Center X: Taking Parents to School on Teaching at Home

UCLA experts share tips for parents who are now their children’s teachers during pandemic lockdown.

Project directors at UCLA’s Center X have provided suggestions and pointers for parents who are now filling in for their children’s schoolteachers in the wake of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders nationwide. An article by Alison Hewitt of UCLA Newsroom shares ways to incorporate academic subjects into everyday tasks, educational games, and even just regular playtime, while at home.

“Cooking offers math, measuring, following directions and literacy,” said Daniel Diaz, director of the UCLA History–Geography Project, and father of a kindergartener and a second grader, in the Newsroom article. “There’s also history at home. Look for family photographs and heirlooms and have a conversation about where those things come from. Give a personal history lesson.”

Parents can use their home or neighborhood to teach geography. “Kids can make maps to build their spatial awareness,” Diaz said. “Learning doesn’t have to come from a lesson plan, just a conversation. And when all else fails, KCET’s PBS programming is a good option for parents to know that there’s at least some learning happening.”

A science lesson on how liquids become solids – and a delicious treat – result from making popsicles at home. Photo by Tunette Powell

Hewitt’s article also underscores an encouraging message to parents – keep it simple and count hugs, not screen time.

“Let’s shift our thinking,” said Tunette Powell, head of the UCLA Parent Empowerment Project at Center X, in the article. “Parents have never stopped being among their children’s teachers. Some kids will flourish. And none of us are in this alone. Your neighbors are homeschooling. Your friends are homeschooling. We’re all in this together.”

Hewitt, a senior media relations officer in UCLA Strategic Communications, whose husband Heath Hewitt leads instructional technology for the Educational Technology Unit at GSE&IS, says that, “This story meant a lot to me.” 

“Before most of us became confined to our homes, my husband and I were pretty good about separating our work life from our family time with our 6-year-old,” says Alison Hewitt. Her son started kindergarten in an LAUSD school this year, after five years with UCLA Bright Horizons Childcare Center, a UCLA-affiliated daycare near campus that Hewitt praised. 

“Where before we could focus on fun projects and activities for our son if we were home, now work and home life inevitably overlap, ” she says. “In the first week after our son’s school closed, friends and family sent countless wonderful ideas for engaging kids’ activities, but soon every new link felt like a reminder of all the things my husband and I were failing to do on top of our full-time jobs. 

“I knew from other parents that we weren’t alone in feeling overwhelmed, and that in many ways I had it easy. UCLA’s teaching experts gave such kind, reassuring advice, and they really recognized that not everyone has the same resources to draw from right now.”

To read, “‘Simple, accessible and fun’: Teaching experts’ tips for parents” in UCLA Newsroom, visit this link.

Above: A lesson in mechanics for this kindergartener is found by taking pens apart and reassembling them. Photo by Alison Hewitt