By Clara Logan, Academy Director, Mastro Montessori
Now that it is officially back to school season, many parents share the same fear; that the past year with hybrid and/or virtual instruction was a lost year for their children. While the academics and the learning that occurred was surely not at the same level as it would have been if children had attended school five full days a week, the silver lining is that almost all children are in the same situation. This was not a situation that occurred simply in Monmouth county or even just in New Jersey. Children worldwide experienced some sort of major shift in their education beginning in March of 2020. Even those students who returned to in person learning last year, experienced a fundamental change in their education. Amazingly, this fall will be the first time some students are returning to school since the pandemic began. Many parents have expressed concerns about their children’s social development, academic development, mental health, and many other factors, and while these are all valid concerns, we are all experiencing this together and facing the same challenges.
There is not a single student that has not been impacted by the pandemic in some way. An amazing quality in children is their resilience. This resilience will help them to be successful despite the adversities of the past year. While students may not be as academically strong as they might have been following a normal school year, they have learned a new set of life skills, and certainly honed their ability to adapt. Therefore, the academics will adjust to support their current needs. The plan of the educators is to meet the children where they are academically and continue to help propel them forward. The past year was a brief blip in the children’s academic and social lives, and they will all recover from it. The good news is that the children are now able to attend school in person full-time and get back on their path to greatness.
As always, there are many opportunities as parents, to provide support and meaningful activities for the children at home. Almost all educators recommend limiting or eliminating screen time at home during the week, especially given the amount of time spent over the past year with virtual learning. Additionally, involving children in the tasks of daily life at home is important. They should have age-appropriate chores, helping with set up or clean up for dinner, laundry or other household chores, and they must have ample time to play outside to continue to develop their gross motor skills. Children need not be structured all the time, as it is during the unstructured time that they must be creative and innovative to keep themselves entertained.
It is also important to allow children to unwind prior to bed by reading or engaging in another quiet activity that does not involve screens, like drawing, beading or journaling. The sleep- disturbing blue light that comes from electronic devices can be a major factor in the quality of rest for some. Ample sleep is of utmost importance, especially in getting back into a school routine after the summer break. Additionally, it may take the children a bit longer to acclimate to their new daily routine after such a long hiatus from school. Remembering to be patient and understanding as everyone gets back into the school day schedule can help squelch the nerves of some students and will set the tone of the new school year nicely. As the academic year gets going, although it may take a bit of extra fortitude and forbearance, remember, we are all in this together and we will all get through this together; for the sake of our children.