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Parent calling on Governor to resume small, in-person classes for kids with special needs

by Anne McCloy Friday, May 22nd 2020

ALBANY NY (WRGB) – The cancellation of in-person summer school devastating for a mom whose child has special needs.

Governor Cuomo’s announcement Thursday caused a lot of parents to reach out to us explaining the impacts.

“Last night when I received the message from my son’s teacher, I broke down and I cried.”

CBS 6 viewer Nicole Nelson has kept her kids home and out of daycare since the shutdown began in March, but she was hopeful the state would resume programs her 4-year-old son Billy relies on this summer. Billy is on the autism spectrum.

“My son has been out of services since we went “on pause” in March and that’s going to be a full 6 months of doing Zooms and virtual therapy and that doesn’t really work for him so it’s just totally devastating,” Nelson said.

Nicole Nelson was hopeful the state would resume programs her 4-year-old son Billy relies on this summer. (WRGB PROVIDED

The cancellation of in-person summer school also meant the cancellation of Billy’s Individualized Education Program, which is specialized for each student and helps with speech and other needs.

“My son has been receiving services since he was 6-months-old so for services to just stop in-person its caused a great regression,” Nelson said.

Day care is still allowed, considered an essential business. The Office of Children and Family Services says 70 percent of the state’s day cares are still up and running. Nelson says it doesn’t make sense to her why a day care can stay open, but her child’s small class with 6 kids, two teachers and 1 aid can’t resume with social distancing measures.

“The only reason we would even consider putting our son into school is because it’s just a smaller classroom, less people and if you did it the right way you can do it safely,” Nelson said.

The cancellation of in-person summer school also meant the cancellation of Billy’s Individualized Education Program, which is specialized for each student and helps with speech and other needs. (WRGB PROVIDED)

She’s says if she could speak to Governor Cuomo she would ask him to re-consider opening special needs programs.

“Not all children are alike and some kids needs more than other kids do,” Nelson said.

Day cares are operating under guidelines set forth by the NYS Department of health and the CDC.

For parents who need childcare as New York State reopens, an OCFS spokeswoman sent CBS 6 links that help parents find day cares that are open near them:

Database here: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/childcare/looking.asp

Parent Sues Rutgers, Demanding Tuition Refund Due To Coronavirus

Online classes and Zoom sessions are not what the parents purchased when they paid their daughter’s spring 2020 tuition, the suit argues.

By Carly Baldwin, Patch Staff 
May 21, 2020 4:14 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2020 8:58 am ET
Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government through the CARES Act.
Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government through the CARES Act. (Shutterstock)

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — An anonymous parent of a Rutgers University student filed a class-action lawsuit against the school this week, seeking a partial tuition refund in light of the school’s campus closure due to COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in superior court in Middlesex County. This week, a student filed a similar lawsuit against Kean University, saying online classes were not what she paid for.

When the pandemic first began, Rutgers gave students pro-rated refunds for housing, dining and parking charges beginning on March 23 and lasting through May 16, said Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin. (May 16 is the required move-out date at the university.)

However, what this parent is seeking is not a refund for campus meals and housing: They would like a tuition refund, arguing that — because all her classes were virtual instead of in-person — their daughter received a radically different learning experience than what they paid for.

“While plaintiff’s daughter could have obtained her degree online, their daughter specifically selected an in-person, in-class experience,” the lawsuit argues.

“The shift to online instruction affected the depth,” read the suit. “Often links sent by professors were not compatible with her computer and she missed opportunities to view videos and listen to audio lectures that were necessary for her learning. Instead, she was only able to review the bullet-point lecture slides and missed a lot of necessary information from the lectures.”

The suit was filed by law firm Hagens Berman, which has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brown, Duke, Emory, George Washington University, USC, Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis.

“What Rutgers is offering is not what students or parents paid for,” Berman said.

Specific course fees, where appropriate, were refunded on a course-by-course basis, said Rutgers spokeswoman Devlin.

But no university in America, including Rutgers, has given refunds based on the differences between in-class and online learning due to the coronavirus shutdown.

The plaintiff is listed as by John Doe. U.S. law allows civil suits to be filed anonymously or under a pseudonym in certain cases to “protect a person (in this case the Rutgers student) from harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment.”

The lawsuit is class-action, meaning that anyone can join the suit.

“We understand that universities have been put under unforeseen circumstances and had to act quickly in the face of the pandemic,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “But we also believe that is no excuse to ignore the rights of students paying for access to campus amenities, in-person education and all the other benefits commonly afforded to them in a typical semester.”

According to the lawsuit, Rutgers had a record-breaking fundraising year with more than 48,500 donors contributing $250.9 million. Recently, Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Parent depression linked to reduced empathy, putting kids at risk for adverse outcomes

by Joan Brasher May. 18, 2020, 12:16 PM

Parents with greater depression symptoms report experiencing less empathy—even toward their own children, according to a new Vanderbilt report published in PLOS ONE. This phenomenon could lead to significant long-term negative impacts for these children, the researchers say.

“Feeling understood and accepted is important for everyone, but especially in the context of the parent–child relationship,” said senior author Kathryn L. Humphreys, assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development. “Research studies find that when children don’t receive empathic responses from caregivers, they tend to have a wide variety of negative outcomes, including elevated physiological responses to stress, increased risk for psychiatric disorders, especially depression, and decreased empathy toward others.”

The findings may be particularly pertinent during the current COVID-19 outbreak, a time when depression and anxiety are on the rise as parents struggle to balance health and financial concerns with isolation, working from home and caring for (and educating) their young children.

“Our findings may help to explain why parents with depression are more likely to engage in negative parenting behaviors, such as withdrawal or hostility, and reduced positive parenting behaviors, like sensitivity, engagement and warmth,” said lead author Virginia Salo, a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt. “Depression doesn’t just affect the person who is experiencing it.”

Kathryn L. Humphreys (Vanderbilt)
Kathryn L. Humphreys (Vanderbilt

“A parent’s difficulty identifying and connecting with a child’s emotions is particularly concerning during these turbulent times.”
–Kathryn L. Humphreys

Humphreys says that parents experiencing depression are more likely to struggle with fatigue and irritability, making even routine family-centric activities like reading together, preparing meals and playing games, more difficult. These activities are important because they can build emotional connection, boost learning and enhance language skills.

“A parent’s difficulty identifying and connecting with a child’s emotions is particularly concerning during these turbulent times when children’s worlds are being disrupted and parents are the primary source for providing a sense of safety,” Humphreys said.

Across the world population, more than 300 million people are estimated to experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Among adults in the United States alone the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder is approximately 21 percent.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

A Working Parent’s Guide To Paid Family Leave In The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Kelly Anne Smith | Forbes Staff | Advisor Contributor Group Personal Finance

Middle Aged Women working from home in office whilst also looking after her young daugther.
If you’re struggling to balance child care and working from home, you might be eligible for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. GETTY

The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping what’s been known as normal life.

