A Parent’s Guide to Handling Virtual Learning

by Courtney Christensen

A global pandemic was not on anyone’s back to school list, but regardless, it is something every parent in the US is having to think about. Many schools are offering limited, if any, in-class schooling which means it falls onto parents to figure out how to accommodate virtual learning.

Because distance learning wasn’t expected, teachers, students, and parents are all scrambling to make it work. Unfortunately, we don’t have an end-date for the pandemic. We have to make do with what we’ve got to help our kids succeed.

So, here are some tips on how to survive (and succeed at) virtual learning.

Maintain a Schedule

Probably one of the hardest part of switching to distance learning is going to be the schedule. Kids no longer have to get up early for a commute to school. They’re at home which means they can get up and leave the room at any time. A lunch break may drag on for over an hour.

At school, kids are stuck with a very strict schedule. It’s up to you, as their parent, to make sure their virtual learning schedule is just as strict. While they don’t need to wake up super early for a commute, they still need to get up on time and ready for their first class. Any and all breaks should be timed for between classes, not during.

The schedule doesn’t end with the school day, either. Just like on any other day, the rest of their evening should still contain homework and a consistent bedtime. Keeping a schedule will help give your kids (and you) a sense of normalcy that is definitely needed in a time like this.

Location, Location, Location

When kids are in a classroom, they are more likely to pay attention, focus, and work hard. They associate their classroom with school, and behave appropriately. When they’re home, they can unwind and relax. In order to keep those two mind views separate, you need to create separate spaces for them. A work space should be set aside for their school day.

Where you set up the work space is up to you, but it should be in a place that helps to reduce distractions. Keep it away from TV or video games. Keep it out of common areas of the home where people will be walking back and forth all day. Office spaces or dens work great for virtual classrooms, but if those places aren’t available, their bedroom will work, too. Set up a table or desk for them so they don’t use their bed!

Focus and Motivation

Hopefully, setting up a special place for your kids’ virtual learning will help with focus, but it’s not the only thing that will help. Kids have more trouble focusing on a single task for a long time than adults, and this means they will need to take more breaks than you would in order to stay focused throughout the day.

Make sure your kids take “brain breaks”. Let them run around outside for a few minutes, have them dance along to a silly song on YouTube, or maybe play a short game with them. Whatever method you choose, make sure the activity gets their muscles moving and their brain focused on something simple and school-free.

Don’t forget about motivation, either. When in class, teachers are constantly giving positive feedback to their students – and that may be harder over video chat. Instead, you need to help them along by providing positivity and motivation throughout their school day and during homework. If they are enjoying school, they’ll work harder!

Get Involved

Most parents are in touch with their kids’ teachers and get involved with their children’s school. With COVID, though, things are a little different. You won’t be able to attend PTA meetings, and parent-teacher conferences may be fewer and farther between. Instead, you should make sure that you keep up with your child’s posted schedule, what they’re learning in class, and how you can help. Many teachers will still be available over email or a quick phone call, so don’t hesitate to contact them if you have questions!

Even though your kids are going to school at home, you probably won’t be able to listen in on their whole day. Often, kids are required to wear headphones in order to help reduce distractions, but this means you won’t hear anything either. Just like a normal school day, you won’t be privy to anything they’re learning, but they’ll still likely need your help after school with homework. Be sure to review any homework or lesson plans your kids receive just as you would have had they been going to school in a regular classroom.

Continue Social Interaction

Without a physical classroom, your child is having less social interaction with their peers. Because COVID is limiting personal and social interaction already, you will have to work harder to make sure your kids are still able to connect with their friends.

One way to do this is through “playdates” online. Speak with the parents of your child’s friends and work out a time for them to all meet on a video chat, or give your teen an extra hour to FaceTime with their friends. While they may not be able to actually meet up, they can still communicate with one another and stay connected.

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