Supporting Learning at Home through the COVID 19 Crisis

The COVID 19 pandemic has brought many changes into our lives. Two of the most significant are self-isolation and the closure of schools. On March 31, the provincial government confirmed that schools will remain closed until May 4, and there is no end date for self isolation at home. Many school boards have been using the past few weeks to plan for school closures and the delivery of teacher-led instructions starting the week of April 6. This week, many school boards have started reaching out to families as they plan for education at home.

Ministry of Education Learn at Home

The Ministry of Education has already launched the new website, Learn at Home, and it has resources that families can access for students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12. Some of the activities are on the website and others are available through TVO and TFO.

In addition, many educational websites are temporarily offering free access to their resources during the COVID 19 crisis. A list of online educational resources is available here.

Technology to Access On-line Learning

School boards have identified that students have unequal access to technology for on-line learning as many students do not have access to a computer at home. In response, boards are contacting families to find out about technology needs and school boards will distribute laptops and/or devices from schools as needed. Due to the cost, there is likely to be a limit of one computer per household. Check your school board website to find out how you can inform the school board if your family is in need of a computer. The Ministry of Education website has a full list of school boards and links to their websites.

Teacher led Instruction

Teacher led instruction began on April 6, 2020. The education plan will include a range of resources and tools to be accessed in a range of ways – online, by mail, on the phone, or even, if necessary, delivered by direct to families. School boards across the province are contacting families to ensure they have what they need.

The Minister of Education Expectations for Students:

  • Kindergarten-Grade 3: five hours of work per student/week (with a focus on literacy and math)
  • Grades 4-6: five hours of work per student/week (focus on literacy, math, science and social studies)
  • Grades 7-8: 10 hours of work per student/week (focus on math, literacy, science and social studies)
  • Grades 9-12: three hours of work per course per week for semestered students; 1.5 hours of work per course per week for non-semestered students (focus on achieving credits/completion/graduation)
  • There will be final report cards and assignments will be graded by teachers.

For information on the strategy you can check the Ministry of Education website. For ideas and strategies to support learning at home, check the People for Education Article, Schools are Closed but Learning Continues.

Support for Students with Special Education Needs

School boards need to support the learning of student’s with special education needs and it is not yet clear how this will be achieved. The first step will be to make sure that students that rely on technology have access to the hardware and software they need. If the school reaches out to you, or invites you to contact the school or teacher, you should ask whether your child can have their assistive technology at home, or how they will be able to access the curriculum resources.

One of the delays in getting specialized equipment delivered to students is the need for deep cleaning. School boards are following public health directives on what equipment can be cleaned and how. School staff should be in touch with each family to let them know the plan for providing specialized equipment at home.

In a recent announcement Texthelp®, providers of Read&Write for Google Chrome™ have made premium access available to all K-12 students and parents in Ontario through the end of the school year.

Read&Write offers support with everyday tasks like reading text out loud, understanding unfamiliar words, researching assignments and proofing written work. It’s designed in line with the principles of UDL (Universal Design for Learning), so it fits right in with a wide range of educational technology strategies, personalized learning plans and Individual Education Plans (IEP). To learn how to access Read&Write using your student account or gmail, visit: https://text.help/Ontario.

School Health Support Therapy Programs

The Children’s Treatment Centers (CTC) are responsible for the provision of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and services for students with speech impairments at school. All CTCs are currently closed to the public and not providing direct therapy. However, many CTC staff are working form home and offering support and information to families. The therapists will be reaching out to families but you can also call your child’s therapists about how you can support your child while they are at home. In addition several CTCs offer information resources and tip sheets that are available on their websites, and some are providing virtual parent support meetings. A full list of CTCs is available on the Member Directory of Empowered Kids Ontario, the provincial organization for CTCS.

Parents are not Teachers

The Ministry expectations for learning at home depend on the ability of parents to support learning. For many parents this is an unrealistic expectation and should not add more stress to families. Each parent must figure out what is manageable in their home and seek help from the child’s teacher. The goal for learning is only 5 to 10 hours per week for elementary students, which is only one or two hours per day. Learning happens in many ways from watching educational TV and documentaries, to cooking or gardening together. There are also many resources available to help you. Remember you can only do your best, and two months in a child’s education is a small gap, equivalent to summer vacation.