try to hold your children from afar. They are working incredibly hard and thinking very deliberately about what is most developmentally appropriate. They know that more screen time activity does not necessarily support best practice, and real-time interaction is not always possible as teachers navigate their own lives in their own personal spaces.
Since the “what should I do with them?” question seems pressing every minute of the day, here is one suggestion...Talk to your kids about what it means to be part of a community. Communities need to work to keep everyone safe and to be kind and to take care of one another. Sometimes to keep a community strong means that no one can have what they want and everyone needs to try to be generous and to think about everybody else. Then they can color a picture for a friend or bake cookies to leave on a doorstep or Face-time a relative who is home alone. Those are the lessons your children would be learning in their classrooms, and now they will have even more time to learn these lessons from you.
Jasmine Kindergarten Teacher
EC Pedagogical Chair