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Preparing for COVID Learning 2020

AUGUST 2020

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As summer winds down, back to school planning is ramping up.  Things are a bit more complicated this year with COVID prevention measures and social distancing, so we have pulled together some ideas to consider as you plan for both virtual and in-person school.

 

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PREPARING FOR VIRTUAL SCHOOL

The spring’s school closures took us all by surprise and sent many parents scrambling to support learning at home.  Now with the benefit of hindsight, families whose children (including teens) will be virtually learning this fall can take some time to get organized. Some key issues to think about include workspace, breaks, wellness and exercise.

1. WORKSPACE

 

There is a wealth of research that shows that students should avoid doing schoolwork in bed (negatively impacts both their sleep and schoolwork) or on the couch (can be too distracting and can lead to musculoskeletal problems).  Setting up a desk or table in an area free of distractions (i.e., toys, television, etc.), noise, and clutter for your child is ideal.

The location of that space depends on the age and needs of your child.  If your child is young and needs constant supervision, you may want to locate them near an adult.  If they don’t need constant supervision, but you are concerned about their online activity (for safety and/or to ensure they stay on-task) you may want to locate them in a public area where adults can check on them periodically.  If your school has indicated that they will need to take part in exercises during virtual school, then you may want to locate them somewhere with adequate space for that as well.

It is likely that they will be spending much more time in front of a screen than in the past.  Like adults, they will be more vulnerable to developing back and neck pain.  Once you decide on a location, you may want to think about arranging their furniture and/or technology ergonomically.  If they are working on a laptop, you should consider connecting an external monitor, keyboard and mouse, which will allow your child to sit in a more neutral posture.  You could also consider laptop docking stations that are built expressly for this purpose.  If your child works better when he/she can move, you could consider setting up a standing desk or a wiggle chair.

2. BREAKS

 

Most schools are building in frequent breaks. You may want to ask whether these breaks will be supervised or whether the students will be on their own.  The last thing you want is your student staying on the computer during his/her break, effectively not taking a break from the screen-time.

 

If your school says that students will be on their own during break time, you may want to brainstorm a schedule of break activities to help your child refocus and refresh.  These activities could alternate between breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, stretches, exercises, a visit with your pets, art or building projects, etc.

For ideas on wellness and exercise please scroll to the bottom.

 

PREPARING FOR IN-PERSON SCHOOL

For students returning to the classroom this fall, social distancing measures will make it a whole new experience.  Planning ahead and gathering supplies may help give you peace of mind as you help your student prepare for the new year.  Some key issues to think about include masks, sanitizers, “clean” space at home, wellness and exercise.

1. MASKS

 

Most schools are requiring students wear masks the whole school day this fall.  As you have probably already experienced, wearing a mask for any length of time is a challenge, even more so for children.  A key priority will be to ensure the masks are as healthy and comfortable as possible. 

 

A GOTS certified 100% organic undyed cotton mask is our go-to for keeping your student healthy and comfortable.  Conventional cotton contains chemical residues from the manufacturing and dying process.  These chemicals can impact learning and the health of your student, and can include carcinogens, hormone disrupters, respiratory irritants, or lead. 

 

Another factor to consider is whether your child is more comfortable in a mask with ear loops or bands that go around the head.  Our favorites are Groceries Apparel’s Kids Organic Cotton Face Mask 3PK and the Futon Shop’s Kids Organic Cotton Face Mask.

If your student’s heart is set on a conventional cotton mask, you can reduce the presence of chemicals with thorough cleaning.  First, soak the mask in a little cold water and a dash of vinegar for 24-48 hours and rinse very well to remove chemicals which have been loosened.  Next, soak the mask in a little cold water and ¼ cup of baking soda for 24-48 hours; rinse very well again for the same reason.  Finally, wash the mask in a nontoxic, unscented laundry detergent (we like Seventh Generation Free and Clear); rinse well, and hang dry.

