Take Back Your Kids’ Education: How to Deal With Learning Loss and Social Regression

For Parents Jan 3, 2022

Can you imagine being a student during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Before 2020, kids knew where they would be every day of the week. They knew who would be there, what they would do, and what the rules were. They even knew what they would eat for lunch—and at which table.

This sense of stability disappeared when the pandemic hit, and although most kids are back to school in 2022, we have yet to see it fully recover.

That’s why it doesn’t surprise us at Outschool when parents admit that their kids are falling behind emotionally, socially, and academically. They're concerned about COVID learning loss and social-emotional regression. Everyone is struggling—even the adults. We’re happy to share the good news with these parents: it’s not too late. With the proper support at home, most students can get back on track and thrive—even with continued uncertainty at school.

Schools Can’t Do It All

While the federal government scrambles to provide funding, school districts face the reality that 100 percent of their students have encountered a significant educational disruption. COVID-related learning loss has affected every single student.  Before COVID-19, students were considered at-risk for academic decline if they missed as few as ten school days per year. Now, missing just ten days’ worth of instruction seems pretty good.

Every school faces a tremendous amount of academic need with limited resources, as do school systems across the globe. The demand is greater than ever, but educators are burnt out, and districts are facing unprecedented staffing shortages. Things aren’t looking bright for the average American student. Fortunately, your child has an advantage: you.

You’ve always been your child’s best resource and biggest supporter. Support from parents can mitigate the effects of the loss of stability and instructional time, and we want to help you get your kids back on track.

As schools reopen, student deficits caused by the pandemic are becoming increasingly evident. We’ve compiled some of our best tips and resources below so that you can help your kids hit the ground running both socially and academically.

Tips for Managing Social Emotional Learning Regression

Studies show that most learning happens only when students feel valued, safe, and calm. As a result, “social-emotional learning,” or SEL, has become a common focus of educators. Educators can reduce internal and external distractions to learning by teaching emotional regulation and relationship management skills.

Social-emotional regression may take the form of excessive worrying or anxiety, trouble connecting with friends, or difficulty getting motivated.

Parents are crucial in overcoming regression and building the appropriate coping skills needed for learning. One of our favorite sources for practical and helpful parenting guidance is Dr. Becky Kennedy. She’s a Clinical Psychologist and Outschool mom of 3. (If you don’t follow her podcast already, it’s a phenomenal resource. Here’s a fun episode of her interview with our CEO Amir Nathoo).

So we asked Dr. Becky for advice about managing the back to school social-emotional regression, and her response was perfect:

Parents have an important role in helping their kids build the emotion regulation skills necessary for academic learning. Every academic skill – say, learning to read or working on multiplication - also depends on distress tolerance, as kids have to work through lots of frustration to learn new things.
Parents who model deep breathing, normalize struggling, or use mantras to cope with difficult moments – these parents are helping their kids with the skills they are going to need over and over in school.

Other ways parents can support their kid’s social and emotional health and combat social-emotional regression include:

  • Talking openly with their child about struggles they might be facing.
  • Answering questions about the pandemic in an age-appropriate way.
  • Modeling good stress coping: deep breathing, vulnerable sharing, mantras, etc.
  • Keeping a regular schedule at home to compensate for the lack of predictability at school.
  • Enabling kids to connect with friends in new ways (i.e., Facetime, letters, etc.).
  • Being aware of any changes that might call for professional help. (Not sure what those changes are? Read this article from the National Institute for Mental Health.

Many experts (including the CDC) also recommend limiting your child’s media exposure. Harvard’s Vikram Patel, a child psychologist, explains:

For kids, it can be disturbing to hear conflicts about COVID-19 on television and in the media—these debates between different sections of society are fracturing the solidarity of communities and the sense of certainty that kids would like to have about the future of their world.

