Parenting During a Pandemic

When WES first made the decision to move to distance learning last spring, we had no idea how long the public health crisis would last. The weeks slowly evolved into months. Although some of our daily routines pre-pandemic have begun to be partially restored, such as the gradual reopening of schools and businesses, in most ways we are living in a drastically different world.

My wife, Sandy, and I have been struggling to balance the need for social outlets for our boys with the need to remain safe. With many of our former activities cancelled indefinitely, we also had to find new and interesting things to do as a family. We planted our first garden last spring, and the boys have also taken up new hobbies, such as bike riding, cross-country running, and cooking.

But parenting during a pandemic can be challenging. We’ve been dealing with these unique circumstances for several months, and we thought it might be helpful to revisit some of the things we can do to help our children through these unprecedented times.

  1. Create structure. This is one reason our scheduling committee went to tremendous lengths to build our students a consistent schedule to follow while learning on site and at home. We can increase predictability in our children’s environment by developing and maintaining reasonable routines.
  2. Balance family time with alone time. This one is a little easier to implement for parents with older children. In addition to finding new ways to connect as a family–be it board games, making meals together, or learning new skills–it also helps to create space for each family member to recharge. Plan solo time when everyone can go to their room or a quiet space for an appropriate activity, such as reading a book, working on an art project, talking to friends, or journaling.
  3. Manage media consumption. Staying informed is important, but too much information can be overwhelming. Remain steady when talking about the virus, and reassure your children that lots of people are working very hard to bring back a sense of normalcy.
  4. Allow age-appropriate choices. This can help increase your child’s feelings of control. For younger children that might mean choosing their clothing or snack for the day. For older children that might mean generating ideas for the family to do over the weekend, or selecting from options that you provide.
  5. Focus on the positive. This doesn’t mean ignoring that things are hard right now, but rather directing our attention to that which brings us joy. This helps frame perspectives and builds the resilience muscles we have been discussing.
  6. Above all, practice compassion with yourself and your children. Replace unhelpful thoughts with encouraging ones.

And remember, the WES community is here to support you. We’ve said it before, but I think we could all use a reminder that we’re not going through this alone. Chaplain Kristen and our counseling team are available if you need someone to talk to or suggestions specific to the circumstances your family is facing.

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

The Extraordinary Creativity of WES Teachers During a Pandemic

As Plato once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And there is nothing like a global pandemic to spark innovation. As I look around campus and drop in various classes via Zoom, I am continuously impressed by the extraordinary ingenuity of our faculty members. During the past several weeks, our Early Childhood teachers have taught face-to-face under a brand new set of health and safety protocols, others have been busy teaching virtually, and a handful of our faculty have been doing both at the same time! Their love of teaching and their care for their students drives them to provide the richest and most meaningful learning experience they can.

Our Pre-K teachers have been busy creating an inclusive community for their at-home and on-site learners. Their goal has been to show the children that no matter where a student is, they can all be together. At-home learners are broadcast on a large television screen so their classmates will feel their presence. An iPad is used to enable on-site learners to talk and play with virtual learners directly over Zoom. 

It’s obviously a challenge to teach an incredibly hands-on class, such as art, virtually. However, our art faculty have risen to the challenge with all the creativity you would expect from, well, artists. Using a document camera and multiple computer screens dedicated to slides and the Zoom classroom, our faculty are teaching drawing step by step, just as they would in person. Our Middle School students are in the process of creating their first art portfolio via Google Drive, so they should have some wonderful projects to show you. 

In their quest to create engaging lesson plans that were fun, vigorous, and didn’t involve the use of hands, our PE faculty created a ninja warrior course this week. On-site students were busy jumping on different levels of mats, trying to maintain their balance on poly spots, army crawling through parachutes, jumping through tires, walking a balance beam, and then starting all over again! The children even requested to be timed in future classes. Virtual learners were encouraged to create their own ninja course at home. For those who were unable to do so, they asked the students to draw what their ideal course would look like and the teachers will try to incorporate some of their suggestions in the next rendition of the WES Ninja Warrior Course. 

These are just a few examples of the wonderful and engaging learning that has been taking place this week. Although so much of the future is unknown right now, I am certain of one thing: that our teachers will continue to impress us and our students will continue to thrive. 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School