Learning at Home: Keeping kids sharp on snow days

2014-03-23T08:00:00Z Learning at Home: Keeping kids sharp on snow daysJulia Perla Huisman Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 23, 2014 8:00 am  • 

On many a chilly morning this winter, parents all over the Region awoke to phone calls from groggy school officials announcing either the closing or delay of school for that day. On some weeks, to the delight of kids everywhere, this became more the rule than the exception.

Indeed, it’s been a record-breaking year when it comes to snow days and two-hour delays at Northwest Indiana schools. While a day off of school here and there, as in typical winters, doesn’t have much of a long-term effect on students’ education, this winter’s mass loss of instruction has left educators reeling.

Stacy Harvey, 4th grade teacher at Kenwood Elementary in Hammond, said that after the six closings and six two-hour delays in her district, it was a challenge to get students back into a routine. “They were tired and a little out of sorts,” she said. “Especially on [days with] two-hour delays when they lost a special like gym.”

Teachers have been working hard to make up for lost time. “Right now we are trying to be well planned so we have little down time [during the school day],” Harvey said. “We also need to be careful not to expect too many new concepts to be mastered to make up for all the lost curriculum before testing.”

Parents must also make a concerted effort to ensure their kids are up to speed. “Parents should make sure homework is a priority,” Harvey said.

When a snow day is called—and there may be more this winter—parents are encouraged to lead their kids in some sort of academic activity during the day. Harvey recommends that students read 20 to 30 minutes each day, plus study math facts and concepts they’ve just learned.

Alisa Carlson of LaPorte is a mother of three and a third grade teacher at Marsh Elementary School in Michigan City. During the snow days, she had “school at home” with her kids, ages 9, 8, and 3.

“I chose Language Arts and Math skills based on what extra practice I knew would be a benefit to my children, such as addition with carrying and subtraction with borrowing,” Carlson said. “I also considered skills from their homework that were more challenging than others, like fractions, and I Googled worksheets on those skills.”

Carlson said she wanted the academic activities to have an aspect of fun, so she used a deck of cards to play Addition and Subtraction War and other games (described in the sidebar).

Harvey recommends keeping it light and fun as well. “Have them write about their day or do a fun experiment at home,” she said. “If your child’s school does things online, get them on those sites at home. I blog with my class and loved reading about their snow days and dialoging with them while we were out.”

Parents needn’t attempt to keep the kids busy for the same amount of time they would normally be in school. Harvey said an hour or two throughout the day is sufficient.

Aside from academic activities, parents should enforce healthy lifestyle habits as well. Harvey said to keep kids on the same sleep schedule and to limit their screen time. “Being home all day allows for some extra creative play!”

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