How to Help Your Child with Virtual Learning

 

Typically a new school year can be stressful, and there are potential risks that parents have to think about.

For example, bus safety and pedestrian safety are big issues parents think about when it comes to the logistic of their child going to school. Now, heading into the 2020-21 year, many parents have a different concern—COVID-19.

States and school districts around the country have opted to take different approaches to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For example, some states are having kids mostly go in-person. Other districts are doing a hybrid model to keep the number of kids in the building low at any given time. Then, some districts are for at least the first semester, going entirely virtual.

You may also be in a district where there’s a choice parents can make between in-person or virtual learning.

It’s leaving parents wondering how to make it work, not only with their job demands but also how to ensure their child gets a good education when they’re learning from home.

If you’re not an educator, the idea of facilitating your child’s learning can be scary and overwhelming, but the following are tips for parents to help their kids right now.

Get Familiar with the Content and the Technology

Your child’s teacher should be the one leading during remote learning, and you should allow them to do that freely in the way they see fit.

With that being said, it’s likely that your child is going to be doing some of their work independently throughout the day, and they aren’t going to have guided instructional time nonstop.

That’s where you might be needed.

To best help your child in these situations, before school starts, get familiar with the technology your child will be using.

You should also try and familiarize yourself at least a bit with the curriculum. You don’t have to be an expert, but it helps if you have some idea of what your child is learning or studying at any given time.

Knowing what’s happening with their education will also help you hold them accountable.

With all that being said, while you should be available if your child needs you, you shouldn’t be sitting in on their classes. You wouldn’t pop into their regular classes and sit and watch in most cases, so don’t do it with virtual learning. Instead, keep a hands-off approach during instructional time, and only step in when your child is asking for help.

If you want to communicate with the teacher or school staff, do so through email or a phone call and outside of class time.

Schedule and Encourage Intervals

If you’re working from home or you’re staying home from work during this time, you have the opportunity to help your child structure their day.

If you think about what it’s like for children at school, they aren’t engaged in instruction all day. They’re also doing other things, like socializing and going outside to play.

Breaking up learning into intervals and encouraging other activities throughout the day can help your child stay more focused when they are in learning time.

It can help reduce boredom and distractions.

Encouraging physical activity is really important for kids who are learning virtually. There are dedicated chunks of time at school for kids to be active, and they need something similar when learning at home.

Staying physically active is good for not only your child’s physical health but their mental health as well.

Enlist Help

If you’re working full-time, whether at home or not, that could be your biggest stress as far as your kids learning virtually.

Enlist help wherever you can.

Some parents are opting to create their own “pods.” The idea is basically that a group of kids come together for virtual learning, but the circle is still kept small and contained. It would be helpful for all the parents whose kids are in the pod to be likeminded as far as their thoughts on social distancing.

Then, the pod pools its resources to hire a tutor or someone to help guide the kids through their virtual learning.

Depending on the work schedules of parents, you could also have the parents swap off helping the kids throughout the week.

Another option is to turn to a family member to at least be with your child while they’re learning virtually and making sure everything is going smoothly.

Communicate with Your Child’s Teachers

While school may look different for many this year, teachers are still teachers. Your child may be interacting with them over a computer screen, but they are there for guidance and as a resource.

If you feel like your child is having difficulties, whether it’s with the virtual format or with the material itself, don’t be afraid to talk to their teacher.

They may have ideas and ways to help that you wouldn’t otherwise think about.

Create a Dedicated Learning Space

If at all possible, create a dedicated learning space for your child. If you have multiple kids at home doing virtual learning, try to keep them separate.

Choose areas out of the way of the main traffic flow in your house. While natural light can be good, don’t have your child facing a window because it can be distracting.

Make sure the learning space is only for school work, and at the end of the learning day when it’s time to sign off, have your child leave the space so they continue to see it as only for that.

If you can avoid having it where your child sleeps, that’s helpful.

You want an area that’s clean, quiet, and free of clutter.

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself during this time. You have a lot on your plate, too so you can help foster a better learning environment for your child by relaxing and reducing your own stress as much as you can as we navigate a new school year.

 

How Can You Keep Your Kids Safe At School?

