As schools begin to publish their plans for returning to school during the pandemic, many parents are finding themselves making decisions about where and how their children will be educated. Most parents have found that none of the options are ideal, and all will involve some level of compromise; however, if you decide that online education is the best option for your child, there are some things that you can do as a parent to set your child up for success.
Once you’ve made the decision, presenting a positive attitude towards your child’s learning will go a long way in helping them to adjust. Children can sense when adults disapprove or have a negative outlook and often adopt the same perspective, so it’s vital that you do your best to remain optimistic even if there are some bumps in the road. And there will likely be bumps in the road, whether it’s the technology not working as planned, a delay in communication, or a myriad of other issues that may arise.
A Space for Learning
One critical aspect of online schooling is creating a space so that learning can occur. Set up a special area in your home (even if it’s just the kitchen table) that will serve as your child’s classroom. The area should be a quiet space free of clutter and distractions. Removing clutter helps children remain focused. Just as many of us have learned while working from home, having a dedicated space for work helps us separate and balance work-life from homelife.
A Schedule that Works for Everyone
This is where you may have more flexibility than with traditional schooling. Online learning can occur at any time. Schoolwork can be scheduled around your work schedule so that you can be available to assist your child with lessons and learning activities that require your support. During hours that you’re working, your child can work on the subjects they find more accessible and activities such as independent reading. The key is to make the schedule work for your family’s needs. Remember, just because traditional school hours are 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday, doesn’t mean that is the schedule you must follow. If you have more time to help your child on weekends and in the evening, then that’s when they can work on more difficult subjects or assignments that require assistance.
Once you have a schedule, stick to it. Children often thrive in a structured environment and creating daily, and weekly routines can provide that structure.
Make sure to sit down with your child and clearly define expectations for what they need to do while you’re working. Create a to-do list and provide clear instructions. Hold your child accountable for completing the assignments on the to-do list and ensure they are completed satisfactorily. If they begin working on an assignment and find they need assistance, encourage them to skip over the task and save it for a time when you’re available to help.
In creating your schedule, make sure to include times for breaks such as meals, snacks, and playtime. Breaks are essential for allowing your child to get up and move around throughout the day. Brain breaks also will enable them to concentrate more while they are working on assignments. Encourage your child to go outside and get some fresh air or ride their bike.
Create a Calendar
Help your child create a calendar of all important events and assignments. Children who struggle with time management may need more assistance. You can help your child break down large assignments into smaller tasks. Teach them how to plan backwards from the due date to indicate when the smaller chunks of the assignment will need to be completed in order to submit the assignment on time. A calendar will serve as a visual means of organization.
Balance Online with Offline Learning
While the bulk of instruction will be provided online, children need to have time away from screens. Some materials can be printed, and online texts often have print copies that can be accessed through the school or local library. Too much screen time can have adverse effects on children’s brains and cause eye fatigue, so mixing up online learning with some old school learning mediums is wise.
Be Familiar with the Platform
Online learning platforms vary from school to school, so it’s critical to familiarize yourself with the platform your child will be using. Make sure your child knows how to navigate the platform, find instructional materials, and submit assignments.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Keep in touch with your child’s teacher. If your child struggles with an assignment or needs clarification on instructions, it’s okay to reach out to the teacher for assistance. They may be able to provide additional resources or have office hours when they can work with your child to master the necessary skills. It can be a good idea to set up periodic video meetings or phone calls with the teacher to discuss upcoming instruction and assess your child’s progress.
It can also be beneficial to keep in touch with other parents. Having others who can relate to this new experience allows you to bounce ideas off of each other and share strategies. It can be helpful to know that others are dealing with similar challenges.
It’s important to be involved in your child’s education. No matter what form your child’s education takes this school year, having supportive parents can make a huge difference.
Dr. Edward S. Thalheimer is the President and Founder of The Tutoring Franchise Corp.