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Will my child "fall behind" in COVID schooling?

Will my child lose academic learning this year? Yes.

Is this a problem? Probably not.

I hear variations on this question all the time – and I feel this anxiety myself. In a year unlike any other, parents are concerned that, with less face to face, direct instruction, their child will “fall behind”. Those with resources purchase support - pandemic pods, private tutors, babysitters, specialty math, science, engineering programming…

But let’s flip the script. Let’s flip our concerns upside down and gain new perspective.* In the square below is our parenting concern. There is little doubt that our children’s’ learning will be different than in a typical year. Questions 1-3 dig into this question. Below that, I answer them – for my kids. You may agree, disagree and/or have your own flipped questions.

The short answers

1. Likely not – if your family has resources - unless your child is struggling in a specific area.

2. No – high academic performance is NOT what students need for successful adulthood.

3. Yes – even in this crazy time – our new models of education can offer benefit for some but drawbacks for others.

The long answers

1. Likely not - If your child has an identified need in an academic area, you should pay attention. If not, in-school, academic instruction is only one of many types of learning.

  • Direct instruction – face to face or remote – is not the best path to deeper learning. Children learn better through projects which motivate, engage, and encourage intellectual flexibility. Reading is the big exception – we should all read everyday ; )

  • Breaks from school help children deepen and solidify learning. “Doing school” (lots of direct instruction) - every-single-day – sucks the joy our of learning and may actually result in less learning.

  • Traditional metrics of success – SAT scores, accelerated classes, Ivy League colleges – don’t track with ability or intelligence – but instead relate to family income.

COVID take away - It’s OK for kids to have a slower year of learning. Family income provides an invisible protective factor for some. Supplement with Passion Projects to encourage deeper learning and read lots!

Going Deeper: Challenge Success - Did You Know?

2. No - “Being ahead” academically is not what drives success. After all, o in a job our children will work with people of all ages, experience levels and abilities. Being one year ahead – or behind – in math, for example, really isn’t important.

However, “soft skills” - working in groups, clear communication, cooperative problem-solving, interdisciplinary thinking are critical to adult success

COVID take away – Rather than adding on academic work (unless you know your child needs them), focus on soft skills and deeper learning.

3. Yes - 2020 has brought American issues of equity and racism to the forefront. Differences in COVID schooling from one community to another, and also within communities are concrete and relatable for children. These teachable moments both highlight equity issues and create a meaningful opportunity to reflect and give back.

Talk about how kindness is more important than grades, about how the needs of others must take priority during moments of community crisis and act – concretely to make your community a happy, more equitable place.

COVID take away – Focus on community and caring rather than “doing school”. Teach equity through real world, current examples and engage your child in activities which not only build their empathy, awareness, and creative thinking, but also models how to put equity at the center of our lives.

Going Deeper: Harvard's Making Caring Common - What do your children think you value?

* Based on Anthropologist Laura Nadar (1971) concept of “asking common sense questions in reverse”.

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