A 7th Grader’s Surprise – How to Keep Up with School While Social Distancing

My heart sank when I learned the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the country, was shutting down to protect students and employees from the spread of Coronavirus. I understood the reasoning, but I immediately became concerned about students who are fed necessary meals every day at school, as 80% of LAUSD students receive reduced cost or free lunches. I am happy to see the district put a plan into action providing students free meal pick ups.

Then, I thought about my daughter, a 12 year-old 7th grader in a gifted magnet middle school. She is a very good student, bright, funny, very talkative, with a huge imagination, and very social. I knew she wouldn’t like being separated from her friends and worried how I could keep her productive.

Last Friday she came home after the two week school closure announcement was made; she had her backpack full with two week’s worth of classwork. Her father and I were worried. How could we make sure she completed it without becoming bored or frustrated?

Sunday night, she confidently laid out her plans: “My friends and I talked about it at school, and we’re going to keep the same school schedule at home. We’ll all start at 8am with our first period work, then at 8:50 with second period work, and so on. We’ll take our snack break when we usually have recess and that’s when we’ll text each other to see how we’re all doing.” They even planned out time for physical education.

There are about four or five girls who agreed to the plan; Monday was their first day.

She started late, having slept in a bit but she kept her schedule all day. By 4:30pm, she was watching tv. I asked, “Did you do all your schoolwork AND your homework?” She replied, “Yes, it’s all done! I would go for a walk for exercise but it’s raining. I’ll go tomorrow.” 

We checked and sure enough, she had completed all her assignments for Monday, and was a bit ahead on a week-long project for history. She was texting with her friends, and they had all made good progress. Yes, it was only one day, but she really liked the feeling of being “done” for the day and sharing the “virtual school” experience with her friends.

I would suggest this strategy for older children who are working from home. Maybe as an incentive, they can be promised a certain amount of tv or video game time in exchange for the completion of homework. I know it’s different when the initiative comes from the kid, instead of parent, but so far it’s working for our family. 

I was pleasantly surprised the girls came up with this plan themselves and are keeping each other accountable via text. It’s been a great way to keep busy while lessening the feeling of being alone. I only hope they will keep it up! Do you have any thoughts on how we can support them in keeping up the momentum? If so, please share in the comments.

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Jerilyn Lopez-Mendoza

Jerilyn Lopez-Mendoza

Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza is an environmental attorney. She grew up in Montebello, where her parents still live, and is a proud graduate of Montebello High School, Stanford University (where she earned a bachelor's degree in American Studies) and UCLA School of Law. She is currently a President Barack Obama appointee to the international Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, which monitors continental environmental impacts of NAFTA. She lives in the San Fernando Valley with her husband and precocious 8 year-old daughter.

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