'Give yourself a break': Message to B.C. parents with school-aged children at home - InfoNews

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'Give yourself a break': Message to B.C. parents with school-aged children at home

Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, is seen during an online media conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
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April 28, 2020 - 2:12 PM

B.C.’s decision not to close schools and do some lessons online in response to COVID-19 is putting stress on many parents, but they should not be beating themselves up over any perceived shortfalls in their efforts.

That was a key message delivered today, April 28, by Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, at news conference with Education Minister Rob Fleming.

“It’s really important for parents to give yourself a break,” Higginson said in answer to a question from iNFOnews.ca. “What you’re doing is good enough. Sometimes our children – this is happening to them too –  and sometimes my nine-year-old reminds me of this in ways that I don’t actually see until about three hours later and then I remember why he’s acting the way he is.”

B.C. chose not to cancel the school year and instead provide home learning options – often online but also on paper when required – plus in-school spaces for young children of essential services workers and some vulnerable children.

That has led to tremendous stress for some parents, like Nicki Guay. She has two pre-teen children which means she’s on four Zoom meeting a day along with homework and has six to eight different apps and web pages to deal with.

“My 12-year-old is saying he hates school at home,” Guay said. “It is really difficult.”

“Parents need to give themselves a break,” Fleming said. “They should not try to replicate being a teacher. Build a schedule that is reasonable. Make sure your kid is getting outdoors and staying healthy and exercising and don’t try to layer too much on.”

Higginson pointed out that she’s one of those parents who struggles with finding that balance.

“I would say to them that, sometimes, it’s OK to have the kids go outside and play baseball with them and find other ways to encourage their learning that isn’t the traditional way that you expect from them when they’re in school,” she said. “We’ve developed a nightly game of 500-up in my house where the kids are doing math by catching a baseball and wrestling with each other and it seems to work.”

She added the stress on parents is another reason the government is looking at ways to bring more children back into classrooms.

How that’s to be done is still in the planning stages but Fleming gave some clues about what may be coming.

“There are lots of low incidence kids, who have an individual education plan to guide them, that don’t need face-to-face in-class instruction,” Fleming said. “What we’re finding though, there are some kids who do need speech and language pathologists and other specialist teachers that do need some kind of limited presence in school, and we have that. Sometimes it’s for an hour or two a day.”

There are also “vulnerable” students who rely on things like meal programs or children with learning disabilities who need to have more face-to-face time in schools.

There are currently children of front-line health care workers attending school and that will likely be expanded to include children of parents in other tiers of essential services, like grocery stores, who can’t leave their children home alone as other areas of the economy open up.

They are also looking at how to structure summer school programs because there’s a demand for that, Fleming said.

Both Fleming and Higginson stressed that any opening up of the schools will only be done on scientific evidence in a measured way, taking into account lessons learned from other jurisdictions, such as New Zealand, that are opening up its schools now.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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