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School is out for millions of children nationwide as K-12 education struggles with COVID-19. Most children finished the school year online and may even be going back to this in the fall. Many school districts are giving their teachers crash courses in online learning, but we all know parents also play a significant role in ensuring that kids get a first-rate education.
While we sit here and debate whether or not they go back for the fall, most of us realize we may be up for round 2 of online learning or some sort of hybrid program. Rather than sit with your head in the sand or hope that everything will return to “normal,” why not plan for the worst and hope for the best?
Acknowledge the Issues
Working from home was probably an unfamiliar experience you had to navigate in the past 6 months. Then, the added difficulty of becoming a teacher with no reprieve was added to the mix. While you are responsible for discipline at home, this is different. You became a big part of your child’s future in a way you’d never planned on overnight. Being a teacher is no easy task, and with divided attention, it can be even more frustrating and tiring.
If you’re anything like me, you probably struggled to balance your day with supervising your child’s coursework and taking care of your own work. If you need a little peace of mind and sanity in your house, try these suggestions for providing the parental guidance and input your child needs.
Planning and Preparing for Online Learning
Your school may have sent your child home with devices and materials for completing their assignments. These aren’t the only tools your kids will need. You’ll still need to provide structure and motivation. You won’t just be responsible for strict academics; you’ll need to cover arts and creativity, regardless of the subjects you excel at.
Follow these strategies to develop an effective structure:
- Schedule your days. Stick to your usual routines as much as possible, including bedtimes and mealtimes. Let your child know you expect them to log in on time for classes each morning. Online learning will be more successful when you have a schedule.
- Arrange your space. Designate an area just for school. It may be a room or a section of the dining room table as long as it’s quiet and comfortable. Stock up on supplies like notebooks, pens, and calculators.
- Limit distractions. Ban games and movies during class time. Keep in mind that some children may learn better with a little background music.
- Enjoy recess. Breaks and lunch hours are essential. Serve healthy food and provide lots of fun options for physical exercise. Everyone needs to take a break. If you expect your kids to sit in front of the computer for too long without allowing time for a change of pace, chances are they won’t be able to focus. Getting the blood flowing is essential to beating brain focus and staying on task.
- Be social. How can your child maintain their friendships? Use technology for group study sessions, video chats, and virtual playdates. My son has a daily Zoom call with his friends. They usually play Dungeons and Dragons, but they also play Minecraft and spend time writing stories together.
- Contact your school. Ask school officials and teachers about the most effective way to communicate with them and stay in touch regularly. Find out what resources are available for collaborating with other parents.
Basic Study Skills for Online Learning
Teach your child to learn effectively. Strong study skills will be a valuable asset online, offline, and in their future careers. Learning is about more than just reading and absorbing. Studying, quizzing, and testing is a part of the process too.
Strengthen study skills with these techniques:
- Give practice tests. Many studies show that testing yourself is one of the most productive ways to learn. Design questions together. Treat quizzes like a game to reduce anxiety.
- Conduct reviews. Prepare for tests by going over past material regularly. Your child is more likely to forget their lessons if they cram at the last minute.
- Create outlines. Identify key facts and major themes. Building a framework increases reading comprehension and strengthens writing skills. It also encourages critical thinking.
- Proofread and edit. Review your child’s completed assignments before they’re submitted. Make revisions together until they’re comfortable doing it on their own.
- Evaluate your progress. Give your child constructive feedback. Discuss teacher comments and test results. Ask your child to describe their strengths and weaknesses. Set specific goals like reading a certain number of pages each day or looking up unfamiliar vocabulary words.
Stimulate Creativity with Passion Projects
Take advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with your child. Create happy memories and nurture their interests.
Consider these ideas:
- Browse for resources. Even if field trips are on hold, there are vast collections online for any subject your child loves. Delve deeper into dinosaurs or sports nutrition.
- Be selective. At the same time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your choices. Start with a few reliable sources or ask your child’s teacher for recommendations. For example, you might want to explore the PBS Parents Play and Learn App for younger kids and Great Courses for their older siblings.
- Show enthusiasm. Make learning a fun activity that draws you closer together. Reward your child’s efforts with prizes like stickers or baking their favorite dessert. Hang their artwork on your refrigerator door and applaud when they read you their book reports.
Online Learning Help and Resources
If you need a little bit of help or a change of pace, these websites
- Varsity Tutors, they have free classes, paid classes, and tutoring. They recently held Neuroscience courses with Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik. Go straight to their classes here.
- Khan Academy, free courses and remote learning resources.
- Cool Math, math games and lessons for ages three and up.
- Learning Games for Kids, games to help kids learn a variety of subjects.
- Outschool, inexpensive online classes for kids of all ages that range in topics from purely academic to creative to health and practical subjects.
While circumstances may change, the importance of education remains the same. Help your child to gain knowledge and skills that will enable them to have a positive impact on the world.
Be patient with yourself (and your kids) and stay connected as you transition to online learning. Looking for ways to get in some art education? Check out our post on museums you can visit online!