12 Days of Resources for Parents and Caregivers

04 Dec 2020 15 min read
Colleen Kaplan
Colleen Kaplan
Senior Customer Trainer for EDU and small business accounts, Microsoft

As the holiday season approaches, many families are looking forward to the completion of a semester of remote and hybrid learning. 2021 will be here before you know it, though, and for many families, that means returning to a remote classroom environment.

A new year means new opportunities, so the LTC SPARK program wants to help you and your children start the next semester off on the right foot. That’s why, for the next 12 days, we’ll be highlighting some of our most popular resources for supporting remote and hybrid learning. Consider it a gift from us to you, the hard-working parents and caregivers who continue to make distance learning possible.

Day 12 – Winter Break Activities

Our final day of resources is all about getting you through your winter break!  Your days will fly by with these great activities from around the web:

Day 11 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 7: Talking Toddlers with Susie Allison of “Busy Toddler

Feeling stuck with what to do with your toddlers?  Wondering if keeping your child home from preschool this year was the right choice?  Trying to stay afloat while both working from home full time and parenting full time?  You are not alone!

In episode 7 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, host Colleen Kaplan talks with education advocate Susie Allison (@busytoddler on Instagram) about all things toddlers, preschoolers, and working from home.  The episode’s companion resources are packed full of great ideas to get your little ones learning and playing while giving you a few minutes to yourself.

Listen to the episode here and check out the resource list here.

Day 10 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 6: Exploring Sharenthood with Leah Plunkett

An interesting phenomenon is happening online.  As more and more millennials are becoming parents, they are sharing pictures and videos of their children on social media almost as often as they are sharing pictures of their lunch.  What does this mean for these children, though?  How might that child’s future job and education prospects be impacted by their parents’ premature creation of a digital footprint?

In episode 6 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, host Colleen Kaplan and law professor Leah Plunkett dig into all of these questions at the intersection of parenting and social media.  Leah, the author of Sharenthood:  Why we should think before we talk about our kids online, discusses the fine line parents have to walk in terms of sharing on social media and protecting their children’s privacy, as well as what parents can do to be proactive guardians of their children’s digital data.

To listen to the episode, click here.

Throughout the episode, Leah and Colleen mention many different resources for further reading and learning.  An infographic of these resources (with audio timestamps) can be found here.

Day 9 – Parent Video Library

Interested in watching a parent-specific webinar, but don’t have time in your busy work and home life schedule?  The SPARK Parent Video Library was built with you in mind.  This video library, which grows larger and larger each week, houses all of our parent webinar recordings, covering a wide range of topics.

Interested in learning more about parenting or teaching students in the current generation?  Check out “Growing Up in a Digital Age: Understanding Gen Z Students”!

Want to learn more about social-emotional learning?  Watch our two recordings with SEL coach Abby Lyons, titled “Social Emotional Learning: What Is It and Why Is It Important?” and “The Impact of COVID-19: Patterns of Stress and Brain.”

Still feeling lost navigating your student’s learning management system (LMS)?  Check out our “Get to Know Your LMS” series where we walk parents through everything that they need to know about Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Microsoft Teams, and Canvas!

Click here to visit the SPARK Parent Video Library.

Day 8 – Interactive Schedule Maker

Still feeling bogged down and scattered when it comes to remote or hybrid learning?  Are you forgetting Zoom calls or dropping the ball when it comes to synchronous or asynchronous learning days?  Many folks know that making a schedule could help immensely on this front. But even so, adding that to your weekly to-do list can feel daunting.

The SPARK Interactive Schedule Maker is here to help!  This schedule maker gives you all the tools you need to easily drag and drop items and create a schedule customized to your student’s specific needs.  The schedule maker can be used over and over again for multiple children or multiple daily schedules. Each schedule can be printed out as well, allowing for visible posting in an at-home learning environment.

Try out the Interactive Schedule Maker here (both word and picture-only schedules available).

Day 7 – Email Etiquette Infographic

While remote or hybrid learning may not be ideal, it is providing one unique opportunity for our students – the chance to advocate for themselves when it comes to their education. Some students, of course, have hit a stumbling block here, especially when it comes to communicating with their teachers via email.

The SPARK Email Etiquette infographic can help with that by providing students simple and clear instructions on how to craft an email message. This chart includes helpful reminders, including pointers on the use of a greeting and the utilization of a short, informative subject line.  While these elements may feel like common sense to parents and teachers, many students are never explicitly been taught how to craft these types of communications.

Whether you print this infographic to hang in your school or home-based classroom or just post it on your class webpage, we hope your students are able to take its keys to heart as the need to digitally communicate with their teachers continues.

Find the infographic here, sized for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Day 6 – District Check-in Forms

SPARK resources aren’t just for parents. We also create resources for schools and districts to implement and better support their families.  The SPARK District Check-In form can make that happen for schools and districts across Illinois.