As families start to grapple with a new reality, that may mean having to spend more time at home with children as summer camps, daycares and schools could remain closed for the foreseeable future. Without child care, working parents are left to figure out how they might balance work and taking care of their children at the same time.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was created to expand paid leave options for employees effective from April 2 through December 31, 2020. The temporary rule provides a range of assistance measures, but most importantly, it provides a safety net to working parents who are unable to find child care due to COVID-19-related reasons. The FFCRA offers employees up to 12 weeks of partial paid leave to tend to their children. Businesses whose employees take this leave pay for it through a refundable tax credit administered by the Department of Treasury. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Details on Expanded Paid Family Leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Paid family leave could be crucial for parents who are struggling to figure out how to balance work and childcare, especially if their summer camp or childcare plans fall through due to COVID-19 restrictions. Today In: Personal Finance

If you find yourself in that situation, you might be entitled to paid family leave. The FFCRA, signed into law on March 18, significantly expands the amount of family and medical leave certain employers are required to offer during the COVID-19 crisis. The provisions are in effect through the end of this year and apply to private businesses with fewer than 500 employees (however, businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from offering the paid leave under certain conditions) and certain public employers.

Parents can receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave by combining relief available in two separate pieces of legislation, which are both part of the FFCRA: the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EMFLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA). These two regulations work together to provide paid leave for individuals dealing with school or child care unavailability due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Here’s how it works:

  • Workers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave under EPSLA at two-thirds of their regular rate of pay when they are unable to work because they are caring for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.
  • Workers can receive 12 weeks of family and medical leave under EMFLEA because their child’s school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. The first two weeks of this period will be unpaidbut you can use the two weeks of paid sick leave listed above, or elect to use accrued vacation or sick days from your employer, to cover that two-week gap. The remaining 10 weeks of leave under the EMFLEA will be paid at at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.

In total, combining the various provisions made available in the FFCRA allow working parents (who qualify) to take a total of three months of leave at partial pay.

Important Rules About the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act

Expanded paid leave as offered under the EFMLEA portion of the FFCRA is helpful to many. But there are caveats that workers should be aware of before they jump on the opportunity to use it. Keep these rules in mind:

  • Your employer has to have work for you in order for you to be eligible for the leave. You are only eligible for the leave if caring for your son or daughter actually takes you away from completing your work. If your employer is closed, or you’re furloughed, you cannot take 12 weeks of expanded paid sick and family leave under the FFCRA. Instead, you would be eligible for unemployment.
  • You have to be employed for at least 30 calendar days to qualify for the additional 10 weeks of paid family leave. If you were let go during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, and are now back on payroll, you’ll have to be employed for at least a month before you’re eligible for the expanded paid family leave. However, all employees are eligible for the initial two weeks of expanded paid sick leave, regardless of how long they’ve been employed.  
  • If you can only work a few days a week because you need to care for your children certain days, you can take intermittent leave. For example, if you’re working from home and need to be offline Wednesday and Friday each week to care for your children, that time away from work is eligible for paid family leave. This only applies if the employer and employee agree to the arrangement, so be sure to speak with your employer before settling on this option.
  • Your two-thirds rate of pay will be capped at $200 per day and $12,000 total over the 12-week period. If you’re a high earner, this could significantly cut down how much you can earn over the 12-week period. Be sure to first exhaust any accrued paid sick leave or vacation days, if possible, so you can still receive full pay. 
  • If you work part-time, your pay will be calculated based on the average number of hours you work over a two-week period. But if your work schedule is irregular, and you’ve been employed for at least six months, your pay will be equal to 14 times the average number of hours you were scheduled to work each calendar day over the six-month period.
  • If your employer has less than 50 employees, it can opt out of giving you paid family leave. If giving paid leave to employees due to school or child care closings would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern,” according to the law, then these smaller businesses are not required to give employees paid leave through the FFCRA.
  • If you’ve already taken time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the current 12-month year, the time you can take off under the EFMLEA will be reduced by that amount. For example, if you took five weeks of FMLA in January, and now need to take EFMLEA, you can only take seven of the total 12 weeks of leave.
  • You need to notify your employer about taking leave. When taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for your child, you’ll have to provide documentation to your employer stating that’s the reason. Your documentation should include the name of the child you’re caring for, the school or childcare provider that has closed or is unavailable because of COVID-19, and a statement explaining that no one else is available to care for your child during your requested period of leave.  

What If You’re Not Eligible for Paid Leave Provided by the FFCRA?

If you have been furloughed and aren’t eligible for paid family leave provided by the FFCRA, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has expanded unemployment benefits to cover individuals in this situation.

Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) extends unemployment benefits to individuals who don’t typically qualify for state unemployment. PUA covers workers who are unemployed, partially unemployed or are unable to work for COVID-19-related reasons starting on or after January 27 (payments are retroactive to that date, meaning if you met the criteria on that date but didn’t file until later, you’ll still be paid for the days in between). According to U.S. Department of Labor guidelines, individuals who are still employed but cannot work because of a school closure or summer care closure due to COVID-19 may also qualify for PUA. 

Individuals who qualify for PUA can receive up to 39 weeks of benefits; the amount you receive will depend on how your state calculates unemployment benefits, but will likely be based on your past income. Individuals who receive PUA are also eligible for an additional $600 per week in benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUB) program, which is part of the CARES Act. As of now, the additional $600 per week is available through the end of July.

Unemployment insurance is a joint effort between the federal government and states. Individuals interested in receiving PUA will need to apply through their state’s unemployment insurance website. 

Bottom Line

While FFCRA gives workers expanded paid leave options, there are important stipulations to keep in mind when considering them. Contact your employer directly for more information about expanded paid family leave under the FFCRA and to discuss if it’s the right option for you.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

Ikea’s instructions for building the best pillow forts are what every parent needs right now

By Leah Asmelash, CNN

Updated 7:48 PM ET, Fri May 15, 2020

If you're bored at home, IKEA Russia has got some ideas.

If you’re bored at home, IKEA Russia has got some ideas.

(CNN)After what feels like a lifetime in quarantine and isolation, parents may be running out of ideas to keep kids entertained.So for everyone looking for ways to have fun within four walls, Ikea Russia has some ideas.The company released six instruction manuals on how to build blanket forts using everyday household items — chairs, stools, books and, of course, blankets.And there’s instructions for almost every type of structure.Like, a castle, because your kids are royalty.Or a house.

And, with outdoor activities being slightly limited, there’s even a way to go camping.

Also a cave, wigwam and fortress — for whatever storylines you or your kids can dream up.

