It’s not ideal for a lot of families, but many children are starting their classes online this fall. As COVID-19 continues to necessitate limits on the number of people who are permitted to gather in any one spot, schools and other educational institutions are having to consider strategies for distance learning that can accommodate a large number and wide range of students. It’s not an easy task for educators; children (as well as their parents) frequently have varying levels of skills sets and learning styles that make web-based learning particularly troublesome to tailor in any singular way. Not to mention, many parents have their own full-time jobs to do every day with little time to spare for helping a child log onto the Internet and learn a lesson. If you’re a parent with anxiety about the coming months of online learning, here are four tips for bettering your chances for success in it:
Set Up a Designated Work Space
Everyone works better in his or her own own space. If your child doesn’t already have a desk or table to work on, get her one. It can be the dining room table if nothing else is available. The important part is that it’s hers, and she is free to arrange it in a way that suits her. In addition, you should gather all necessary supplies (such as paper, pencils, crayons, books and calculators) and have them readily on hand so that your child can quickly access the materials she needs without having to leave her study area to look for them. Having a designated work area improves productivity, allowing your child a specific place to buckle down without hindrances.
Stick to a Schedule
You and your child both have a job to do; create a schedule that makes it easier for you both to concentrate on your own responsibilities without interruption. Certainly you can (and may be forced) to follow your child’s class schedule. This is actually the easiest way to establish a routine since it’s familiar to your child and offers a sense of security that many will need to focus and get to work. Set a timer if you need to, but make sure your child understands your family’s expectations for each day’s learning activity.
Create “Office Hours”
A schedule can be further enhanced by building in one or more specific times for you to assist your child as a teacher (i.e., “office hours”). With this type of plan, your child moves through his daily schedule as set by his school, completing the work he can and making note of any questions that he has so that he can then bring them to you only during your “office hours.” This not only removes constant distractions for each of you, it can push your child to find answers on his own. A seemingly complicated English assignment about expository writing, for example, can become more clear as your child takes time to do a bit of research by himself; instead of immediately asking for help, he may begin to read or think about his options. Indeed, he may google “how to repair plastic barricades” and decide he can write a sequential essay after all! At the very least, designating a specific time for questions forces your son to manage his time wisely. And isn’t that a necessary life skill?!
Finally, it’s very important for parents to remain connected to their child, their child’s teacher and her school for the duration of the online learning experience. Good communication ensures that parents remain aware of their child’s progress and know about important issues, opportunities and resources as they become available. Encourage your child to communicate with you and her teacher, as well. The more people involved in distance learning, the more likely it is that nothing will fall through the cracks. It also teaches her to advocate for herself — to ask for help when she needs it — strengthening her social skills. With fewer occasions for social interaction, pushing your daughter to communicate across a variety of platforms and with different types of people will only make her more resourceful and self-sufficient later on.
Of course, these are just a few tips for helping your family better manage distance learning. Can you think of any others?