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.
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.