Masks made with synthetic fabric will be significantly less comfortable and less healthy.  When worn for a length of time, they make it hard to breathe and result in sweat and break-outs.  Furthermore, most synthetic fabrics are made with petroleum and other chemicals which are detrimental to the nervous system (which impacts learning) and harmful to your child’s health.

A final note on masks: it will be worth investing in several if your child is wearing them to school each day.  They will need to wear one to school and should probably pack a spare in a clean bag.  When they come home, any masks that have been worn should be hand washed (in unscented soap as above) to remove any bacteria or viruses.  They should be hung dry to avoid shrinking and contamination.  It will take 1-2 days for a mask to completely dry, depending on room humidity.

2. HAND SANITIZER

 

In the new COVID normal, hand sanitizer will be an essential part of your back-to-school supplies.  However, many conventional hand sanitizers contain harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and respiratory irritants.  All of which are harmful to your child’s health and some are detrimental to learning.  Furthermore, the FDA has recalled some sanitizers containing methanol. 

 

Consider purchasing an organic hand sanitizer that contains the CDC recommended level of alcohol for killing COVID, but that is as safe as possible in terms of its other ingredients.  Our top picks are Luminance Skin Care, Hand Sanitizer Spray and Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer.

It is important to note that the CDC says washing your hands properly with soap and water is still the best method to kill and remove viruses and germs.  Sanitizers are just a back-up.  So remind your children to wash their hands throughout the school day and definitely before eating. If they are young, you may want to practice proper handwashing techniques at home before the start of school.

3. “CLEAN” SPACE FOR GEAR/MATERIALS/SHOES

 

There is some debate over whether COVID is likely to be transmitted via surfaces, but until the data is conclusive, you may wish to designate an area of your home for your child to quarantine everything that has been at school, including backpacks, jackets, shoes, books, and supplies. 

 

You could consider washing all the washable items on a regular basis (this could be a great year to break out all those old back-packs or jackets you have stashed and rotate them throughout the week, so your child always has a clean one).  Shoes should probably be rotated.  And if you need to use books and supplies for homework, then you could ask your child to wash their hands after use.

 

WELLNESS AND EXERCISE

Whether your student will attend school in person or online this fall, now more than ever, daily exercise and wellness activities to reduce stress and support their immune systems will be essential.

1. EXERCISE

 

Thankfully, exercise for younger children is a natural.  Given enough running room and basic equipment, children will naturally gravitate towards physical exercise.  Some ideas to get your child moving: bikes, scooters, kites, giant bubble sets, hula hoops, jump ropes, hopscotch in the driveway, soft archery sets.  For dozens of great solo and social-distance play ideas, try typing “social distancing exercise for kids” in a search engine.

For teens, this could be a great time to explore and establish regular fitness habits that they will take into adulthood.  There are a wealth of online classes, apps, and DVDs available.  Many community centers and county parks and recreation are hosting free drop-in online exercise classes during the pandemic, which is a great way to try out various types of exercise.

 

And of course, while this is a challenging year for in-person sports lessons and leagues, it is also worth investigating your trusted vendors to see if they have something available that meets your families’ social distancing requirements.

2. WELLNESS

 

In addition to exercise, another key component of reducing stress for people of all ages is laughing, dancing, and singing.  So, on family movie night, you might try steering toward a comedy and away from tense action or drama and see how it affects your student’s mood.  If you have a younger child, you might try sending a joke book to their grandparents or other relatives so that they can try a few out on your child every time they chat to him/her. 

 

A good tickle-fest now and again is a good way to get your younger child laughing.  Dance parties are a great way to work some fun and exercise into the day.  If you can work in some singing at home, be it in the shower, at bedtime, during online vocal lessons/chorus, or otherwise, it is a great way to calm the nervous system and relax.

Needless to say, no matter which type of school your child or teen will be in this fall, it will be important for the whole family to take it easy on themselves during this stressful time.  This means taking lots of breaks, getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and staying socially connected to each other.

We hope some of these tips are helpful.  Please subscribe to our email list for more articles along these lines or follow us on social media.  Have a safe and healthy back-to-school!

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