As cases of swine flu are reported each day, the realization that your community could be affected begins to set in. While government officials make it clear there is no need for panic, it does not hurt to err on the side of caution and consider the possible repercussions of this illness hitting home. The solutions for dealing with school-based clusters of swine flu seem simple_ Close the school for proper cleaning, make sure ill students are evaluated and treated, then, re-open the school.

Approximately 400 schools in the United States have closed due to outbreaks in their districts. As every parent and educator knows, any time spent away from the classroom is time lost. In the spirit of being prepared, here are some tips for continuing your child's education at home should schools in your community close for any length of time.

  • Keep a consistent schedule for your child. Have him wake up as if it were a typical school day and structure the day with a variety of activities. Have work sessions before and after lunch. Make sure bedtime remains consistent as well. Keeping a routine will make sliding back into a normal school week much easier.
  • Read every day. Your child can read aloud to you or a sibling or she can read silently. Students who are not reading independently can have books read to them by family members. Students in grades K-3 should read for 20 minutes each day, students in grades 4-8 should read for 30 minutes, and high school students should read for 30-45 minutes. Consider other opportunities for reading, such as reading the local newspaper and having a family discussion on local and national events.
  • Utilize the same online worksheet generators teacher use! Finding age-appropriate worksheets is only a click away. Type the content area keywords, such as third grade fractions worksheets, into any search engine and choose worksheets from the many options that pop up. Be aware that many websites are free, but some charge a small fee. There are plenty that are available free of charge so there is no need for you to spend your money on a service that could potentially only be needed for a few days.
  • For a science activity, make a chart to monitor the weather each day. Your child can watch the news or search on-line to get the local forecast. Record daily temperature, humidity, precipitation, and pollen count. Your child can print out pictures of rain, sun, and clouds and glue them to each day's report.
  • Bring gym class to your backyard. Play a game of basketball, walk around the block or have family relay races. If you're stuck with a rainy day, pop in a workout DVD. Make exercising a family affair and you could develop a new healthy habit!

Talk to your children about the realities of the flu. Most people, if treated timely and appropriately, recover with no complications. Setting the tone for a calm reaction to a potentially scary situation will help your child understand how the swine flu is affecting people all over the world.

Many school administrators are being proactive in sending letters home and posting information on their Web sites. Since the school nurse and principal are likely inundated with questions and concerns, take an informal poll of the parents in your child's class and submit a list of questions from the class. Acting as a spokesperson will help continue the flow of information between state officials, schools and parents.

Whether or not swine flu affects your community, consider this an opportunity to be prepared!

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. Jennifer also speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. Visit www.jennifercerbasi.com