Quarantining can be stressful with kids but, hey, at least it will never be boring.And if you really want an Ikea experience, the company released a recipe for its Swedish meatballs last month.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

The ultimate parents’ guide to education and activity resources

By Washington Post Staff | APRIL 28, 2020  

We already know the bad news: Bored kids, harried parents, days when time slows to a standstill. Here’s the good news: Museums, libraries, arts organizations, private companies, celebrities and many others are stepping up and creating online content for kids or offering free access to existing resources. Many more online portals and entertaining apps have been with us all along but never seemed more relevant. To give parents a sense of what’s out there, we’ve compiled resources in 10 categories: education, travel, reading, mental wellness, music, art, physical activity, theater and dance, languages and entertainment. So don’t just sit there — learn how to wrap a mummy, take a virtual train ride, conjugate Spanish verbs or watch a Metropolitan Opera performance. Just because time is at a standstill doesn’t mean you have to be.

Don’t see your go-to resource? We will be periodically updating this list; feel free to leave recommendations in the comments.


Disappearing into a good book is a welcome escape from the stress and chaos of daily life — even when there isn’t a pandemic. Reading is beneficial for people in all age groups, but it’s essential for children: It develops and strengthens vocabulary, social and emotional intelligence, curiosity, memory, concentration and brain function. Happily, numerous organizations are offering free worksheets, games and exercises to help budding readers build basic skills. Kids eager to tell their own stories can join children’s authors’ free writing classes. And for those times when parents need a break (or a great story), kids can join librarians, authors and actors for recorded story times or dive into a wealth of free audiobook links.

  • “Read & Learn with Simon Kids” is a new video series hosted on the Simon Kids YouTube channel. Parents and educators can find self-shot videos by Simon & Schuster authors and illustrators, including read-alouds, drawing tutorials and more.
  • “Snack & Read Live with Simon Kids” is a half-hour video series that streams live on Facebook every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern.
  • Story Online features actors — including Lily Tomlin, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine and more — reading children’s books alongside colorful illustrated videos.
  • Audible offers free streaming of some of its audiobooks. Books are classified by age and theme.
  • The Library of Congress has numerous classic literature titles available free to download, including “Alice in Wonderland,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “The Jungle Book” and many more. There are pages with suggested titles for kids, teens, adults and educators. Plus, the website has links to numerous taped author webcasts from Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Toni Morrison and many more. Author Jason Reynolds is sharing twice-weekly videos with creative writing prompts for young readers to tell their own stories, and Dav Pilkey, author and illustrator of the “Captain Underpants” series, is sharing downloadable activities and videos on drawing. For older readers, the National Book Festival Blog will feature videos of author appearances categorized by topic each weekday.
  • Dolly Parton, singer-songwriter and founder of the international literacy and book-gifting organization Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, is reading comforting bedtime stories for kids once a week on her YouTube page in a free 10-week series called “Goodnight with Dolly.” Readings are at 7 p.m. Eastern on Thursdays. The Imagination Library website includes activity sheets and parent guides for each reading.
  • The Folger Shakespeare Library’s educational resources for kids include audio recordings of William Shakespeare’s plays, podcasts, videos and more.
  • Harper Collins has curated content and programs to help with reading, including daily live-streamed story times, a podcast about classic literature, and more.
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company is offering learning activities for kids, including games, scripts and more, related to William Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Author Kelly Yang is hosting free writing classes for teens every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on her Instagram page. Lessons have included how to build characters, scenes, pacing, dialogue and more. Past classes are on her personal website.
  • LeVar Burton from “Reading Rainbow” is live-streaming himself reading family-friendly books every week, with children’s books Mondays at noon Eastern time, young-adult selections Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Eastern and books for adults Fridays at 9 p.m. Eastern.
  • Listen to a collection of short stories translated into languages from around the world on the World Stories website.
  • Logic of English is offering free online games and literacy lessons, with written and video instructions for each game.
  • The D.C. Public Library is holding virtual story times on weekdays on Facebook with its librarians. Residents of suburban Maryland and Virginia are also eligible for a card that will allow them to access all of DCPL’s online resources, including ASL lessons.
  • New York Public Library’s “At Home Storytime Guides,” which were designed by the library’s early-literacy team, pair early-reader books with fun activities so parents can host read-alouds at home. The library also offers numerous remote-learning resources for patrons of all ages, including age-appropriate story times every weekday for younger readers and remote homework help and test prep for older readers. Some resources, such as online tutoring, require a New York library card to access.
  • The Children’s Poetry Archive, a subsidiary site of the England-based Poetry Archive, collects audio recordings of poems written for children.
  • Into the Book, from PBS Wisconsin, is offering activities in English and Spanish for early readers to explore literacy concepts such as visualizing and inferring. You must register for a free account to access the activities.
  • Storynory’s database of online audiobooks for young readers includes original short stories, fairy tales, poems and more.
  • This list from Reading Connects Us helps young readers find authors or illustrators who are open to communicating through snail mail, email, social media or their individual websites.
  • Waterford.org has a list of websites with free audiobooks available for kids, including Spotify, Audible, OverDrive and LibriVox.
  • Young learners can build and learn reading basics through fun, colorful, free games on Teach Your Monster to Read’s website.
  • Michelle Obama is reading children’s stories every Monday at noon Eastern time on the PBS Kids Facebook page.


Ever since schools started closing amid the coronavirus crisis, the Internet has exploded with videos, educational apps and documentaries to help kids learn (and help parents get some work done). But before jumping into the world of wonderful online resources, home-schooling experts recommend taking a breath. Create the kind of environment, schedule and home life that can best balance your responsibilities with peaceful learning. And then pick one, two or three of these vetted resources that you think will match your kids’ interests and educational needs.

Pre-K through elementary:

  • PBS Kids provides games, activities and tips for emotions and self-awareness, social skills, character, literacy, math, science and arts for ages 2 through 8.
  • Education.comWorksheets have their place. Print what might help you get through a conference call for prekindergarten and elementary school kids: dot-to-dots, handwriting practice, math equations, geography quizzes, color-by-numbers and more. The site also offers online games and guided lesson plans.
  • Mystery Science is offering a starter list of K-5 science classes free, without requiring users to sign up or log in.
  • SplashLearn invites kids to grow the math skills learned in kindergarten through fifth grade with an app full of math games. The iPhone and iPad app provides parents with weekly report cards and costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year; the PC version is free.
  • Young Writer’s Blueprint gives kids the opportunity to beef up their creative writing skills through this short course taught by author Alice Kuipers.
  • Scholastic Story Starters are creative prompts to help kids get started with writing. They include options in adventure, science fiction and fantasy.
  • The National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick site offers free, online nature-themed kids’ activities (games, videos, crafts) and access to monthly educators’ guides.
  • The Washington Nationals are providing free online activities to help kids in grades 1 through 6 with reading, STEM skills and staying physically active. Baseball-themed activities include practicing a pitching stance and calculating a fielding percentage.
  • The Washington Post’s very own KidsPost page is full of educational stories, quizzes, contests, galleries and crafting how-tos. Subjects include current events, sports, animals and space. Kids can submit their own weather art for the print page, too.