Available in both English and Spanish, these forms are designed to support schools and districts as they collect data on how the pandemic and remote/hybrid learning is impacting the families that they serve.

Two forms are available, with two different end goals.  The first is a shorter form designed for administration on a weekly/biweekly basis.  This form focuses on family well-being and acts as a regular check-in, in hopes of preventing any students from falling through the cracks.

The second form is longer and more in-depth, with an intended quarterly/semesterly administration.  This longer form aims to give school and district more overarching information about how their families are viewing the school year and learning in general.  This can be helpful in tracking trends in parent and caregiver sentiments on important topics, ideally giving the administration the information that they need to make informed decisions.

Google Forms: Check out the forms here in English or in Spanish.

Microsoft Forms: Check out this multilingual form available in Arabic, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), French, Polish, Spanish, and Urdu.

Day 5 – Parenting in a Pandemic Self-Paced Online Course

After listening to Abby Lyons’ podcast episodes on social-emotional learning yesterday, are you fired up and ready to dig in for some more?  We have you covered with the “Parenting in a Pandemic” self-paced course!

This course, with all content designed by Abby herself, focuses on equipping parents with the skills needed to be their children’s best mental health advocate. In this course, you’ll learn how to develop learning spaces at home, support student engagement and self-regulation, and manage both parent and student social and emotional well-being.  Once you finish the course, parents will even receive a certificate of completion.

To enroll in this course, click here. Then, scroll down to find “Parenting in a Pandemic” and click “enroll now”.

Day 4 – Webinars and Podcasts with Abby Lyons

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the importance of teaching social-emotional learning and well-being skills to our children – not to mention how important it is to learn those skills ourselves, as parents and caretakers.  With this in mind, the SPARK program created a webinar series on these much-needed topics, featuring social emotional learning educator and coach Abby Lyons.

Whether you watch the videos or download the podcast, Abby clearly and passionately lays out how parents, caregivers, and educators can work to make social-emotional learning a part of their daily routines.  Whether you are doing school in the classroom or in your living room, Abby has tips to help you make your learning environment a calmer, more focused part of your child’s daily schedule.

Watch the videos (part one and part two) or listen to the podcasts (part one and part two).

Day 3 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 3: “The Basics of Remote and Hybrid Learning”

Are you still struggling with your family’s remote learning routine?  Did your school recently make a switch to remote/hybrid learning and you’re finding it hard to settle into a groove?  SPARK has you covered with episode 3 of the SPARK Parent Podcast, which focuses on the basics your family needs to know as you begin (or continue) remote learning this winter.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan, along with guest Jillian Pettenuzzo, a guidance counselor at St. Francis High School, focus on how parents and caregivers can “control the controllables” for their families during remote and hybrid learning.  The episode gives many practical and realistic strategies and resources, all of which can be quickly referenced in the episode’s companion resources (list or infographic).

Day 2 – SPARK Parent Podcast Episode 4: “The Importance of Reading During Remote Learning”

Are you already starting to worry about what your family’s winter break will look like?  Two weeks of no school and nowhere to go has some parents shaking in their snow boots.

To help pass the time, consider starting a reading challenge with your family!  Who can read the most books or most words?  How many different kinds of books can you read?  Can you read a book about a different culture every day?  For more ideas and resources to help your family dig in and get reading this winter, check out episode 4 of the SPARK Parent Podcast.

In this episode, host Colleen Kaplan, along with special guest Holly Kelly, highlights the importance of reading with your children, as well as the best ways to talk to your children about what they are reading. Holly also spotlights several free, high-quality reading resources for use at home while providing a few pointers for choosing the right books for your children.

Check out the episode’s companion resource as well, either in list or infographic form.

Day 1 – SPARK Parent Resource Hub


The mother of all resources is waiting for you!

The SPARK Parent Resource Hub is here to answer many of your parent- and caregiver-related questions, including those involving tech your student uses to learn remotely.  Through this interactive interface, you’ll be able to efficiently search SPARK’s catalogue of videos and how-to guides on topics from Google to Zoom. To start, simply choose the platform you’re using from the left-hand menu and then tap the orange boxes in the hub’s main interface that match your inquiry.

The SPARK Parent Resource Hub has been designed with schools and districts in mind, as well. As such, teachers, administrators, and technology leaders can embed this hub into their website and direct families there when they have questions about facilitating their student’s at-home learning environment. Multilingual households can even make the most of this hub, with some materials now available in Spanish.

To try out the SPARK Parent Resource Hub, click here. If you’re interested in embedding the SPARK Parent Resource Hub on your website, you can find the code for the hub here.

Colleen Kaplan
Colleen Kaplan
Senior Customer Trainer for EDU and small business accounts, Microsoft