From NBC News, March 5:
According to a new U.N. report, nearly 300 million students worldwide are affected by the educational disruptions. While school closings were limited to China just a few weeks ago, a national shutdown has hit Italy, and some closings have started in the United States, with parents told to brace for more.
Los Angeles declared a state of emergency Wednesday and told parents to prepare for potential school closings after a California patient died. Some schools have already closed in Washington state, where there have been ten coronavirus deaths, the most in the country, and in New York state, which has twenty-two confirmed cases.
Parents are already starting to get anxious about how to deal with the upheaval. In a Seattle suburb, the North Shore School District sent a letter notifying parents that schools would be closed for at least fourteen days and that schools would begin conducting remote learning Monday.
My kids are in grades four and six. We’re in Massachusetts. Our first school affected by the novel coronavirus is five miles away. We’re just planning ahead in the event my kids’ school closes. And because mom’s a doctor, she can’t take off work. So it looks like the kids will be subjected to…Daddy School. (Audible groan from our son as he looks over my shoulder just now. That actually just happened).
I’m sharing my plan, fellow parent, because it may give you some ideas on your plan.
A. My goals:
1. Something reasonably easy for me, and sort of fun. I’m not lazy per se. Okay, I am lazy. I don’t want to do a ton of prep.
2. Kids remember it fondly five years from now. “Remember when we had Daddy School for a few weeks? That wasn’t horrible!”
3. Kids learn a little. But in scheme of things, whether they learn a little or a lot doesn’t matter much. A one-month closure is less than 1% of their K–12 career. So, back to goals one and two.
B. I’m drafting the ground rules. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
1. “Daddy School hours” are 9:00 a.m. to noon each day. We’ll sit at the dining room table. Are pajamas okay? I’m undecided. I may insist on your “sweatpants only” implied school uniform. Get some formality. Dress for success, they say.
2. Each afternoon, after Daddy School ends for the day, you’re mostly on your own. Read. Play with your gerbils. Draw. Board games.
3. “Gym” is 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day minimum, weather dependent, meaning you need to go outside. Shoot hoops. Ride your bikes. Complain and argue. The fresh air will do you good. Unless I’m misunderstanding how airborne this thing is.
4. If school is cancelled, your organized sports, Girl Scouts, and karate will be cancelled. That means you’ll be stuck with each other. Hopefully you can play with friends in the afternoons. But I’m not sure yet if that’s a bad idea because of health concerns, or if it’s actually low risk and panicky, other parents will just freak out. We’ll ask mom.
5. Each afternoon you’ll get your usual thirty minutes of recreational screen time. Because Daddy School each morning includes a bunch of educational videos we watch together, I don’t want to permit even more screen time in the afternoons on top of that. Hope that seems fair. Probably not. I know that most of your friends have organized ten-hour blocks of nonstop Zelda, TikTok, and Red Dead Redemption 2. I know you want to join those families. That reminds me: Our first order of business in Daddy School will be to read and discuss this study linking screen-time to lower psychological well-being. Maybe if you learn enough stats to find the holes in its research methods, you can earn extra screen time.
6. If you have required schoolwork from your teachers, we’ll get that done. My wild guess is that you’ll spend an hour per day on the required stuff. That probably leaves us two hours to do together.
7. Don’t moan and groan, roll your eyes, and all that. Save that for your regular teachers when you return to real school. They will miss it, trust me.
8. If you have better ideas than mine, I’m all ears.
C. Draft Schedule
9:00 to 9:30 a.m.
Oversimplified history videos. Tried and true. You love ‘em. I love ‘em. Let’s start each school day with a win. I’ll hit pause a lot and ask questions. Typical video is ten minutes without pauses. At the end, I’ll give you a fun five-minute speed round of quiz questions, help you remember what you saw.
9:30 to 10:00 a.m.
Math tutoring. Maybe this will be just completing problem sets from school. Otherwise, I’ve downloaded some old MCAS state exams for grades four and six. Let’s go through those old problem sets. I want to see where you’re strong and where you need work. Then we’ll move over to Khan Academy problem sets and practice on areas where you need improvement.
10:00 to 10:30 a.m.
Nonfiction book club. Let’s pick something and read/discuss it together, the 3 of us. On the first day, our only job is to work together on book ideas. At the end of the session, we’ll vote on our book, buy it in Kindle format. After that, we take turns reading aloud and following along, and sometimes pause for questions/discussion. We’ll finish 1 or 2 books during our Daddy School experience. Of course I love that you love fiction but I don’t want to steal your afternoon Pleasure Reading time. We’ll need that to eat up some time in the unstructured afternoons.
10:30 to 10:45 a.m.
Snack break. Play nerf basketball.
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
Watch and discuss Ted Talks. Here’s a list of seventeen of them that seem to be kid-friendly, for starters.
11:15 to 11:45 a.m.
Finish other homework if it’s been assigned. If not, science videos. On the first day, our only job is to watch two minutes worth from these six different science video channels:
It’ll be like watching movie trailers. Then we’ll vote on our preferred video channel. In the days beyond, it’ll be like how we use history videos. Watch, pause, ask questions.
11:45 to 11:55 a.m.
“Test” for “treats.” I’ll make up a short test about today’s lessons. You’ll do the same, quizzing me. Whoever “wins”—kids or dad—gets a candy treat after lunch. No sore losers if I dominate.
11:55 a.m. to noon
Kids rate the day of Daddy School on a scale from one to ten and provide feedback.
We go our separate ways. Dad chugs two more K-cups and gets some work done.
Mike Goldstein is the founder of Match Education in Boston: a college prep charter school for low-income kids; an embedded Graduate School of Education; and a program to share best practices.