On the heels of nationwide distance learning and the onset of the dreaded "summer slide," many parents are wondering how they can help their children stave off summer regression between now and Labor Day.
And while most parents are ready to hang up their homeschooling hats, it may be worth keeping up at least some academic learning over the next two months. But who wants to nag their kids to do schoolwork? Enter the "choice board," a simple way to let kids take (some) control over summer learning.
Laurel Wyatt, a pre-K teacher and early childhood coordinator at St. Stephen of Hungary School in New York City, told "Good Morning America" she started using the boards this spring as a result of COVID-19 and school closures.
"Choice boards are a great tool for kids of different ages, and I love that they provide some structure but are also fun and can be tailored to suit individual students strengths and needs while still working towards benchmark goals," she said.
Wyatt said parents were looking for ways to implement structure between Zoom calls and scheduled assignments. "Providing the boards was a hit," she said.
Choice boards easily transition to summer learning. "They're particularly great to use at home over breaks and in the summer to keep your children learning and exploring without it feeling like school or a chore," said Wyatt.
"Having a visual is so helpful for young kids and crossing it [the assignment] off is such a highlight," she said.
Here's how they work. The "boards" are simple 8x10 pieces of paper divided into roughly 20 small boxes. They are generally themed to a particular "subject," like math, reading or writing. But the boards can be themed to most anything. Jessen is using one for chores.
"I feel my 4.5 and 6.5-year-olds need to start helping more around the house. We are just starting to get into chores and it will be nice to utilize so as not to overwhelm them right out of the gate with too many at once," she said.
The same goes for academics. For a younger child, a reading board may be filled with choices of different types of books. A math choice board for someone slightly older might involve gathering all the change in the home and counting it. And while parents can certainly come up with their own assignments, there are hundreds of pre-populated boards available online that are tailored to grade level and subject matter.
Teachers Pay Teachers is one place to find boards, and Wyatt suggested Pinterest and homeschooling blogs for samples or ideas to make your own.
"You can also turn to your child's teacher for questions or resources he or she may have in terms of Choice Boards and specific suggestions for your child or grade-level skills you want them to develop," she said.
The boards can also help with the dreaded "I'm bored" chorus from the kids in the summer months. Jessen said to create a board "to pull out some ideas -- arts and craft ideas, board games, building ideas -- that haven't been done in a while."
For fun or for learning, boards are a way for parents and kids to keep learning without the pressure of school, all while preparing for the year ahead.
"My main goal," Wyatt said, "is to give parents tools and information so that they can tailor at-home learning to fit the needs of their family and to have fun getting ready for a new school year filled with lots of new possibilities and experiences."