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10 Tips for Parents Navigating Remote Learning

No matter where you live, school is going to look different this year. For many of us, schools will resume with remote learning, which comes with significant challenges for students, teachers, and especially for working parents.

Here are 10 tips to help parents navigate the start of the 2020 school year with remote learning.

Establish and maintain a routine
Developing good habits from the start will help you and your students make the most of this school year and prepare them for when they eventually return to the classroom. Create a routine that’s flexible and evaluate it regularly with your learners to make sure it’s working well for everyone. Break days into general segments, encouraging students to get up, get dressed, and ready to learn at times they normally would if they were attending school in person. You’ll want to keep normal bedtime hours as well, so children are ready to maintain the schedule. A good routine will also help students be mentally prepared for learning.  

Create a learning environment
It’s likely that remote learning will be more demanding as school starts than it was this past spring. That’s because, for many schools, students spend the first three quarters of the year learning new concepts and the last quarter of the school year practicing and mastering those concepts. Be prepared for longer learning hours and more homework as school starts. Create a comfortable, dedicated workstation for your student with all the materials they’ll need to complete their work. Keep it quiet and free from distractions, and a place where you can easily check-in on them to make sure they’re on task. Especially for young learners, keep doors open, and practice digital safety. More on that here. Some students learn better while standing, so consider having materials to elevate a workstation if possible.

Understand your student’s learning platform and expectations
Take some time to familiarize yourself with the learning platforms your students will be utilizing. Small frustrations that come with using a new software can add up and discourage your students from wanting to participate. Additionally, knowing what your children’s teachers expect, how much time students should spend online for learning purposes, when students are expected to be online, and more, will all help smooth this transition to online learning. Remember, for many schools, online learning will look much different than it did in this past spring and understanding those differences now will be incredibly helpful for you and your learners.

Be prepared to adjust your schedule
Regardless of your student’s grade or their passion for learning, it’s likely they’ll need help throughout the school day. For working parents, this can be especially challenging. If your job allows for flexibility, consider shifting your work hours around specific tasks or subjects that are more work-intensive for your student. You may also want to start your workday early, before the children get up, or work a couple hours in the evening after they’ve gone to bed to allow you to help your learner.  

Encourage physical activity and exercise
Children need plenty of movement and physical activity throughout the day. Don’t underestimate how challenging it will be for young learners to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time. Build time into your schedule to get up and move, stretch breaks, movement breaks where kids can do short activities like jumping jacks, dance breaks, and more can help your student expend energy and refocus on schoolwork. Increase your household productivity by incorporating household chores into the activity breaks. There are more online exercise resources than ever, try incorporating a short exercise program into your student’s day as well.

Help Students focus with checklists and check-ins
Maintaining focus is challenging enough for adults and even more challenging for children. Some students benefit greatly from a basic visual checklist covering the day’s tasks. For more complicated projects, listing the steps that need to be completed will help. For example, if a student needs to read and article, take a quiz, then create a diorama, the simple checklist would be read, quiz, create. Incentivize students for completing tasks with stickers, coins, screen time, or bigger rewards on the weekend. To start the day, you can help your students focus by asking questions like, what classes do you have today? What assignments are due? Do you need any help from me?

Recap the day by asking your student questions like:
– Did you get everything done that you needed to?
– What was hard?
– Are there any projects you’re anxious about or have you feeling overwhelmed?
– How can we make tomorrow better?

Even though these questions are simple, they generate important conversations, address frustrations before they turn into larger issues, and help demonstrate to your child that you’re engaged and supportive in their learning.

Embrace the moment
There’s really no question that “normal” is different now, routines are in chaos, and that stress and anxiety are prevalent. Parents should understand that children may be experiencing as much unease and stress as parents are since children are very perceptive of tension, stress, and uncertainty. Consider sharing factual information with your child. Simply sharing information with them may help them feel more at ease, and deepen their trust in you, even if they don’t understand the complexity of the situation. Also, maintain a positive outlook. Experts generally agree that it’s beneficial for everyone to in the family to pause, find the hidden benefits in a situation, and show gratitude to others.

Connect safely when possible
Students are missing their friends and teachers. Many are struggling from the loneliness that comes with isolation. While older children may be able to keep in touch with friends through social media and text, younger students are generally left without contact with their friends, something that negatively impactful to them as they learn social cues. Help younger children stay in contact though video calls with their friends or creating art projects for their friends and sharing the projects with those friends digitally. Parents can send messages on behalf of their child or encourage pen pals. It’s also important to remind children to be kind and polite with their friends and respectful to their teachers when interacting with them remotely.

Take a break 
If learning becomes too frustrating, take a break. Teachers put a lot of time and energy into making learning enjoyable, but some topics are difficult for some students to grasp. If your learner becomes overly frustrated, instead of “pushing through”, perhaps take a break, let emotions calm, and re-approach with a new and refreshed view. This may be the perfect time for an activity break. Once things have calmed down, approach the subject with fresh eyes.

Watch screen time and time online for young children
Often, young children are not used to spending large amounts of time in front of a laptop. While teachers will try to use a variety of learning tools and activities, the reality is that laptops will likely be the predominant method of communication and learning. Consider how much time your child spends on screens outside of school. You may want to decrease screen time and encourage activities that focus more on experiential learning, physical activities, hands on fun, sports, etc.  

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