Parents, students, and educators everywhere are in a world of uncharted waters. Families are facing new challenges every day and parents are being asked to take on a whole different kind of role with their children. In a matter of hours, parents of students everywhere were asked to transition their homes into a place for virtual learning without knowledge of when school will resume.
All of the fast transitions are overwhelming, and we are all asking, “Am I doing this right?” and “How am I going to last beyond two weeks?” or you may simply be saying, “I am not a technology person!”
Here are three tips to help you not only survive but thrive as you support your children with virtual learning during this difficult time.
Establish a Daily Routine
Set Up a Virtual Learning Space
Studies have shown that children, and most adults, thrive on a routine. The routine should consist of academic time with structured breaks throughout the day for the mind and body. The routine for all ages should mimic the school day the student just left behind.
- If possible, contact your child’s teacher and ask for the daily schedule so you can try to incorporate this at home.
- Set your alarms for the same time as when you were physically going to school each morning.
- Eat lunch at the time your child ate lunch at school.
- If your child had physical education, make sure to plan for movement breaks at various times and specifically at the same times each day.
During this time at home, it is also very important to consider your own needs as a parent and to prioritize them. Ensure you have time to shower, sleep, and have some moments of quiet time throughout the day. Plan for predictable afternoons and relaxing evenings with your children, and as much as possible plan for them to be as typical as they would be during the normal school week.
A routine is crucial when it comes to screen time and using devices for virtual learning. Excessive screen time does have an impact on brain development. Technology is a very powerful resource for learning. Now, more than ever before this challenging time, we must remember to limit our student’s windows of time on devices. Ensuring the screen time is scheduled with movement breaks is crucial to the daily routine for you to have a successful remote learning plan.
As we navigate the extended period of time at home, it will be very important for you and your child to have a specific space for learning. The space should be an area you and your learner create together to ensure that it is an environment that promotes excitement towards learning.
Here are some things to consider when setting up a learning space:
- ensure the space has appropriate seating for the age of your learner
- center it around a hard surface for a device, writing, and reading materials
- little to no noise at all
- well-lit with as much natural light as possible
- spacious enough for you and your child to work together
- access to outlets as devices will need chargers to continue virtual learning.
If you are working with multiple children in your family, consider giving each child his or her own basket with supplies and a place to store materials specific to each child, just as each would have at school. This will provide a sense of ownership to each child’s space. In each student’s basket, you can provide pencils, paper, books, headphones, and any other materials he or she may need. The basket is also a handy place to store a water bottle or cup so you don’t have to keep washing used ones throughout the day!
All learning materials should stay in this learning space, just as they would at school, so if possible set this space up out of the way of the area your family uses for relaxing and other family activities.
Identify and Ease Motivation Challenges
Plus Ideas for Rewarding Your Students
At times, motivating your child to complete a task is easy, and other times it is the complete opposite. Finding consistency with intrinsic motivation is extremely challenging, especially in a world that has completely turned upside down as we all have experienced.
Parents everywhere are also facing the biggest competition of all… TECHNOLOGY. Most days, technology is our best friend. We use it for just about everything, and now we are using technology to teach our children while they cannot attend school.
You are probably wondering why I placed technology under motivation. This is because we cannot use screen time as a reward or motivator. As you are working with your student, it will be necessary to set up a system that focuses on an internal motivation built on positive reinforcement of your child’s effort towards success on assignments. Celebrate your children’s effort, strategies, and mastery throughout problem solving tasks, especially in the subject areas that are not their favorite.
As your children navigate difficult challenges in their learning:
- help them identify the criteria it will take to be successful
- show them their progress along the way
- acknowledge their feelings along the way
- support them enough so they can be successful.
A positive motivator is to offer children some type of choice in how they complete a task. This provides autonomy over a task, which allows your children to be agents over their own learning. Once a child is given this opportunity for choice, then you as the parent can simply act as a guide, then celebrate together once you are both successful. Celebrations should be activity based such as:
- family movie night and they choose the movie
- staying up a few minutes later (not too much later!)
- baking cookies together
- dance parties in the kitchen
- any other reward that is not necessarily a physical item or time on a device.
Parents, children, and educators everywhere are in a world of unknown right now, all trying to survive and thrive with virtual learning. We must be patient, understanding, and work together to support our children to the best of our ability at this time. As you work at home to support your young learners, setting up a routine for them and providing a learning space will give them a structure they crave while they aren’t able to attend school.
Finding the balance between home comforts and study time is challenging, and it will take time as your relationship molds to this new level. Motivators will likely look different each week so celebrate the small stuff, and enjoy the time with your family!
Check out this video from George Mason University: 5 Tips for Success in Virtual Learning: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt3niXspJZA.
Anne Bianchi, Ed.S. is a part of the Growth Education team, a National Board Certified Teacher, an Instructional Technology Specialist, and a Google Certified Educator. Growth Ed offers tutoring and homeschool teaching in the Tidewater area as well as K Prep, an educational video series designed to empower parents to prepare their children for success in kindergarten.