Pre-K through teens:

  • Scholastic Learn-at-Home has put together four weeks of resources for grades pre-K through 9, with a theme for each day. For instance, a first-grader might read a story about a spider, watch a video and then draw their own spider. Older grades also get writing prompts.
  • NatGeo@Home groups together quizzes, videos, science experiments and at-home classroom resources for kids to complete during the week. There are also activities for kids and their parents to do together on the weekends.
  • WideOpenSchool, hosted by Common Sense Media, gathers resources from Scholastic, Noggin, Google, YouTube, PBS, National Geographic and more to provide learning in many areas — science, social studies, math, life skills, arts, writing — in an organized fashion for kids in grades pre-K through 12.
  • BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. offer lessons via video for the K-12 set on topics that align with state education standards. Games, quizzes and activity instructions then follow. Normally $18.95 (BrainPOP Jr.) or $24.95 (BrainPOP) a month for family plans, BrainPOP is temporarily free.

Elementary through teens:

  • NoRedInk has hundreds of free writing and grammar exercises for grades 5 through 12.
  • James Dyson Foundation engineers came up with 44 engineering and science challenges using household objects, for all ages. (Some younger children may require parental assistance.)
  • Seterra offers more than 300 online map quizzes in 36 languages for students. Free printables allow for handwritten quizzes. The website (free) and app ($1.99 for iOS and Android) also have anatomy quizzes.
  • NASA is offering chances for kids in grades 1 through 12 to chat with scientists, watch videos, find directions for STEM projects, solve puzzles, play games, read books, color sheets and watch lectures.
  • Tynker has more than 40 courses for the wannabe coder in the house. Kids ages 5 to 7 can solve logic problems and create simple apps; kids 8 to 13 build games and design Minecraft mods; ages 14 and over learn coding languages and how to make websites and even prep for AP Computer Science.
  • With Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government, created by the Government Publishing Office, kids can go on a virtual learning adventure with Ben Franklin. Topics include branches of government, how laws are made, symbols and structures, election processes and federally recognized tribes.
  • The Smithsonian Institution Learning Lab allows kids to access millions of digital resources from the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, archives and more. The site also offers prepackaged collections that contain lessons, activities and recommended resources.
  • Girls Who Code is releasing free, weekly and downloadable computer science exercises of varying degrees of difficulty over the next few months on its website. Already-online activities include building a basic chatbot or a more advanced instructional tutorial video.
  • National Museum of American History activities include building a virtual sod house, examining the imagery in a buffalo hide painting and more.
  • Scholastic’s interactive immigration module includes narratives, an Ellis Island tour and historical lessons about immigration in the United States.
  • Discovery Education has virtual field trips across a variety of subject areas, such as a dairy farm or a behind-the-scenes look at careers at Facebook. Trips include written guides and video aides.
  • The National Constitution Center’s virtual field trip takes kids inside the Constitution.
  • The Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has YouTube videos for its Virtual Camp Discovery, which explores science-based activities including slime-making, meeting a gopher tortoise and more.
  • The National Museum of African American History and Culture offers resources and activities for educators and students. Its Learning Lab collection uses objects, documents, imagery and videos to explore well-known and lesser-known moments of history.
  • The Free Library of Philadelphia’s site features a page with links to resources for studying African American history and culture, including major speeches, notable figures and a timeline of African American history.

Tweens and teens:


These days, our travel is limited by the perimeters of our own neighborhoods. Thankfully, we can still see breathtaking sights in faraway lands, learn about people, animals and cultures around the world and even travel back in time — with a little help from the Internet. Pay a visit to Ellis Island or Colonial Williamsburg, observe wild animals on a national park’s webcam, or ooh over panoramic photographs of far-flung cities and landmarks. You can also sharpen your knowledge of geography or hone your language skills. Whether you want to learn about a country hundreds of miles from your home or explore your own state, here’s a sampler of virtual field trips, tours and classes for those times when a trip around the block just isn’t enough.

  • 360 Cities is offering free access to numerous high-quality 360 images of famous panoramas and landmarks from around the world.
  • While Colonial Williamsburg is closed, you can learn about colonial life in America with teacher resources, live video demonstrations and virtual tours.
  • National Geographic’s Explorer Classroom goes live every weekday at 2 p.m. Eastern with conservationists, researchers, scientists and storytellers.
  • Waterford.org has nine field trips that can be taken from the comfort of your couch, including seeing zoo animals, walking on Mars or viewing paintings in the Louvre museum in Paris.
  • Take a virtual field trip to Ellis Island and learn more about immigration in the United States at Scholastic’s website.
  • Visit the Smithsonian museums virtually by clicking on “Explore & Learn/Explore interests” to see objects from the museums’ collections, with annotations.
  • The Junior Ranger Program, offered by the National Park Service, includes free online activity books that touch on topics such as archaeology, paleontology, space, the ocean and more. The books include activities that can be completed indoors or outside.
  • The National Park Service also offers webcams with live video of national parks, plus interactive online exhibits and numerous articles and pictures.
  • Travel & Leisure has compiled 13 virtual train rides allowing you to “explore” countrysides in Europe, Asia, North America and more.
  • Through a partnership across many states, the Civil Rights Trail highlights more than 100 significant sites in the history of the Civil Rights movement. The website includes galleries and images, plus tools to plan a trip when travel is less restricted.
  • Watch more than 100 back episodes of National Geographic Kids’ geography show, “Are We There Yet?” on YouTube. The show is for kids ages 4 to 8 and hosted by brother-sister duos who explore unfamiliar locations across the globe.

Mental wellness

Living through a pandemic can be frightening and frustrating, with the routines of daily life disrupted and coping mechanisms limited by a world on pause. Too much energy, too little space. Too much time, too little to do. And, always, too much scary news. Helping kids understand their emotions and how to manage them is uniquely important during this strange time. The resources listed here will help parents talk with their children about the novel coronavirus, teach relaxation and mindfulness and help make all our emotions a little bit easier to navigate.

