Top 10 Tips for Starting School Remotely
2020 has introduced many unfamiliar territories when it comes to the way we conduct our everyday lives, and for most of the U.S., this also includes the way our children will be attending school this fall. Though it is impossible to predict the way the rest of the school year will unfold following the next several months, you can control the extent to which your children are prepared for changing school conditions. With tens of millions of students in the U.S. having gone remote with their learning last spring, here are some tips that will set your child up for success when bringing the classroom into your home.
1. Teach Your Child How to Use Their Learning Platforms – Inside and Out.
With so many adjustments suddenly happening with your child’s education, it is crucial that your child feels confident and prepared for online learning! This will prevent any unnecessary stress on your child, and instead allow for more fun when it comes to learning in the coming months. Though your child’s school or teachers may provide resources or lessons on how to use platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Seesaw, be sure to do some research yourself. This way, when it comes to trouble-shooting, you or your child can react in a timely manner so that it doesn’t interrupt learning. Be sure to sit down with your child and walk them through how to use each required platform, and watch their confidence grow.
2. Try a Small Group Learning Environment with Neighbors or Friends.
Some families across the U.S. have decided to create small, in-person homeschooling classrooms with neighbors or friends in order to maximize safe, social development for their children. If your family is particularly close to another family in your neighborhood, you could coordinate with the parents to have your kids work together on school work for a designated time throughout each day. For example, your neighbor’s child may come to your home to work on homeschooling with your child under your supervision from 8 A.M. – 12:00 P.M. on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Inversely, your child may go to your neighbor’s home for the same allotment of time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not only will this increase healthy socialization for your children during quarantine and allow them to work together on their learning material, but this may especially help when you have an important business call on a Tuesday morning and you are unavailable to help your child with their schooling. Of course, all should be done if both families have been quarantined for 14 days or more, and are not at risk of spreading COVID-19.
3. Establish a Way to Communicate with Teachers and Parents.
Although it is likely your child’s teacher has already set up virtual orientations, there will likely be no in-person parent-teacher conferences this fall to establish a further rapport with your child’s teacher and track your child’s learning progress. Further, you won’t have valuable time chatting with parents during school drop-off or pick-up this year, building relationships and staying in the loop with things going on at school that you might have missed. Therefore, it is important to establish a way to maintain a relationship with your child’s teacher and their peers’ parents.
Don’t underestimate the value in setting up a Zoom call with your child’s teacher if you have any concerns about the upcoming school year, send a follow-up email with any questions following virtual orientation, or staying in touch with other childrens’ parents via email or in-person social distancing playdates! Maintaining these relationships can make you feel like you still have a community behind you, should you need any support throughout the year in homeschooling your child. The other parents will likely feel happy that you took the initiative to reach out.
4. Designate a Space in Your Home to Your Child’s Schooling.
Just like you have a designated office space where you can be your most productive while working from home, it is important to create one for your child as well. Similar to having a desk at school, this will teach your child the importance of staying organized and being well-prepared. Make sure there is plenty of table space for writing or projects, a power outlet nearby so that the computer or tablet your child is using for learning doesn’t die in the middle of a lesson, paper and general school supplies stocked in an organized fashion, and perhaps a water bottle so that your child doesn’t need to get up if he or she gets thirsty in the middle of class.
This designated space will also help your child to compartmentalize school time versus the time they spend doing the things they typically do at home, such as playing or eating. Just as it’s healthy to set the boundary of not having technology in bed before bedtime, it is healthy for them to recognize the boundary that even though they are still at home, while they are at their desk, it is school time.
5. Create a Quarantined Daily Routine that Closely Resembles Your Child’s Normal School Routine.
In a time where normalcy has flown out the window, it is more important that your child maintains a daily routine. While your child may no longer physically be walking, taking the bus, or being driven to school, it is crucial to their healthy daily structure that they still do the same actions they used to do before heading to school. This includes waking up at the same time they used to pre-quarantine, and following the same morning routine such as getting dressed, eating breakfast at the dining room table, and brushing their teeth. This will establish more concrete boundaries in their mind between school time and after school playtime.
If your child is struggling to establish the difference between school time and playtime while at home, you can try different techniques to keep them focused during the day. For example, you can set an alarm for X amount of time, and explain to them that until the alarm goes off, they need to focus on their task at hand. After the alarm goes off, it may be helpful to give them a 5-10 minute break to allow them to feel refreshed and ready to work again for X amount of time on their next task. This can help to increase their productivity and keep them interested in their learning material.
