Unfortunately, our new reality includes a pandemic and many students, teachers and parents may be experiencing distance learning for the first time, and that means that, for most, virtual learning is uncharted territory. Given these new circumstances, you may be wondering how can you possibly parent your child, be their teacher and be a productive employee?
Thankfully, there is a way for you to be all three of these things without sacrificing your time and commitment to do any of them well. That said, it does take planning to ensure your kids are staying engaged in their learning activities. So, here’s what you can do to make distance learning a success:
Follow a Schedule – In the Morning
Schedules bring order to the day and establish routines. Now, I’ll use the term “schedule” loosely. The reason why is because there’s such a thing as overdoing it. For instance, I have seen pictures on social media of schedules for children that go from 9 a.m. all the way until 3 p.m. In this educator’s opinion, that is just unrealistic. Children are not used to doing schoolwork at home to the extent they are being asked to nowadays. As a parent, however, you can create scheduled “work” times for your kids that fit within your family’s lifestyle.
For most households, the time immediately following breakfast works perfectly. Children are awake, they’ve been fed, and should be ready to learn. In our house, this is when the most challenging school lessons occur. My children sit at the kitchen table and their work gets tackled. Depending on your child’s age, kids may last from a half hour all the way to two hours.
After this work period, let your house become home again until after lunch. Let your children relax. Play. Be kids. If you continue to push the academic route, you are going to be met with a battle. Remember, your home is not a traditional classroom and it’s not possible to make it one.
If you persist in trying to force them to follow a normal school routine, you are going to get frustrated and so are your children. Instead, treat these work schedules as an at-home enhancement to their classroom studies.
Follow a Schedule – In the Afternoon
When lunch is finished, have your enrichment hour: art, physical education activities, computers, home economics, etc. Make this decision based on what your child’s school is asking you to do and what is best for your child.
Once that time is done, it’s back to being kids again. Breathing time. Reading time. Gasp!!!! Time for a TV show or movie! FaceTiming friends. Let them decide. They need breaks and so do you!
As dinner is being prepared, use this time for shorter, more independent learning sessions. Let your children sit and finish up any educational activities they might have for the day. After dinner, school is over. Be a family. Do what you would ordinarily do.
Most students do not have professional educators as parents. Parents: Do not feel like you need to become a teacher all of a sudden! That takes years of schooling and – even after that – years of practice.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a “homeschooler,” think of yourself as Mom or Dad. Your job is to provide an environment that facilitates and fosters at-home learning. Your child’s teacher will likely be sending materials to you or maybe already has. If your child’s teacher hasn’t provided much direction, or you’d like to enrich it, Really Good Stuff® has some free educational resources for both parents and teachers.
Create an environment for your children that is conducive to learning. Provide your kids with the place, time, and materials needed for them to be successful. During this challenging time, distance learning activities can be a positive experience for you and your kids.
Forgive Yourself and Your Children
No one anticipated that we would be in this situation. Everyone’s just trying to stay above water. No one is expecting that you are going to have a perfect day every day. All you can do is your best. If it’s a rough day, stop the education part. Do what you would ordinarily do. Don’t let this idea of distance learning change the relationship that you have with your child. You know what’s best.
As stressed out as you are, your child is equally so. Younger children are trying to figure out why they aren’t in school. Many don’t understand why mommy or daddy has suddenly taken on the role of teacher. If your child has a bad day, it is what it is.
We have been challenged by the sudden changes to our everyday lives on many levels. As you tackle this distance learning thing remember that you can only do what you can do. The schools understand that and so will your child’s teacher.
By Danielle Muir
Danielle Muir taught sixth grade literacy for over 12 years. She enjoyed writing curriculum, planning lessons, and developing relationships with her students (the best part of the job!). Danielle served as team leader and was also a mentor for new teachers. She is currently learning the ropes of being a Pre-K teacher as a stay-at-home mom with her three-year-old twins.