As parents, sending our kids to school each and every day can be one of the most emotionally challenging things we do. We give up control of who we love the most, and sometimes there are serious dangers associated with the school environment.

These risks can start as soon as our kids get on the school bus. The school bus, particularly if your kid rides one that’s older and has fewer safety features, can be dangerous. 

Then throughout the day, there are a number of other possible risks, from dealing with bullies at school to the precautions kids with food allergies need to adhere to.

While as parents school might make us feel nervous, we do have to realize that teachers and administrators are doing their best to make it a safe environment.

Even so, are there things we can also do as parents?

School Bus Safety

If your child rides the bus to and from school, this is a good place to start focusing as far as helping to improve their level of safety. 

Work with your child, particularly if your child is younger, about how to be safe at the bus stop. This includes ensuring that you’re always on time, so no one is rushing. Rushing to the school bus can increase the likelihood of accidents. 

Your child should always stand at least three “giant” steps from the curb while they wait for the bus, and younger kids should have supervision until the bus arrives and they’re safely on.

Children should not ever walk behind the bus, and your child should learn that if they drop something, they should tell the bus driver before they try to pick it up. 

Other school bus safety tips that are important for kids to learn are:

  • Kids should always wait until the bus stops, and the doors open all the way before they approach to get on or stand up to get off. 
  • Teach your kids to use the handrail as they’re getting on and off the bus.
  • Don’t let your child have any hanging objects such as drawstrings when they’re getting on or off the bus. 

Learn the Procedures at Your Child’s School

Every school will have its own safety and emergency procedures and guidelines.

As a parent, learn what these are and regularly check in to make sure there are no changes or updates you need to be aware of. 

When you’re familiar with this information, you can then go over it with your child and make sure he or she will feel confident if certain situations arise. 

Your goal in helping your kids learn how to take proper safety measures should be encouraging them to be active, and take an active role in their safety instead of one that’s passive. 

Teach Your Kids When to Speak Up

Even the best teachers and school officials don’t see everything that might be happening. As a parent, your role in keeping your kids safe involves teaching them how to speak up when they see something that’s not right. 

Speaking up doesn’t mean tattling, and there are ways you can work with your child to differentiate these situations.  

Talk with your child about behaviors that aren’t safe or are unacceptable, and how to approach someone in charge when they see these things happening. 

If your child tells you something that seems especially harmful or dangerous, go directly to school officials. 

Be a Safety Advocate

Being involved is critical to make sure your child has a good school experience. 

As a parent, there are ways you can advocate to make the school environment safer for everyone. 

While many schools may have plans in place for certain situations, these may be in need of an update, or they may need improvements, and you can play a role in whether or not that happens. 

Ask school officials whether all staff have been trained in crisis response, and whether or not the emergency or crisis plans are reviewed and updated every year.

Talk to school officials about how they decide what’s developmentally appropriate for kids as far as crisis training. Has the school done a full risk assessment to determine and address what their vulnerabilities might be?

How does the school identify and deal with potential threats, including threats of violence from students, parents, or other people directly associated with the school?

Encourage Open Communication with Your Child

The more openly and honestly your child communicates with you, the more you will know about what’s going on at school. You’ll also be able to identify any red flags before they become larger problems.

A few tips for good communication with your kids include:

  • Don’t make your child feel judged for sharing their feelings. In younger kids, you can help them learn the right words to express what they’re feeling. 
  • Work with your child on problem-solving skills. 
  • Be honest when you communicate with your child if you hope for your child to do the same. 
  • Simply be available and willing to listen, whenever it’s needed. You can’t always schedule a time or structure time for a conversation. Your child will talk when they want to and are ready. 
  • Show your child you’re actively listening to what they’re saying.
  • Learn how to read body language and facial expressions. 

Keep Your Child’s Records Up to Date

Your child might have an allergy or health problem, and the only way for the people at the school to know that is if you communicate with them. Regularly check-in to make sure your child’s records are accurate and complete. 

Speak to teachers, the school nurse, and anyone else who’s relevant about what your child’s needs are and how you handle their mental or physical health conditions. 

It’s scary to let go of control as a parent, but there are things you can do to facilitate a safe school experience for your child through your active involvement.