Let’s all take a deep breath and say it: remote learning is HARD!
So many parents and caregivers have found themselves in the position of being teachers (or at least assistant teachers) this year. We all know teachers are true heroes in the best of times, and this year -- whether figuring out how to make curriculum virtual or learning how to teach in-person and remotely at the same time -- that’s never been more true. And teachers who are also parents? Someone give them an award already! (Or a break. That would probably be nice, too.)
However your child is learning this year, it’s safe to say that parents are being asked to take more of a hands-on role than ever before. Remote learning requires a new kind of creativity from caregivers: helping children succeed in an unfamiliar and often difficult format, stay engaged, get their work done...and ideally enjoy at least some of it, too. Without the proper training and tools, this can be extra challenging, and many families are juggling these new responsibilities alongside jobs, caring for other family members, and so much more.
If you’re like us, wishing you had a little more guidance and a few more tools to help make the rest of this school year easier, look no further! Here are ten kid-tested, teacher-approved tips for making online education as painless as possible.
1. Let's Get Real!
Try to set realistic goals for each day, taking into account your child’s age and development. Children’s attention spans change throughout the day, depending on the activity, time of day, whether they’ve eaten, or who’s nearby, and keep in mind that most young children are not able to focus for long periods of time yet! Most kindergarten and first grade teachers will tell you that 15-20 minutes is a long time for some of their students to sit and listen, and good teachers will build in body-and-brain breaks to help everyone extend their focus as needed.
2. Setup for Success
As tricky as it can be when everyone’s sharing the same space at home, most kids need a quiet, organized place to work and store their school supplies. If it’s hard to keep things quiet, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones can make a big difference. Our #TableandChairs (in sets of 2 or 4 chairs) are a great spot to spread out and write, draw, or color, or even organize a larger project. Ready for a more structured workspace? Our #KidsDeskandChair comes with all the bells and whistles (even a little bulletin board!) to help your little learner stay on track.
3. Useful Tools
Ever since fidget spinners came into (and out of) fashion, folks have paid more attention to “fidget toys” and other learning tools that specialists like occupational therapists have been using for decades. There are a million different ones out there -- a few basic ones to consider are a wobble cushion or wobble stool to help kids move a little while staying seated; a wide stretchy band around the bottom of a chair for busy feet to kick and push against; or any of a variety of small fidgets to keep little hands busy and release energy while learning. In our houses, the rule for virtual school is that all tools have to stay off camera so as not to distract anyone else!
4. Get Up and Get Down
Building movement into your child’s day is so important. In addition to the usual benefits of cardiovascular health, strength, and stamina, finding ways to break up seated times with wiggle breaks can help kids focus and stay alert for longer periods. Of course it’s always great to get outdoors, but if the weather or your home setup doesn’t allow for it, we love yoga (Cosmic Kids is a favorite in the younger set), GoNoodle, Brain Gym exercises, and classics like dance parties and scavenger hunts.
5. Spoonful of Sugar
Mary Poppins knew best, as always. If you make something into a game, it’s more fun! Try outdoor math games that incorporate movement (bean bag multiplication practice is big in our house), use card games like Concentration or Go Fish to work on spelling, or try some of these vocabulary building activities.
6. Choose Wisely
Learning to read and write is a non-negotiable. But there’s plenty of room for children to feel like they have some choice in the matter. For any age, but especially for beginning readers and writers, help them pick topics they’re interested in! They might need to learn subjects and predicates, but those sentences could be about anything from baseball to bubble gum. You can write a five-paragraph essay on literally any topic. Reading fluently takes practice, and reluctant readers often get more excited when they can pick what they read. Sites like Scholastic and Teachers Pay Teachers can help you find supplementary material on most subjects.
7. Talk to The Hand
For the littlest littles, jazz up lesson time with puppets! Seriously, puppets are kind of magical for young children. They will interact with puppets and have a full conversation with them, up to age 4-5; they might even share thoughts and feelings with a puppet that they won’t share with just you. Child psychologists use them all the time -- give it a try!
8. Try, Try Again
It’s so hard to watch our kids struggle. Whether completing an assignment or figuring out what to do when bored, when our kids are having a tricky time, it’s our job to know when to step in...and when to sit back. (While continuing to be encouraging, of course!) Problem-solving is one of life’s most important skills, and children feel empowered when they can do it themselves. Phrases like, “I want you to try for ____ minutes, and then I’ll help if you need it,” or “Is that a question you might be able to figure out yourself?” can work.
9. Open Communication
Most children aren’t used to having to advocate for themselves in school. In the classroom, all they have to do is raise their hand to ask a question, and even without that, it’s often easy for teachers to tell who needs help. This isn’t true online, and depending on the tech setup, the teacher might not even be able to see all of the students at once! Encourage your child to be proactive in communicating with their teachers. Ask questions, take advantage of optional office hours, email if it’s hard to be seen online -- all of these will let teachers know your child is engaged.
10. Go Team!
Let’s say it again for the people in the back: This. Year. Is. Hard. It’s hard on the kids too, no matter what age or stage they’re in. Be their biggest cheerleader and their safest listening ear, and make sure to remind them that we’ll get through this...together.
Written by: Melissa Holman-Kursky