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How local parents are balancing playtime with at home school responsibilities

Posted at 7:01 AM, Apr 06, 2020

The California superintendent of schools says students most likely should not return to school this academic year.

That means adapting to a new normal of online learning.

Local families are finding ways to make homeschooling work and experts say the key to success is incorporating plenty of playtime into the day.

The Aisner family created a hopscotch obstacle course in their Templeton backyard.

"Ok, what's 2 + 5?," Kristie Aisner asks her seven-year-old daughter Milee.

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5... 7!" Milee answers after hopping along the course to solve the math equation.

Aisner says she got the idea for the backyard course from a Facebook post, providing her kids with an art, math, linguistics and physical education lesson all in one.

"I drew the squares, my son drew some of the squiggly lines and then my daughter wrote all the numbers and the alphabet on the jumping part," Aisner said.

Kids and parents across the country are adapting to homeschooling.

"We do subtraction problems too because that's a lot of what she's learning in first grade right now so we've just kind of gotten creative and put some spins on things to expand their brains a little bit," she said.

Toy researcher Chris Byrne, better known as "The Toy Guy," says playtime is more important than ever.

"It's for stress relief, for connection, for an opportunity to get away from it all if you will for just a little bit," Byrne said. "I think that can help kids stay calm in this type of environment."

Just like recess is scheduled into the school day, kids need breaks to play at home now.

"I've been joking about this with my nephews, it's okay to run up and down the stairs - for once!" Byrne said.

He says playtime is a chance to connect with your kids over art projects, board games, puzzles or video games.

"This is a good time for parents to let kids teach them how to play the [video] game, let them be the expert for a little bit," Byrne said.

UCSB student teacher Katie Elster says breaks are crucial for young students.

"Especially now that they've been on devices for hours at a time watching Zoom meetings and interacting with their classmates that way," Elster said. "They need a break to relax their shoulders and also their eyes."

Elster says elementary students tend to lose focus after 20-30 minutes of school work.

Her solution: have your kids take a "boogie break" or a "brain break" every hour.

"So boogie breaks are literally just what they sound like, getting up and dancing for five minutes to a song" Elster said.

After the next hour of school work, have your students take a 2-3 minute "brain break" to take some meditative deep breaths, roll their shoulders and stretch out their muscles.

"Parents, I recommend you doing this as well because we're all sitting at devices right now," Elster said.

Any parents are feeling pressure to be awesome homeschoolers overnight should relax, according to Byrne.

"Kids are amazingly resilient and when it comes time to go back to school, they'll pick up where they left off," Byrne said. "The whole concept of 'brain drain' when kids are away from school - that's not really valid over the long term."

Above all, use this unique time to have fun as a family and make meaningful memories.

Other tips for parents from Elster and Byrne:

  • Let kids make their own meals and snacks
  • Give children some household tasks and chores
  • Don't worry too much about limiting screen-time right now; focus more on what's on the screen and making sure it's enriching content
  • Turn everyday events like a walk around the neighborhood into an academic lesson. Ask little ones to count every rock they see and play simple sensory recognition games
  • Utilize the dozens of free online resources available to families during the shelter-at-home order