#parent | #kids | Worried about virtual learning? Here are 6 alternatives for parents to get their kids help

Almost every student in New Jersey is going to be learning remotely this fall, whether parents opted to keep their kids home, a district decides to start the school year that way, or students are part of a hybrid schedule.

But for some, it’s not an easy pill to swallow and parents are looking for alternative options to virtual instruction.

Recent studies suggest that students, from preschool to K-12, lost learning opportunities in the spring due to the inefficacy of remote learning.

So what can parents do to supplement or replace their district’s virtual-learning curriculum? Here are some options:

1. Try a “pod” with other students

Earlier this year, many families began experimenting with “learning pods” or “micro-schooling” where groups of students gather for tutoring, a homework session or parental supervision.

Tutoring companies have helped formalize the trend, offering to match students with a small group of classmates.

“It provides a safe environment for students to ask questions… for students to be social with their friends and feel like they’re part of something, whereas the online virtual school, you’re home, doing class with your friends who are clearly not with you or not in the same room,” Josh Goodkin, Founder of Homework Helpers of Long Valley, told NJ Advance Media. “This almost makes it feel like you’re in school again.”

Goodkin’s tutoring service will place students in groups of two to three to work with the same tutor for an hourly rate of $30. BrainStorm Tutoring & Arts, based in Franklin Lakes but serving students across North and Central New Jersey, offers pods for the same hourly rate for groups of three, scaling the price down with the more students who join the group.

Some have complained that learning pods with private tutors are an inaccessible option, only for privileged families. Others have applied the concept by taking matters into their own hands and forming their own pods with neighbors or through Facebook community groups.

2. Start home-schooling

For families who want to take control of the curriculum, they can always opt to withdraw their child from public school and start homeschooling.

New Jersey’s laws regarding homeschooling are relatively lax compared with the rest of the nation. New Jersey parents must simply provide their children with “equivalent instruction” to what they would receive at school. State law typically does not require parents to send written notice to school districts or have them approve educational plans.

Some parents feel that with remote instruction, they already are homeschooling their children, but experts argue there is a big difference.

“True homeschooling is a mindset, it’s a lifestyle, where children are not bound to textbooks, worksheets, and computer programs and things that they’re hooked on for hours at a time,” J. Allen Weston, Executive Director of the National Home School Association, told NJ Advance Media. “It’s a much more organic way of learning.”

For parents who worry they are not qualified to teach, Weston says that anything from a visit to the grocery store to a walk in the park can translate into learning opportunities, labeling the traditional school model of learning outdated.

“You don’t have to be teaching them anything,” he said. “If they’ve gotten past the point where they know how to read, write and do basic math, all you need to do is inspire them.”

The option is accessible even for households where both parents work, Weston said. He mentioned the “learning pod” model, where working parents would rotate through supervising a group on their days off and then sit with their children in the evenings for a couple of hours of one-on-one instruction.

Research usually points to homeschool students performing better than their public school peers, with one study from the National Home Education Research Institute showing a 15 to 30 percentile point edge for home-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.

3. Use an individual tutor

Of course, parents can also choose to use a private tutor without participating in “learning pods,” for one-on-one instruction.

Companies like Sylvan and Kumon create personalized tutoring plans for each child which can supplement the remote-learning curriculum. Both national franchises provide a mix of in-center instruction and at-home activities.

Along with “learning pods,” using a private tutor is a much more expensive option.

Local tutors and companies, however, can typically offer cheaper services. Many parents have found luck on Facebook or social media seeking out the help of high school and college students or retired teachers to assist their children.

4. Switch to private school

Private schools enjoy more flexibility than public school districts when it comes to reopening. Many of the state’s charters, prep schools, Catholic schools, yeshivas and others are offering much more in-person instruction than their public counterparts.

Mayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck will rotate what grades will be in the building, with each grade missing just one day of the week and every student in on Fridays.

Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child in Summit was able to spend $600,000 on hygiene and facilities upgrades, including thousands of masks for students, plexiglass dividers, UV light sanitizers, and touchless sinks, toilets and light switches. Students can choose to enroll in a remote learning or in-person option throughout the fall’s three five-week sessions.

The Department of Education provides a directory of non-public schools across the state.

5. Send your older child to daycare

For parents with younger children, a number of daycare centers across the state are allowing older children to enroll.

The state Department of Children and Families license child care centers to provide care for children up to the age of 13.

Centers like Les Enfants Preschool in Palisades Park and Bridges to Learning in Rockaway are accepting school-age children.

“If your school district will be conducting school on alternate days beginning in September, we can provide care for your child on the days they do not have school,” reads an alert on Bridges to Learning’s website.

Les Enfants will start allowing kindergarteners and students up to second grade at its childcare facility in the fall.

“It’s an excellent alternative for parents who don’t want to or are not able to stay home with their children,” Maria Hughes, Secretary/Treasurer of the New Jersey Child Care Association and Executive Director of Les Enfants, told NJ Advance Media. “You’re dealing with experienced teachers, experienced staff and a childcare center that’s been doing this for many years in most cases and doing it safely.”

Hughes says parents should check with their county’s Child Care Resource and Referral agency, to learn about childcare options with augmented enrollment options.

6. Use your local YMCA or JCC

YMCAs and Jewish Community Centers have been providing after-care support to families for decades but are now working to expand their offerings to full-day instruction.

At Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, students can participate in JSchool, a K-8 program with full-day supervision and online learning support, or JHeart, an in-home tutoring and childcare service.

In West Orange, JCC Metrowest is offering “Kids Club” where students will be put in groups of 10-12 by grade from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tutors and staff will oversee their schools’ remote learning, run physical activities and supervise while kids socialize.

“Most every JCC has an after-school program and is looking to adapt it to what the needs of the community are,” Chris Strom, Chief Operating Officer of JCC Metrowest, told NJ Advance Media.

Similarly, YMCAs offer childcare in concert with local school districts. Darrin Anderson, Sr., Executive Director and CEO of the NJ YMCA State Alliance, emphasized that YMCA childcare options are designed to supplement and not supplant public schooling.

“If they’re going to have five days of virtual learning, what we’ll have to do is definitely make sure we’re communicating with the local school districts to determine the best way for us to supplement. The biggest issue that we’re seeing is the childcare. If parents have to work or a parent is a teacher, who’s going to be there with their children to reinforce their online learning? So that’s where we would step in,” Anderson told NJ Advance Media.

At the YMCA of the Oranges, children ages 6 months to 5 years old can partake in early childhood learning and K-8 childcare can enroll in a School-Age Child Care or SACC program.

YMCA’s summer camp, Camp Mason in Hardwick Township, will be converted into a distance learning facility for children K-8, with a combination of the district’s remote learning curriculum and outdoor activities.

Anderson encouraged parents to check with their local YMCA to see what programs they are offering.

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.

Josh Axelrod may be reached at jaxelrod@njadvancemedia.com. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.


Source link
.