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Distance Learning: How to keep your tween engaged and prospering—with the right plan!

If there’s one thing moms know how to do, it’s plan for the unexpected. We may not be able to keep up with loads of laundry nor empty the dishwasher regularly, but when it comes to our children’s education, we’ve got our ducks lined up.

LOMSAA’s a lot like a mother duck—responsive, protective, a planner.

When the Ventura County fires hit our community and moved in too close for comfort, our LOMSAA staff knew what steps to take to ensure everyone’s safety. Teachers immediately closed down school and drove students to the nearest public “safe-spot” to connect them to their parents. (Okay, so maybe it happened to be a Starbucks!)

COVID-19 created a similar type of panic but LOMSAA gracefully moved through the transition comfortably. If preparing for the pandemic were like a family movie night at home, we would have had corn popped, drinks poured, and feet up on the ottoman by sundown.

No sooner than our kids had unwrapped the pretty foil from their Valentine chocolate hearts, than our Director, Mrs. Gourley, had begun the process of searching for virtual learning options in the event of school closings. She chose the program that best fit our learning needs and literally “Zoomed” into action with the help of parent Geoff Millikan helping with the technical side of things.

Parents were then called to gather (while it was still safe) for a mandatory meeting and were reassured by teachers that their children’s learning would continue without a hiccup. Students practice logging onto what would soon become their new, temporary, virtual school home. Learning in pajamas? Getting lunch from the fridge instead of grabbing the lunchbox? 8am wakeup? Cool!

Presciently, the decision was then made for students to empty their lockers and take home text books. When the quarantine mandate was later announced, our students were ready to start distance learning the next school day. In contrast, many schools in the district were at least a 1 to 2 weeks away from establishing a distance learning plan.

“Our ability to prepare in advance and not lose any days of school is a testament that speaks to the very core of LOMSAA,” said English and Math teacher Susy Murphy. “We have been able to dodge, weave, and thrive and not lose any days with minimal adjustment.”

The responsiveness gave students the picture of how to be prepared for struggles, LOMSAA Director Laurie Gourley explained. “This pandemic wasn’t devastating to our school; it has been an opportunity for us to rise up and be different and to show the world that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us,” she said.

Flexibility and agility also were evident as teachers quickly implemented technology such as Google Classroom for creating tests and turning in homework assignments.

But it wasn’t all work and no play.

“Social hour” breaks were scheduled into the day to create the opportunity to connect and share stories about life at home, show their pets on-screen, laugh and just talk. And because of our tight-knit parent community, moms continued to meet weekly for prayer and sharing.

As Mrs. Gourley aptly stated, “We are not defined by the world but by the love of Jesus Christ. Our body can function anywhere. We have freedom to congregate online or in person, because we are not burdened by the things of this world. Because of this freedom, we just take one day at a time, seeing God’s daily wisdom, putting our students in His hands and watching with pure joy when the outcome is incredibly successful.”

During the challenging times in life, it’s comforting to know that your child is being educated in a place that honors preparation, ingenuity, and working through hard things.

No different from that mama duck and all the things that LOMSAA moms are already doing in their homes.

Here are 13 Tested and Proven Ways to Captivate Your Tween through Online Distance Learning:

Change up teaching techniques: talk, move, write, discuss and sing.

Hold students accountable with daily assignments to keep students engaged and on track.

Provide learning breaks and times to socialize after each learning session. Give parameters (10 minutes, 20 etc.)

Give your feedback and make changes to work. Hold “help” sessions aside from instruction time.

Do some art! LOMSAA’s art teacher has had students assemble and complete craft projects as if they were doing art right in the classroom. Students can draw, create and talk together while

working on projects using basic supplies they have at home.

Use games like Bingo to generate interaction.

Adapt your own Chopped-Style Challenge or something similar for kids to create in the kitchen and showcase.

Have students design and create flashcards for quizzing one another.

Encourage students to avoid the temptation of procrastination; doing assignments the day they are assigned helps in keeping up.

Host a chapel or spiritual message like how to trust God when you have to be still like visiting Youth Pastor Matt Elam did over Zoom. He not only addressed the kids with a message of encouragement but had them moving through the home with an active scavenger hunt.

Use Google Classroom and Google Docs as a pass through for test taking and submitting homework, including sending pictures and video files.

If appropriate, create a worship video over Zoom or through the safe practice of social distancing at a public parking lot or driveway of a teacher or student’s residence.

Take pictures! Have families share their photos in an album on Shutterfly and create a memory book that shows students participating in distance learning and related projects.

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