  • On YouTube, Moovlee offers yoga and meditation exercises for kids that are led by a cartoon monkey.
  • The Child Mind Institute is hosting daily live streams at 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern with therapists on its Facebook page.
  • GoZenOnline offers anxiety relief songs, relaxation exercises and tips for parents on its YouTube channel.
  • Cosmic Kids has fun mindfulness exercises for kids on its YouTube channel.
  • The well-known meditation app Headspace now has an app for kids.
  • Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of “The Mindful Child,” has turned her website into a database to help parents and kids coping with the pandemic. Resources are divided into “mindful games,” with breathing exercises and creative ways to help kids stay calm, and “response to covid-19,” which has information on a pay-what-you-can course, hosted by a group of therapists, about how to respond to children’s needs.
  • Chanel Tsang’s Peace Out is a podcast with relaxation stories for kids.
  • “First Aid for Feelings: A Workbook to Help Kids Cope During the Coronavirus Pandemic” is a free workbook created by parenting expert Denise Daniels.
  • Sesame Street’s “Little Children, Big Challenges” initiative includes an app, inspired by the popular children’s television show, to help children learn problem-solving strategies and emotional regulation.
  • Child psychologist Abigail Gewirtz wrote a script to be used as a guide for talking to children about the coronavirus.
  • Stop, Breathe & Think for Kids is an app to help children focus, relax and rest.
  • Child-care expert Janet Lansbury talks about respectful parenting on her podcast “Unruffled.” Recent episodes have covered topics related to the outbreak.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has put out a coronavirus fact sheet with details about how the pandemic might affect the mental well-being of children.
  • The Fred Rogers Center put together a compendium of resources for parents.
  • “What happens when coronavirus changes EVERYTHING?” is a downloadable PDF guidebook by Sara Olsher for coping with ruptures in routine as a result of the pandemic.
  • School social worker Nicole Batiste has put together a covid-19 journal for kids with guiding activities to help children express their emotions.
  • Calm offers guided meditations, relaxing audio and mindfulness resources for kids.
  • GoNoodle posts videos with imaginative, guiding exercises to help children manage emotions.
  • “Carolina Conquers Her Coronavirus Fears” is a coloring book put together by LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans to help kids cope with uncertain circumstances and fears brought on by the pandemic.

Physical activity

Staying fit during the covid-19 crisis is challenging for even the most fitness-focused among us. So, what to do with kids ages 2 to 18, who probably are sitting in front of screens more than ever, who are missing their scheduled sports and activities and who are not used to exercising on their own? We humans need daily exercise. Kids are no exception. They should get a minimum of 60 minutes a day of cardio and strength. Try to mimic the amount of exercise the child gets on a normal day to make sure they stay fit and happy. The general rule for kids’ strength-building is that prepubescent children are safest doing body-weight exercises, such as push-ups and situps, while teenagers can lift weights. Make a plan with your child that focuses on wellness and health above all. This list of fitness resources includes three-minute dance videos, online yoga, ideas for games like hopscotch and indoor balloon volleyball, fitness card games, online youth sports performance videos and much more.

  • Healthy Kids Running Series, a national inclusive youth running experience for kids ages 2 to 14, is converting its outdoor, five-week spring series into a virtual series.
  • GoNoodle offers videos to get kids moving, including dancing, stretching, running, jumping and more. The channel has an app that’s recommended for kids 5 and up.
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga offers free yoga on YouTube for young children ages 3 and up. There are countless classes, from three minutes to three hours, featuring brilliant colors, storytelling (themes: “Frozen,” “Moana” and “Peter Cottontail”), singing and of course yoga with a yogini Jaime Amor.
  • Adriene Mishler, an Austin-based yoga teacher with 7 million YouTube subscribers, is offering free online yoga classes ranging from 10 minutes to an hour. The classes focus on power flow, basic yoga, meditation and more. Open to all fitness levels and ages but more appropriate for teens than younger kids.
  • Top 25 At-Home Exercises by the American Council on Exercise offers kids of all ages — young ones with the help of an older sibling or parent — a chance to mix and match body-weight drills such as push-ups and situps to create their own workout, which could mean 10 challenging minutes or 40 moderate ones. Each exercise is explained and shown, but once you know them, this potentially is a screen-free option.
  • SHAPE America has instructions for an arts and crafts project (you have to create your own deck of fitness cards) that can provide kids with the option of several screen-free games for one to five players. Some games are suitable for young kids and others for middle-schoolers and older. For the youngest kids, this project requires older-sibling or parent involvement.
  • The YMCA offers dozens of free online videos, both kid-specific and general-public, by YMCA coaches and instructors. The kid- and teen-geared classes are clearly marked, such as “Youth Sports Performance,” which features indoor and outdoor drills to develop overall athleticism and prevent injuries. Some videos require equipment (such as a soccer ball, cones or a fitness band). Videos range from five to 25 minutes.
  • Emily Coates, a physical therapist with MedStar Health, gives suggestions for screen-free ways families can promote basic fitness (60 minutes a day of aerobic and strength training for children ages 6 to 17) and establish good habits while distance learning, such as building in plenty of physical fitness breaks during the day, including a scheduled recess. Outside activities include Frisbee, catch, tennis, biking, walking, running — all while practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene — and indoor activities include dance parties, Simon Says and Nerf wars.
  • British fitness trainer Joe Wicks offers free boot camp-style classes for kids on YouTube. The classes, which focus on body-weight exercises, range from five to 15 minutes and are geared toward elementary school-aged kids and younger. He also has many non-kid workouts that would be suitable for teenagers.
  • Fitness Blender is a free online workout platform for adults that features mostly body-weight exercises. There are more than 500 workouts — focusing on specific muscle groups, cardio, flexibility — and is appropriate for teens with the exception of a couple of videos geared toward kids.
  • Nike Training Club is an app that offers close to 200 free workouts ranging from 15 to 60 minutes and covering HIIT training, weightlifting, yoga and more. It is designed for tech-comfortable and self-motivated adults but can be suitable for high schoolers.


The signature sound of this pandemic may be that of a delivery truck slowing down in front of your house, but thanks to the wealth of free material available online, there’s plenty more melodious music out there. On any given day, you can hear chamber musicians play Schumann at the Lincoln Center, catch a Metropolitan Opera performance of Bizet’s “Carmen” or listen to field recordings of Mississippi Delta bluesmen at the Smithsonian Institution. Or you can learn to make your own music: There are sites that will teach you to play guitar, read music and compose your own songs — or symphonies. Music is the mood-altering drug we could all use a little more of right now. So bring that package inside, pop on a Spotify playlist and take a quick turn around the block to “Walking on Sunshine.”

