In this two-part series, our in-house educator and design liaison Laine Eichenlaub speaks to how parents can apply UDL principles at home.
How can you make sure your space is supportive of your child’s learning? This may be causing anxiety since your living room most likely does not resemble their classroom, but let me inform you of a secret silver-lining: your home is actually better suited to learning than most traditional classrooms. You have a significantly lower teacher-child ratio at your advantage. Also, you are likely well-versed in Universal Design for Learning from our last post and have most likely done a little digging on that since we last spoke. (If not, I’m sure you will now — here are some reference materials.)
So, let’s get started!
There are three things to keep in mind when analyzing and modifying your space:
- Create a variety of postures
- Consider the spectrum of solitude-to-socially-connected
- Connect to movement and the outdoors
Let’s dig into each individually.
1. Create a Variety of Postures
Most adults in the working world have two postures: standing and sitting. Isn’t it a bummer we’re not more creative? Lucky for us, our kids are — and we can simply respond to what they’re already doing. Since you’ve been home, you’ve probably noticed them working on things in a lot of different ways, including the upside down, hang-off-the-bed-while-playing-on-the-iPad pose. Sitting at the table is for squares! Your little one has probably created a drawing space under the table. That yoga ball you haven’t used as much as you thought you would while quarantining has now become something your child has draped themselves over while reading, bouncing along the way. Kids are naturals at creating a variety of postures. Support this! Not only does it encourage variation, muscle-strengthening, and engagement, but it also allows them to engage in metacognition. Little do they know, but they are realizing where they work best for which project at hand. This self-directed autonomy is a huge lesson they probably wouldn’t receive in their traditional classroom to the extent you can offer in your home. What a win!
2. Consider the Spectrum of Solitude-to-Socially-Connected
If you work in an open office, you probably relish moments in your building’s hidden nooks. There’s something to be said for getting away from it all, locking in, and focusing. In your home, I’m sure you adore seeing your family all day every day, but doesn’t it feel great to find that yet-colonized room to knock-out a project in silence? Your child feels the same way. Create spaces for them in which they can work with a group (the whole family), one-on-one, alone, or in isolation. Let them choose where they need to be at what times. This supports self-management and emotional regulation. You will be amazed that most children feel less anxiety when they have these getaways and can communicate their needs by simply moving to the respective location rather than through a meltdown. Speaking of avoiding meltdowns, it may be worthwhile to create your own spectrum in your house after being cooped up for months…
3. Connect to Movement and the Outdoors
The sun makes us happy! Who says? Science. Endorphins make us feel energized! Who says? Science. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by anxiety and forget that our head is actually attached to our body. It sounds silly, but have you considered what your body needs as much as you ought? I hope you’re taking daily walks or opening your windows as the weather improves; this is just as important to instill in our little ones. They need fresh air and a lot of movement. (I’m sure you’ve noticed, since children are great at showing off this fact.) This is where you can have a huge advantage over their traditional school setting. You don’t have to compete with a recess schedule, you can have class outside! You can walk around the neighborhood discussing books you’ve read! You can let them create an obstacle course that is indicative of the lifecycle of an animal! If you have a backyard, you can observe animals and insects and create a backyard ecology research project! The possibilities are truly limitless. But if anything, start by opening your windows and not forbidding wiggling, jiggling, fidgeting, twitching, tapping, thwapping, scooting, rooting, or stomps. Let them move! Moving is a form of self-regulation, communication, and sensory stimulation. Be your child’s advocate and dance with them (preferably outside)!
That’s it. Try to take this time as a gift, not a burden. You get to spend more consecutive full days with your child than you probably will in their entire lives. Don’t get caught-up in the anxiety of what they’re missing. Instead, focus on what you can provide now that you’re armed with this information. Give them a hug, give them a kiss, and give them space to explore, learn, fail, and thrive. Let them be a kid.