Lesson plans for the new normal

From left, Miles Heter, 4, and his brothers Cash, 7, and Wade, 3, take in an online activity together at the Heters’ home in Castaic. Courtesy of Brendie Heter
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As Santa Clarita Valley parents get accustomed to the kids staying at home for the rest of the school year and distance learning the new normal, teachers across the SCV are continuing to find creative ways to educate their students.

When Santa Clarita Valley International Spanish teacher Erika Cedeño’s students started losing interest in their studies while at home, she decided to find a way to change that.

Now, not only has she found a way to get her students excited about learning their vocabulary, but she’s also gotten the entire family involved.

“I am creating all these projects because I want to involve them in Latin American traditions,” she said. “(So), I created a cooking class.”

Parents were given instructions and an invitation to join in, making the project a family affair.

“When you smell the ingredients and the cooking of these dishes when you’re old, you will remember your mom and your dad and the fun evening you had with them,” Cedeño added. “I think right now, we are creating this family environment, and (these projects) can be part of the family traditions.”

Each child was then asked to create a video, showing them making whatever dish they’d like while using the grammar and vocabulary they’ve learned to explain the process.

“I received amazing, amazing projects,” she said.

The projects will continue through the school year, with opportunities for the kids to learn more about the Latin culture, including Mexico’s location, its flag, president and, eventually, how to create Chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish.

Whether through a cooking class or funny YouTube video, many teachers have found ways to keep their kids entertained, and are sharing some of those strategies they’ve discovered to help parents keep their children on track.

Miles, 4, Cash, 7, and Wade, 3, Heter making bubbles and writing journal entries for a science project about the wind and how air circulates.Courtesy of Brendie Heter

Reach out to teachers

Though many think of distance learning as homeschooling, parents shouldn’t forget that their kids’ teachers and school faculty are still there as a resource.

“The teachers should want to hear from their students,” said Brendie Heter, mother of three and middle school teacher at Legacy Christian Academy. “I think that some parents are not reaching out because they feel like they don’t know what to ask for.”

If you or your children are having trouble grasping the distance learning program at your school, don’t feel as if you’re doing this alone — reach out and ask for help when you need it.

Heter family watches “Story time with Miss Z,” who is 7-year-old Cash’s teacher, as she reads three chapters from ‘The Secret Garden’ and they discussed the characters and plot. Courtesy of Brendie Heter

Be flexible, but consistent

Not everyone needs to have the same sleep schedule, nor do they have to start as early as a typical school or work day, but be sure to keep it consistent, according to Wendy W. Murawski, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at California State University, Northridge.

Engage your kids in creating their own schedules using a whiteboard or post-it notes, so it can vary daily, with room for schoolwork, chores and playtime.

SCVi elementary school teacher Marcella White agrees, adding, “If you have multiple children, figure out a schedule where you’re going to be available for individual time with each child.”

Cash Heter, 7, does schoolwork outdoors. Courtesy of Brendie Heter

Stay physically healthy

While your kids may not have a designated P.E. class anymore, it’s still extremely important to schedule some time for exercise.

Whether it’s time for bike rides, walking the dog or an online workout video, kids need to stay active.

Joe Wicks, known primarily as “The Body Coach,” has sought to become the nation’s P.E. teacher. Each day at 9 a.m., Wicks has been holding half-hour, kids’ workout classes on his YouTube channel, so anyone can follow along. 

Murawski also suggests scheduling “brain breaks” in between schoolwork, giving them time to release some pent up energy, as they would during recess at school.

Stay calm

While having your kids at home 24/7 can be stressful, especially if you’re also juggling working from home, remember to take a deep breath.

“Kids can very easily feed off of our tension and anxiety, and their mental health and well being is more important at the end of this crisis, so just take a deep breath,” Heter added.

Cash Heter, 7, participating in theater practice with his class for the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ Courtesy of Brendie Heter

Get creative and use your resources

During the current health crisis, a number of organizations nationwide have begun offering free courses to support the community. While your kids might not have been learning about these subjects in school, take this as an opportunity to broaden their horizons with some fun learning.

Now through May 24, the San Diego Zoo Global Academy is giving middle and high school teachers and students access to 22 free, self-paced online courses, covering a variety of animal species.

Each week, a new module is designed to make learning fun, with videos, images and quizzes to teach students about mammals, birds, primates, bears, reptiles, monotremes, marsupials and more.

To access the courses free of charge, students are only required to enter their name, email address and school, while teachers are asked to enter the grades they teach. For more information, visit collabornation.net/register/sdzk12.

Though libraries are closed, with your Los Angeles County library card, you can now access free digital resources on your computer or device, including eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, and movies, as well as online classes and homework help.

“While our doors are closed to the public, I want all county residents to understand that the public library is still here for you,” Library Director Skye Patrick said during a news conference. “You can contact our library staff for resources and engagement opportunities and ideas for children who are new to being homeschooled.”

For more information, contact your local library 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday or visit buff.ly/2C9GfT5.

Cash Heter, 7, works on a skunk research project. Courtesy of Brendie Heter

Find some help

White is donating her spare time to tutor kids who are struggling with homeschooling.

“Because I’m having so much success right now with my learners, I thought the best thing that I can do for my community and for my friends is I need to share this gift that I have right now,” White said. “I feel like it’s so necessary for people to feel that they’re supported.”

Each weekday, White hosts a Zoom meeting from 5-6 p.m., where a maximum of 50 kids, depending on the kids’ age ranges, can log on with their parents to ask for help. She’s also trying to accommodate one-on-ones when possible.

“The ones that are having the hardest time are parents that have younger children up to sixth grade, but I would gladly help anybody, and that maybe doesn’t even have to be the child, it can be the parent,” White said, adding that many are simply struggling with the online programs themselves. “I think it’s all about the attitude that we have and about embracing the change because change is hard.”

To log on, visit Zoom ID No. 583-470-2886 or email [email protected].

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