  • Spotify’s Coronavirus Children’s Dance Party playlist features what it calls “100 kids songs that won’t drive parents crazy” (plus “Baby Shark,” which will).
  • Cincinnati Public Radio’s Classics for Kids is a classical music education website for younger kids with games, resources for parents and teachers, and more.
  • The Library of Congress’s concert series features live performances of classical music.
  • The Smithsonian Institution’s website offers access to its huge collection of music from all over the world, including a section with interactive classroom lessons.
  • Sight Reading Factory offers interactive sight-reading exercises designed for kids, including voice and more than 30 instruments. There are limited options that can be accessed without a paid subscription, and the activities require some familiarity with the concepts.
  • Kids Guitar Zone is featuring free beginner guitar lessons for kids with Australian educator and musician Andrew Keppie.
  • Bramwell Tovey, then the music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, is both conductor and narrator in this broadcast of “Peter and the Wolf” from Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Music.
  • Metropolitan Opera is offering free encore videos, during the covid-19 shutdown, of previous performances. Scroll down for weekly schedules and “free student streams.”
  • MusicTheory.net features free music theory lessons, exercises and tools for young musicians.
  • Flat is a free tool for writing your own scores online, including discussions of craft and concepts.
  • Laurie Berkner of the Laurie Berkner Band (and formerly of Noggin) is doing a Facebook Live every morning at 10 a.m. Eastern. Also, each weekday, the band will be posting a song for a morning Berkner Breakfast (7 a.m.), an afternoon Berkner Break (3 p.m.) and an evening Berkner Bedtime (7 p.m.).
  • The Lincoln Center is streaming free daily performances and workshops through a new portal.
  • World Music Network’s website features numerous guides to music from around the world. The guides are free, but some music requires a purchase.


If there’s any silver lining to this pandemic, it’s the jaw-dropping creativity demonstrated by the quarantined and isolated around the world. Art teachers are live-streaming drawing classes while decked out in art history-themed costumes. Housebound art lovers have re-created favorite paintings with common household objects. Illustrators are turning to the symbols of the outbreak — toilet paper, hand sanitizer — with a fresh artistic eye. Children can join in the creative fervor with free coloring sheets, online classes and games, and digital museum tours.

  • Author and illustrator Mo Willems recently concluded a three-week stint as artist-in-residence at the Kennedy Center. You can find all 15 episodes of “Lunch Doodles,” along with the accompanying downloadable activities, archived on the organization’s website.
  • Nikon is offering free online camera classes — best suited for teenagers. Even if you don’t have a fancy camera, basic lessons on portraiture, landscape photography and more can be adapted to other camera models.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers MetKids, an interactive module, to help children explore the museum’s collection. Kids can navigate to educational videos and creative prompts.
  • The Louvre offers virtual tours of some of its exhibits, including the moat and Egyptian antiquities.
  • From Australia to Mexico to Amsterdam to Los Angeles, this curated collection from Google Arts & Culture uses street view to take armchair travelers around the globe. It has views of famous landmarks such as the Colosseum in Rome and Taj Mahal in India, and guided virtual tours and curated collections touching on art, literature, science and more.
  • Tate Kids online has interactive, art-inspired games and activities. Some highlights include a street-art game and an interactive painting game that allows children to create digital art in Van Gogh’s style.
  • Cassie Stephens, an enthusiastic art teacher based in Tennessee, offers live art classes every day on Facebook.
  • The Smithsonian Learning Activities Choice Board is updated weekly and highlights activities related to various Smithsonian museum collections (divided into science, social studies, arts and culture).
  • The website Toy Theater has art tools that allow you to build virtual sculptures, paint on famous paintings and do other interactive activities.
  • A video series from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “The Country Dog Gentlemen Travel to Extraordinary Worlds,” stars dogs who teach children about the collection.
  • Scribblify is free app that children can use to doodle with all kinds of funky tools.
  • NGAKids Art Zone app for iPad has interactive games for children, inspired by the National Gallery of Art’s collection.
  • Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, known for illustrating Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” is hosting weekday drawing classes on her Instagram page live through the rest of the school year. Past classes are on YouTube.
  • Art teacher Bar Rucci posts a weekly “Art & Play Activity Guide” on Instagram and her website.
  • Albright Knox Art Gallery has a series of free games for iOS and Android based on works by artists such as Piet Mondrian and Vincent Van Gogh. The site also includes creative activities for kids (and adults) inspired by gallery artwork.
  • The Doodle Institute has a free, downloadable workbook with 21 days of guided doodling exercises for kids.
  • On Whiteboard Fox, kids can use a digital whiteboard to draw and doodle alone or share the whiteboard with friends.
  • While the Museum of Modern Art is closed, older kids may enjoy one of its free online art classes, which include “What Is Contemporary Art?” and “Fashion as Design,” as well as instruction in art pedagogy.

Theater and dance

It has been said that all the world’s a stage — but what to do when the world has contracted to the size of your living room? Never fear, there are online resources that make it possible to expand your child’s knowledge of theater without leaving home. While live theater and dance performances are on hold, why not encourage kids to swap the role of spectator for that of performer? Or tap the dramatic potential of self-quarantine? How about learning what goes on behind the scenes of a theatrical production? The resources listed here include tutorials in beginning ballet, exercises for budding playwrights and courses in the history of drama.

  • The Hamilton Education Program, a partnership between the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the producers of the “Hamilton” musical, is offering free access through August to EduHam at Home, a family version of its online education program. Students can study primary source documents from the era, learn how Lin-Manuel Miranda used similar documents to create the musical, and create their own performance pieces based on that material. The program includes videos from “Hamilton” and its cast members, interviews with Miranda and more.
  • The New York City Ballet will broadcast full ballets and excerpts on YouTube, Facebook and its website, and it will host ballet-inspired movement workshops. A 20-minute, Saturday-morning Zoom workshop for kids ages 3 to 8 requires advance registration.
  • KIDZ BOP offers dance-along videos that can encourage the incorporation of music and movement in daily routines.
  • Crash Course’s series of 50 videos go through the history, theory and technology behind theater, mimicking an introductory college-level course.
  • Daniella Ballerina’s YouTube videos present easy-to-follow, engaging ballet lessons for preschoolers.
  • PBS Learning Media features theater resources that include almost 300 videos (including workshops and behind-the-scenes peeks), interactive games and lesson plans.
  • Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis is offering virtual resources for both students and parents, including weekly video series and educational tips.
  • Broadway Educators is offering free educational materials for those teaching or learning about theater. The resources, for all ages, can be broken down by discipline, education level, content type and category.
  • Imagination Stage offers at-home creative challenges, ideas and activities free on their blog, including a follow-along dance moves video from Tiffany Quinn, the choreographer of their production “Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth.”
  • In addition to their regular free resources and articles, the Educational Theatre Association has temporarily opened its Theatre Educator Pro resources to everyone.
  • Black Box Education has compiled a free list of resources for those teaching drama at home.
  • The Kennedy Center is offering comprehensive theater lesson plans that can be narrowed down by content and grade level.


While kids are geographically grounded, learning a new language is a great way for them to explore an unfamiliar culture without leaving home. Parents can pair introductory lessons with virtual city tours or foreign-language children’s programming to make it more fun. Most of the resources here require only a few minutes each day and include skill-building options such as worksheets, audio, video and even games.

