UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND —  As kids begin to wrap up their remote classes for the year and transition into what would traditionally be summer break, many parents will continue to wrestle with working from home while keeping kids engaged. University of Richmond experts offer the following advice:

Let Nature Do the Teaching

Allison Brenning, director of special education and elementary instruction, suggests that parents explore opportunities for expeditionary learning this summer. Brenning explains that the outdoors can be a great place for hands-on learning, authentic research, and field experience.

“Expeditions usually take multiple months to complete, but parents can certainly do some simple, mini-expeditions with their kids at home. Families can go on walks to explore the natural world, make observations, and ask questions about what they see. Then it’s all about finding answers to their questions, which can be found in books, online, or using whatever resources they have on hand,” Brenning said.  

Give Yourself Grace

Psychology professor Karen Kochel, an expert in child development, encourages parents to not be too hard on themselves. Kochel said while it’s certainly true that continuing to find opportunities for academic engagement over the summer is important, parents should consider what research says about how children learn best. 

“Strong emotional connections between parents and children can make formal teaching — the kind employed by your children’s teachers — difficult and even ineffective. Opt instead for less formal teaching methods, like reading with your child, which doesn’t have to be done during the work day,” said Kochel.

“Also, explore opportunities for your children to safely interact with others, which is an essential foundation for academic achievement. For example, FaceTime with a friend. Parents may be fearful that excessive screen time will ruin our children, but in an era of social distancing, the benefit of using screens as a means for interpersonal connection — a basic human need — will most likely outweigh any psychological cost of excessive screen time,” Kochel added.

Keep Healthy Habits on Track

Healthy habits however are one area where you’ll want to stay strict, but Heather Sadowski, director of health promotion, says that doesn’t have to be stressful. Sadowski suggests that simple actions, like taking a family walk or bike ride around the neighborhood and keeping a supply of healthy snacks where kids can reach them, are easy ways to stay on track.

“Set a goal to visit a new place each week, whether that is a park, playground, or even a virtual tour of somewhere you have never been,” Sadowski said. 

To connect with these and other experts, contact Lindsey Campbell, media relations specialist, at lcampbe4@richmond.edu.

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Safety Tips

As our experts suggest spending time outside this summer, it’s important to also stay safe. University of Richmond biology professor Jory Brinkerhoff, a disease ecologist and expert on ticks, encourages parents to check for ticks after every outdoor excursion. Read more in his piece with the The Conversation.
Director of Instruction and Educational Practice
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Graduate Education
Collaborative partnerships in inclusive classrooms
Expeditionary learning
Parental involvement
Director of Health Promotion