The pandemic stress of the past two years has taken an undeniable toll on parents and children alike. It’s no coincidence that “Social-Emotional Learning” has been one of Outschool’s most-searched-for-class terms in recent months. Parents seeking proactive ways to increase social skills enrolled their students in courses like Social Skills Camp and Filling Up Our Emotional Tanks.

Our social-emotional classes connect kids with experienced educators in a flexible, low-pressure environment. They’re an easy, practical way you can help your kids build their resiliency, no expertise required.

Tips for Managing Learning Loss

COVID left the average US student five months behind in math and four months behind in reading—at least, that’s what one Mckinsey study found. The consequences of a learning deficit like this will probably last longer than the pandemic itself. Back to school 2022 will have more than its usual share of challenges for families.

To combat COVID learning loss, parents can support their kids academically by:

  • Keeping in contact with teachers about expectations, progress, and assignments
  • Prioritizing schoolwork in the family schedule
  • Offering support and assistance whenever possible
  • Acknowledging the difficulties of catching up while assuring students they have what it takes to get there.

Parents of children in higher grades might struggle to offer homework help in subjects they don't understand. Seeking extra support for older students, such as after-school office hours or tutoring, can get them the resources they need to succeed. As Bridget Terry Long, the Dean of the Graduate School of Education, at Harvard University said:

As we move into the second year of pandemic disruption, we’re all grappling with changes both big and small that have come into our lives. But learning loss does not have to be one of those lasting legacies.

Outschool offers courses by qualified educators in every academic subject. They can be especially helpful for parents who can handle editing English papers but are lost when it comes to AP chemistry. Whether your child needs a little more depth or a different teaching style to get the hang of things, we have a class that can help. The courses include flexible formats like semester-long classes, one-on-one tutoring, and more. Parents can also opt for continuous educational classes for ongoing support.

Outschool’s Life Skills Classes: Help Them Build Confidence

After spending so much extra time with your kids, thanks COVID, you may have noticed learning deficits in other areas--you know, the everyday, practical ones. Outschool offers an entire life skills course catalog with subjects they won't learn in school.

These Life Skills courses help students become well-rounded people. They can learn how to do things like:

If you have older kids, we offer classes that focus on preparing students for adulthood. Topics covered include:

If your older child is at a loss for what they want to do after graduation, our career exploration classes can help them find their path.

Targeted Academic Support

Even without a global pandemic, school is hard. As life slowly returns to normal, we’re proud to feature support for students facing more typical academic challenges.  Our goal is to make back to school 2022 as seamless as possible.

Does your child know the material but underperform on tests? We find that with a bit of coaching, students can learn skills that improve their test scores. That’s why we provide test prep courses across the age spectrum. Students learn strategies to manage time and anxiety to get the best possible scores in these classes. Check out our SAT and ACT prep courses for older students facing college-required testing.

Looking to add some community and consistency to your calendar over the course of a semester? Outschool Pods might be perfect for you. In a virtual learning pod, you can learn and grow with the same group of learners and educators over the course of 16 weeks. From socialization to complete curriculum, there’s a pod for everyone! Learn more.

Suppose your child learns best in a one-on-one or small group setting. In that case, you might want to take a look at our tutoring options. You’ll find experienced educators offering personalized attention at rates much lower than you might expect. Some educators even offer personal tutoring for students preparing to take the SAT or ACT.

Back to School 2022: Empowered Parents = Powerful Kids

If you’re worried that your child’s school can’t give them the support they need to overcome social-emotional regression or COVID learning loss, you’re not alone. As a pandemic parent, you’ve learned to do it all—but you don’t have to do it all yourself. By using Outschool, you can shape your child's education on your own without needing a teaching degree. If you want help planning your family’s courses, check out our free planning services.

Start taking control now. Help is closer than you think. Find the perfect class for your child today.

Anna Duin

Anna is a Content Strategist at Outschool. She's also a mother to two pretty-awesome little boys. Nothing makes her happier than rising to a challenge or making something new.