  • Duolingo is a free language learning app and website that only requires a few minutes a day, and it offers a premium service for a fee.
  • Gallaudet University offers free American Sign Language classes online, where you can track progress with a dashboard.
  • Education.com offers free printable workbook pages in Hindi, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, Russian, Arabic and American Sign Language for kids in preschool through fifth grade.
  • ESL Video offers free videos, quizzes, lessons and more for those learning English, as well as a virtual exchange with a language teacher.
  • The Memrise app allows users to learn a language through interactive games and videos featuring native speakers.
  • The French Experiment offers free online French lessons, children’s stories in French and course reviews for those learning to speak French.
  • Basho & Friends is offering a free three-month subscription to its Spanish language-learning resources, which make use of songs and music videos, to aid families with distance learning during the coronavirus school closures.


Time — considered a precious commodity just months ago — is the one thing kids have in abundance right now. How to stave off the inevitable declarations of boredom? The suggestions gathered here include the practical (housebound kids may as well learn their way around the kitchen) and the whimsical (there has never been a better time to make an origami frog). Amid the vicissitudes of remote learning, kids need downtime and so do their frazzled parents: Time to start journaling, catch a science podcast — or just keep a play date with Elmo.

  • This origami how-to for kids features step-by-step instructions and downloadable PDFs.
  • Flower crowns? String art? Vegetable prints? Find all these and more — 97 more, to be exact — on this Mommy Poppins list of 100 crafts kids can do at home.
  • Amazon offers children’s programming, such as “Arthur” and “Mr. Bean,” free for Amazon Prime members. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
  • National Geographic Kids’ science-, wildlife- and history-themed content includes online games, quizzes, slide shows and videos.
  • Raddish Cooking Club for Kids offers weekly “cook-along” classes as well as kid-friendly cooking resources.
  • Kitchen Classroom from America’s Test Kitchen offers a free cooking-inspired “curriculum,” including recipes, hands-on activities and experiments.
  • Rebel Girls offers free “Rebel Girls at Home” content, including PDFs on activities such as journaling, planting a garden or climbing a mountain.
  • Camp Hello Bello, formed by Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, offers free “camp sessions” weekdays on Instagram Live, Facebook and YouTube, including singalongs, exercise sessions, puppet shows, cooking and crafts.
  • The on-demand streaming service Pinna offers 60 days of free kids’ entertainment podcasts.
  • “Wow in the World” is a science-themed podcast for kids, with hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz.
  • Story Pirates Creators Club offers daily “Story Pirates Radio” podcasts for kids, paired with related downloadable activities.
  • Sesame Street’s website features singalongs, story times and other “Sesame Street” activities, including, recently, a play date with Elmo. New content is added weekly.
  • Common Sense Media offers a vetted list of the best educational documentaries (“March of the Penguins,” “A Beautiful Planet” and more), while noting appropriate viewer ages.
  • “Harry Potter at Home” offers free games, quizzes and activities for everyone from beginning readers to seasoned Potterphiles. Update: In May, the site announced celebrities would be reading chapters of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” out loud on video (or audio via Spotify), starting with Daniel Radcliffe.
  • The Food Literacy Center offers kid-friendly recipes and accompanying YouTube and Facebook lessons designed to emphasize the components of healthy meals.
  • The website for Delish magazine offers free digital cooking classes for kids weekdays at 1 p.m. Eastern on Instagram.
  • King Arthur Flour’s website features a downloadable book of easy-to-follow recipes and techniques for dishes such as pizza, braided breads, rolls and more.

Doctor, patient, parent: Chapel Hill man sees the many sides of COVID-19

Posted May 13, 2020 11:44 a.m. EDT
Updated May 13, 2020 5:59 p.m. EDT

By Richard Adkin, WRAL photojournalist

Samuel McLean, MD, MPH
Vice Chair of Research Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Emergency Medicine

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — There are few people who have seen COVID-19 from as many angles as Dr. Samuel McLean, a Chapel Hill emergency department physician. He’s seen the virus as a doctor, he’s seen it as a patient, and he’s seen it as the parent of a sick child.

“It was really my worst nightmare, getting COVID myself,” he said of the experience. “It never really hits you like it has during this COVID pandemic, the fact that when you’re going to work you’re risking not only your life, but the lives of people around you, and that for sure is the hardest part.”

McLean started feeling ill back in March. He had treated people with what he suspected were coronavirus symptoms, and having seen the news coverage from overseas, he knew the pandemic was inevitable. He called it “like a slow train in terms of the COVID epidemic coming to our community.”

McLean says his symptoms started with a cough and a headache. The symptoms were mild. He didn’t have a fever and the symptoms went away after a few days. Then a week later, they came back much worse.

Soon his family was sick. Even the dog tested positive for coronavirus.

McLean knows the risks of being an emergency medical worker. He says that risk is usually small. But this virus, he says, is something to fear.

“The fear that you might get sick yourself but also the fear that people who mean the most to you in the world could even die because of your work. That is truly a very scary feeling,” he said.

With fear comes courage, courage bolstered by community support. McLean sees that support and believes it hits the mark with his fellow healthcare coworkers.

“Well I think it means a lot to all of us,” McLean said, “I think that we are all extremely grateful, and I think that just as humans that any of us, when we are making a sacrifice, making a commitment, to have that sacrifice recognized, is just very meaningful.”

Teaching Special Ed during COVID19

By Paula Marie Naranjo | April 14,2020 | Edited on May 2,2020

 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted by the 101st United States Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on October 30, 1990. It was first introduced in the Senate as S.1824 by Senator Tom Harkin (D.IA) on October 31, 1989. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes appropriate public education eligible to children with disabilities free throughout the nation and ensures special education services to all who qualify. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 6,964,424 children with special needs were served in the 2017-2018 school year. Although every year the enrollment rate continues to rise, the sad truth is that many children still slip through the cracks. 

  There are so many obstacles educators in general must overcome during this day and age. From social media to no support from parents these educators are underpaid and overworked. I had the privilege finding out first hand some of the work it takes to educate. I have one general ed and two special ed students that I must get help guiding them through their curriculum. Even with modified work it’s a feat I am sadly struggling with. But if you can imagine your child’s teacher modifying all the work to fit this new teaching model for 10-20 students. Special education is an uphill battle all by itself, but throw in COVID 19 lockdown and you very well may have a mountain to climb. A few teachers from San antonio schools took the time to answer my questions on teaching through COVID19. 

woman in black long sleeve shirt using laptop computer

How has this new teaching model been working for the students?

Melissa  “It’s working as well as can be expected, but that’s all because of parent communication. Having great parent communication makes any type of education easier.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “The Majority of my students are struggling with the virtual model.”

JC “It has been a struggle.  I work with the high needs population (ALE/Lifeskills) so it has been rather difficult for my students and their families.  We, the SpEd staff, are trying to provide resources and tools to best fit the needs for our students and their families, but some accommodations/modifications/behavior needs are difficult for us to find virtual/digital ways to help.”

