Last Spring, during home learning, one of my children rolled around on the floor instead of completing an assignment. I joined him on the floor because I was also tired of the whole thing. That moment of pure frustration represents the totality of home learning to me. Everybody is trying there best, but sometimes it just isn’t working.
The pandemic has severely disrupted traditional schooling and parents and educators are increasingly concerned about learning loss in children. Learning loss is basically forgetting key academic skills, like reading comprehension or multiplication.
As the first wave of standardized tests come out from the past year, we have evidence of significant learning loss for many children. Younger children are especially vulnerable to falling behind – which makes sense given that the foundation skills of phonetics or counting have not been established.
To be completely honest, we have all experienced learning loss. If you are an American child and ever went on summer vacation, you are a summer learning loss statistic. Each summer, students lose about a month of school knowledge that they must reteach in the fall. Some families can cushion the learning loss or the summer slide effect. This is mostly through exposure to books, summer learning programs, and other enriching activities like camps.
Although the learning loss due to the pandemic is considerably more, we can use information about summer learning loss to guide us in how to approach pandemic learning loss.
One of the main factors in whether a child can overcome learning loss is socioemotional. If home life is chaotic and stressed, kids have more summer learning loss, and it is harder for them to catch up.
This pandemic year has been nothing but chaos and stress for families.
So, what do we do?
Kids cannot learn well until their basic social and emotional needs are met. Just like you can’t focus on work tasks when you are overwhelmed, your child cannot learn math when they are overwhelmed. There can be no catch up in learning until kids are in a good place socially and emotionally.
Many educators I know are working on this. In school, many classrooms are focusing on building social and peer skills again and talking a lot about emotions. But there is much work to be done, and us families need to take on some of the load ourselves.
I do believe, quite strongly, that the learning loss from this pandemic are temporary for kids. Children and teens are incredibly resilient. They will rise to this challenge. But like children during the Great Depression or children during 9/11, our children will be shaped by this pandemic.
This does not have to be a bad thing. It can be a strength, and advantage, an experience that can grow our children into stronger, more resilient people.
The first step to helping our children overcome learning loss is attending to their social and emotional development. To ensure that our children continue to thrive, parents should focus on getting their kids in a good place psychologically. Once that is in place, we can begin the work of helping our kids catch-up to learning milestones.
I am an award-winning scientist, educator, author, and a mom. I help parents accomplish their goals for themselves and their families.
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