6. Find Apps that Make Learning Easier – And Fun!
It is no surprise that virtual quarantine learning can be stressful at times for children and parents alike, so it is important to remember to sprinkle in some fun to your new daily homeschool routine! Here are some apps that will help your child enjoy learning – and you might even enjoy learning alongside them with these too:
- Duolingo – A popular language-learning app that uses fun activities to efficiently teach new vocabulary and linguistic rules.
- PBS Kids Games – With over 100 learning games ranging from identifying emotions to math and science, your child can learn important life skills from their favorite PBS characters.
- GoNoodle – If your child has become more sedentary than highly active during quarantine, have no fear! GoNoodle provides endless entertaining exercise videos to get your kids up and dancing, or practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation.
- Khan Academy Kids – This educational kids app has everything! From math and science to grammar and reading, you can probably find anything you need to enhance your child’s learning.
- Play and Learn Science – Created by PBS, this app allows your child to explore the exciting world of science, from shadows to weather to geography!
7. Schedule Weekly Time for Your Child to Connect with Peers.
If you decide your child should stay inside your home and is not ready for in-person social distancing activities in the midst of a global pandemic, there are still many exciting ways for your child to connect with their friends! You could suggest that your child and their friend become penpals, writing letters weekly to each other in order to update one another on the fun things they have been doing during their quarantine. They could also do a book swap by exchanging a number of books with one another, and including a letter explaining why they like each book, or why they think the other child may like it.
Of course, another way to keep your child socialized in isolation could be to set up daily or weekly Zoom or FaceTime calls to friends. It is important to keep your child socialized with their peers during this time regularly, not only for their social development, but for their mental health and happiness too! Some gaming apps also allow for users to play one another, such as ChessKid.
8. Track Your Child’s Progress Weekly – And Ask Them for Feedback.
In the unpredictable craziness of this pandemic season, it is easy to forget that your child’s education is just that – your child’s. Learning virtually can be confusing and frustrating to children who are particularly social or active, which can be difficult when your child is expected to sit down and learn from a screen all day. Make sure you do regular weekly check-ins with your child when it comes to the mechanics of what is working for them in their virtual learning experience and what is not. Do they get antsy after sitting in a Google Hangout for 30 minutes, thus significantly reducing the amount of learning they are absorbing for the rest of the day? Work with your child on solutions to the problems they are facing, such as perhaps getting up and stretching for a couple of minutes every 30 minutes.
Your child should have a say in what they believe works best for their learning and what does not. Nothing about this time is normal, so teachers – especially elementary school teachers – are more likely to be flexible with your child’s virtual learning needs. You can keep a log of things that are working for your child, and what is not. If another one of your children experiences the same problem later on down the road, or a parent comes to you for advice about a similar problem, you will have a log of solutions readily available to you. You may even be able to make suggestions to your child’s teacher that can benefit the entire class all at once.
9. Do Emotional Check-Ins with Your Child Daily.
If most adults are feeling unsure of what the next several months will look like for them, or are experiencing loneliness or frustrations, imagine what it must feel like for kids! Children can have an ever-changing range of emotions, passing from one extreme to the next in the blink of an eye. It is important for them to express these emotions instead of internalizing them, and you can encourage them to do so by checking in at the end of every school day to see how they are feeling about their virtual learning.
Are they feeling lonely not physically being in a classroom full of friends? Do they feel that they are falling behind and don’t know how to keep up or speak up when they are just a face on a screen? Do they feel especially excited about one aspect of their learning, but dread waking up every morning because another aspect is making them miserable? Mental health is very important for children at any time, but especially when they can’t interact face-to-face with their teacher and peers every day. You can keep an open line of communication for them to talk about their fears and triumphs every day.
10. Stay Positive!
If you become frustrated from time-to-time about balancing your child’s homeschooling with your own demanding work schedule (among all the other things that life throws your way), that is O.K.! You will not be alone. If for a moment your work has to take precedent over your child hopping on a Zoom call, well, that is just life! Children are like sponges that absorb the world around them incredulously quickly, so think of these frustrating moments as a moment of further learning for your child.
Can’t figure out how to use a component of Seesaw? Take a deep breath and explore different solutions – with your child by your side. Not only will your child learn how to use their education platforms along with you, but they will also learn that even adults need to take adaptation slowly at times. Perhaps the best lesson of all is that if you put your mind to it, you can learn anything new, no matter the situation!