Children across the country and around our communities are returning or have returned to classrooms. However, parents, teachers and students have expressed significant concern. How do we make up for the past year and a half with so much loss of instruction? First, some students were not able to connect with the online learning, parents were overwhelmed and trying to help them with their school work, and then some students just disappeared not showing up at school when schools resumed, creating frustration for parents, teachers and students.

Teachers have experienced challenges over the years with multiple levels of students in the classroom. They have become more overwhelmed with students at more significant learning gaps upon returning to school. There are those students who were able to connect with and participate in online learning, as well as those with parents who could adjust their schedules to participate in homeschooling. Still, some parents didn’t have those opportunities, and their children faced new challenges.

We can’t go back. We have to keep things moving forward. Our children are resilient, and they will bounce back quickly. But, we all have to be aware and provide additional support if we see a child struggling.

As parents and community members, one of the best things we can do to assist our schools is to engage our children. Language is key to the child’s development and understanding of their surroundings. Take the time to have a child tell you what they are doing and why not just when they have done something wrong, builds pathways in their brains to increase their comprehension of what is happening around them.

Reading with or to children remains one of the best learning opportunities an adult can do with children. When you read with a child or to a child, there are several key activities you can engage the child with to increase their understanding. Questions along with asking their opinion will increase their knowledge. If you can relate the activities in what you are reading to real-life experiences, it will help the child build the comprehension skills they may have missed during the last couple of years.

Consider a nonfiction book in your child’s area of interest. We all enjoy a good story, but a nonfiction book might help make up for some lost classroom time. Again the learning happens during the discussion about the information.

Still, no matter how hard we try, the time has been lost because of the pandemic, and we have to keep moving forward. Getting our children engaged can be difficult sometimes. You’re ready or have time to work with them, and they start crying and arguing making a whole different challenge. If you should experience your child pushing back, know you are experiencing a learning opportunity. Our children want to have some form of control in this out-of-control time. So knowing how to deal with this will make everyone’s day happier.

You might start with a question, such as, “Would you like to read a book?” Whatever activity you have in mind. We would hope to hear “Sure,” but it doesn’t always happen. Then, if you start to get push back, this is your child showing they want to challenge control. So give them a statement like, “We need to complete this story or do our reading today so we can do it now or when you’re ready, but we need to start in 15 minutes to complete it in time for ... Which would you prefer?” Doing this shows your child they can control something in what seems to be an out-of-control time in their world. In most cases, children will come and read because the number one thing they want is time with you. Our children want our time, whether it be positive or negative. We as adults have to make it positive, and this trick is quick and straightforward.

Looking forward is our way to help our children move past these last couple of years. Spending time and interacting with them will also help overcome the time missed in the classroom. Let the learning begin.


Scott Smith is a 40-plus year Umatilla County educator and serves on the Decoding Dyslexia Oregon board as its parent/teacher liaison.

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