With COVID-19 persisting as a major threat around the country, schools and parents alike are continuing to make hard choices about how to help our children learn. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer here. Whether learning is done at home online or in person, there are going to be various tradeoffs to consider. These are some of the pros and cons of each approach.
I. In-Person Schooling
Obviously, the biggest risk to in-person schooling during COVID-19 is the potential for the virus to spread. The ever-changing information regarding COVID-19 along with the possibility for exposure and infection to go undetected for weeks, renders it effectively impossible to ensure classrooms are 100% safe. However, both transmission and fatality rates for COVID-19 are on the decline, especially among children. Many schools have also put fourth strict new policies which help to minimize the spread and create a safe learning environment. In-person learning also allows a sense of normalcy and routine for young learners who may rely on this to succeed. Additionally, the social interaction that in-person learning offers, remains difficult to replicate remotely. Unfortunately, among these pros, there is still a threat of danger. This is particularly true if either;
- The student has existing health issues that could make them particularly vulnerable to a serious COVID infection.
- The student lives with high-risk family members, such as older grandparents or those with existing conditions, who would be more vulnerable to a serious COVID infection.
In these specific situations, keeping the child home for learning might be best.
II. At Home Online Learning
At-home learning via online has a main pro; it is clearly the safer option. Online learning keeps the child and family members socially isolated, and therefore, minimizing risk of infection. However, for some children, particularly older learners, online learning can work quite well. There are various factors to consider;
- The younger the child is, the harder it will be for them to engage with and remain interested in online classes. Direct parental supervision will probably be required to keep them on track, especially for those of preschool age.
- Social interactions will be very limited, and that can be an issue for a child’s overall social-emotional development. Parents may need to supplement with different ways to help them interact with their peers, such as forming safe study groups with nearby neighbors.
- Special needs students will be particularly challenged by online learning and will probably require some in-person interaction with teachers at some point.
Still, online learning can be fun, educational, and developmentally appropriate if the child has a good support system in place.
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