If you're the parent of school-age children whose schools were shut-down during the pandemic, you probably didn't need to see the statistics to know that their education suffered. Even if you weren't home and available to monitor Zoom classes, it soon became clear that the words "online" and "learning" don't really go together.
Now that your children are back in school, you may be worried about their ability to regain lost ground, even though there's no doubt that teachers are doing everything they possibly can to get students back on track. The good news is, there are concrete things you can do to help!
First, schedule a time to speak frankly with teachers about your children specifically; ask them to be completely honest regarding how far behind your kids might be, in which subjects, and ask for suggestions--there may be supplementary reading they can do, or games you could play together to increase critical thinking, or maybe a website with math activities that don't feel like homework. Listen carefully, don't take offense, and make note of any and all suggestions.
Once you've done that, it's time to focus on how to create an environment in your home that is conducive to learning. At a minimum, implement the following:
Reduce recreational screen time. This includes TV, youtube, video games of all kinds, and smart phone use, including texting and all social media. All of these things interfere with your child's ability to focus and concentrate, so be serious about this! You be the keeper of all smart phones, tablets, and devices--kids must ask permission for use, and only be allowed to text or call while in your presence. Save TV for weekends and movie nights.
Create a central area for homework; this can be the kitchen or a spot in the living room, but not in a closed off, isolated area. This goes against what I would usually suggest, but it's the only way you can monitor computer use and make sure other screens aren't being used.
Be present and available, but don't sit with the child(ren). Busy yourself with a good book, work on food prep, listen to music with headphones while you look through a magazine, etc., but be truly available. Avoid "checking on" how they're doing, hovering over their work, or offering to check their answers, but let them know that they can ask you for help after they've tried several times on their own.
Set an end time, and have kids put away their work when that time comes. Have children put everything in their backpacks so it's all ready the next day.
Re-commit yourself to reading aloud together; even older children enjoy being read to! Reading aloud to your children improves their grammar and writing, provides your family a shared experience, and contributes to sound sleep. It enhances imagination, creativity, and vocabulary as well, and since the TV isn't being used--or at least not as much--you'll have more time for this!
Encourage individual reading by continuing to keep children's phones when they head to bed; tell them they are free to read until they fall asleep. Take them to a favorite bookstore or the library on a regular basis. Make it known that this is a high priority by showing your own excitement at starting a new book! And if you're not in the habit of reading, now is a wonderful time to start.
In reality, these are all things that I would hope are regularly being done in every home! If you look at statistics, you'll see some if not all of these habits being implemented in the homes of those segments of the population that consistently perform well academically. And notice people you know over 70--even those who only got a high school education demonstrate far greater knowledge than many who may have graduated college in the last 20 years or so. This is partly because they followed many of the same practices.
Thanks to the disruption caused by the pandemic, nearly all children have fallen behind, at least in some areas; however, if you stay in open communication with teachers, provide an environment with limited distractions, and devote consistent, daily study and reading time, there is nothing to fear! Your child will make steady progress, and if you're committed and consistent, will be back at grade level and going strong before too long.