The new teaching model ( virtual classroom) for general education seems to be working well for most students and teachers. Special education is one of the exceptions to the rule. Most teachers spend long summer months preparing how they can modify the work and use the classroom and staff as tools to help the child. Unfortunately, with the child being at home they will lack the support, guidance and emotional structure the teacher and paraprofessional offer.

What are some of the challenges your students are facing?

Melissa  “Motivation or anxiety- but that’s all students, sped or non-sped. It’s like starting high school all over again. It’s new/different and scary.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “Students are facing difficulties due to less one to one instruction and getting easily frustrated due to the lack of support.”

JC  “Using technology alone can be a struggle for some of my students.  Other students need constant support to stay focused on tasks.  Other students need frequent breaks and guidance to come back to work.  Parents are busy and stressed with other activities, so this can be a difficult situation.”

Many parents I spoke to said that they are noticing that the child is having a hard time separating home and school time while being at home. Most children with special needs have lots of tools such as communication devices, interactive schedules, and other therapy strategies in place by a professional to support them in school. Most parents don’t have the training or resources to provide the same environment that would benefit the child. 

What methods have you used that work for your students?

Melissa  “Parent communication and positive motivation!”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “Calling them a few times a week, emailing them, adding positive comments , reducing work.” 

JC “Choice boards on different levels.  Short video conferences with students to say hello.  Sending home behavior charts for parents to use and walking them through step by step how to use them (ex: student answers 1 question, they get 1 star, after 4 stars they get a break).”

Most teachers have 1-20 years of experience that I’ve spoken to and they see that they must continue to modify and reduce the amount of work they are providing the student. This can be good in the sense that the child doesn’t lose confidence in themselves if they can’t complete the work. On the other hand it delays their progress and most teachers are noticing the children regressing. 

black iphone 5 on red textile

How are you coping with this new teaching model?

Melissa  “Teaching is about adaptability. If you can’t adapt, you probably shouldn’t be teaching. That sounds harsh, but every group of kids is different. You can’t expect next year’s group to be like your group from three years ago.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work that goes into one lesson using different platforms and still being accountable with calling parents, holding ARDS , joining in on weekly department and faculty meetings, tutorial group meetings with students, grading, creating lessons, updating IEP progress reports, filling contact logs for both parents and students and learning new virtual learning platforms.”

JC “I have a master’s degree in technology so the curriculum part isn’t difficult.  I miss my students though.”

Most teachers concur with Irma Valdez-Cevallos in feeling overwhelmed as well as apprehensive in the fact that their students may be left way behind in the learning curve. Every teacher i spoke to expressed a feeling of sadness in missing their students. 

Has it increased your workload and can you give me examples?

Melissa  “The workload is the same for SPED- it’s just processed differently. Instead of leaving the classroom for small group help, we’re setting up an alternate virtual classroom. Instead of stickers and physical goodies like pencils, I’m awarding ClassDojo points and positive parent text messages.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “I’m spending 8- 9 hours on the computer!”

JC  “In some areas yes.  In other areas no.  For instance I am not teaching my kids 7 hours a day, however, I am documenting more and sending out more information than prior.  I am creating digital content that I haven’t in the past – so that has been a challenge.”

Creativity is what comes to mind when teachers explain to me how they are modifying the curriculum. Many are building apps, computer programs and repurposing classroom tools to think outside the box and fill a need for new ways of teaching.

photography of school room

How will this work factor into the students final grade?

Melissa “If you have high expectations for any student, they will rise to the occasion. People forget that not all SPED is students with intellectual disabilities. Some students have extremely high IQs but behavior,l or emotional difficulties. Autistic children are on a spectrum, so the IQ varies by subject for some lower functioning students. Think Rain Man!”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “I have modified and customized what each student will turn in so they will pass based on the work they submit.”  

JC  “I honestly am not sure about this and I do not like to speculate.  However if you email me later, I am sure I will have a clear answer once my administration sets these guidelines”

With a little over 6 weeks left in the school year, many parents worry if COVID 19 will hold their child back from meeting goals. Most states waived their state standardized testing. I reached out to the IDEA School District but didn’t receive a response on how final grades will be factored. One thing is for sure, this school year will be one to remember.

Have you heard if you have a return to work date?

Melissa  “No return to work date. Basically May is summer as normal.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “So far May 4th-” 

JC  “Right now we are set to return early May, however, I am unsure if we will actually return at all.”

What tools or resources do you have for parents that are struggling?

Melissa “Knowledge on the go has Wit & Wisdom open resources, and Eureka Math. Prodigy math is an amazing online math/fantasy gaming platform. BrainPop! Is free right now!”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos   “Provides laptops and WiFi, breakfast and lunch for students, inform parents of the food bank at our district office for weekly pickup.”

JC “Stay in contact with your teacher – we are here to help.  I am providing lots of resources from Temple Grandin, Autism Educators, and other resources.  I am trying to set up a classroom and SpEd google meets – to where kids can converse with each other to give mom a break.”

Parents across the US are searching for resources to help their children. Many parents lack the educational background to know where to begin to properly help their child. These educators were kind enough to share some of their tools.

man with backpack beside a books

How can we as parents, help our children with special needs, stay on track per their IEPs?

Melissa  “Love and patience. Just remember that this is different for all of us and we are all “into the unknown” to quote Elsa.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “Understanding what the student is actually capable of accomplishing and  encouraging them  to increase to their full potential. Monitor them. Ask questions.”

JC  “Be aware of what your child’s goals are. See if you can find anything around the house to help build that awareness/skill/knowledge. Take pictures of their growth/them doing work.”

After going over their responses it was clear that this career is for the strong minded and dedicated. I’ve been told of the long and stressful hours left awake trying to help parents find resources that will help their child understand and master the lesson. Some are going as far as training the parents and then having a live video chat so they can support the child and the parents. Many expressed they are acting in place of social workers by finding food banks, free infant products and also buying supplies to help the student from their own pocket. I have had teachers on social media offer anyone help no matter what school the student goes to at no cost, knowing they already have so much on their plates.  

  These three women and countless others are not only educators but dedicated professionals and pillars of our community. When COVID 19 ceases to be nothing but history I hope we don’t soon forget how important our educators are to our future. I sincerely hope congress can find a way to better fund the schools and give these educators a well deserved salary raise to better support or future leaders of the world.

A special thank you to Melissa for helping me get the questionnaire to her colleagues, and to Irma , and JC for taking the time to answer all my questions. I appreciate their candid and informative answers. 

Have a story, experience, or recipe you want to share with our readers. Feel free to email me at throughlovewelearn@gmail.com



Actions Overview S.1824 — 101st Congress (1989-1990)

National Center for Education Statistics


Digest of Education Statistics table 204.50.

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