With Delaware schools closed until at least March 30 due to COVID-19, parents’ efforts to keep children busy and learning has resulted in a unique silver lining: more quality family time.
Mariner Middle teacher Amanda Kilby said her children Sara and Cam are doing online worksheets via havefunteaching.com and completing dedicated, school-time reading.
“We are getting fresh air outside daily, whether that be a walk on the beach or just around our neighborhood,” Kilby said. “Of course, we are making time for family movies, too. And my spring cleaning happened early, since sanitizing is a necessity right now.”
Mindi Garner of Lewes said she and husband Mark are still working, so the family routine hasn’t changed too much, except sons Andrew and Corey have more household chores to complete. She doesn’t plan on any online learning unless her sons’ teachers give specific assignments.
“I would say there has been a lot more family time, watching movies and playing basketball in the driveway,” Garner said. “Everyone is not running off to different activities, so there’s more time to settle down and connect. It’s actually been nice in that respect.”
Cape High teacher Gabriel Martinez said his children Alayna and Julianna are spending time each evening reading books or video calling their grandparents and reading aloud to them.
“They are using Prodigy for math; it’s an online game where they do math to win battles,” he said. “I have spent time playing video games and board games with them. I’m still keeping a schedule with them but not too strict.”
The Martinez children are enjoying slightly later-than-normal bedtimes and may go on virtual reality tours of aquariums and museums in the coming weeks, he said.
“I'm generally just trying to keep it low pressure and fun, so they don't feel stressed or worried,” he said. “To them, this is just normal time off with Dad at home.”
Catherine Flaherty of Milton said her daughter Christina has been napping with her cat Camo and reading a lot.
“It’s a book she has to read for school, but she says it’s really good, and she can’t put it down,” Flaherty said. “Last night we all watched ‘Outbreak’ with Morgan Freeman.”
Flaherty said she’s been cooking a lot; she bought yeast and flour because she couldn’t find bread at the store.
“I stocked up at the store last Thursday before the panic really set in,” she said. “I got a lot of meat for the freezer and just take it out as needed. Roast beef and mashed potatoes for dinner tonight.”
Jen Felker of Milton said she and husband Glenn are still working, so they instructed sons Gavin, Ethan and Logan to walk the dogs and practice for their spring sports outside every day.
Tracy Zigman of Lewes said she feels lucky to live in a spacious area where she and her family can get outside and enjoy nature.
“The weather has been pretty amazing,” she said. “We’ve done yard work, gardening, played basketball, lacrosse, the kids have jumped like crazy on the trampoline and even had a hose soaking day Tuesday with weather in the 60s.”
Zigman and daughter Izzy have spent days at the beach walking and fishing. They’ve gone for bike rides and Sunday rides - every day - and have enjoyed relaxing by the backyard fire pit.
“We’re taking taking time out to relax and read as much as we can, and trying to disconnect from smart devices whenever possible,” she said.
Zigman said Izzy spends days helping to clean, making crafts and slime, and training her 1-year-old mini Labradoodle Masi.
At this point, Cape district officials said, schoolwork will not be sent home. However, the district launched a new webpage, capehenlopenschools.com/virtual, with voluntary learning activities for students of all ages.
Mariner Middle AVID Coordinator Heather Kindl said parents can spend the weeks out of school teaching children life skills such as how to sew a button, do laundry and iron; how to check the oil in a car or change a tire; and how to balance a checkbook.
Talking with children about COVID-19
Milton Elementary School social worker Gloria Ho said it’s important that parents and guardians keep as much structure as possible.
“In the next few weeks, any normal structures we had at home, school, etc. will be disrupted,” Ho said. “This can create anxiety for some children. Give children a routine and ensure they continue to learn and grow, whether it’s reading a book or learning a new activity.”
Ho said by giving children a routine, they will know what to expect, and this lessens any anxiety.
“It’s also part of teaching children resiliency and coping with change,” Ho said. “Try to keep their bedtime, meal time, play time. The weather has been nice, and it’s a great idea to go out and get exercise. Let the children play and have positive outlets through artwork, listening to music and physical activity.”
It’s especially important to monitor and limit children’s exposure to news about the virus, online and in the media, Ho said.
“Only give children developmentally appropriate information and reassure them most people do not get the virus or they will recover; encourage things they can do, like social distancing and hand washing,” Ho said. “Finally, always give them a sense of hope and that people come together at times like this to support and help each other.”