September is back-to-school season, but this year holds new challenges for students. Schools across the country have adopted a variety of in-person, online, and hybrid class schedules. And while we hope that each school strikes the right balance between safety and learning, many parents are concerned that their children may fall behind. Helping children succeed in remote learning is just the newest challenge among many that families face this year.
Online school is new for many families, and remote learning demands a different level of support from parents. If you’re newly working from home, active parenting has shifted from an evenings-and-weekends job to a 24/7 marathon.
Despite these new challenges, parents can make a huge difference in their child’s confidence and ability to succeed in remote learning.
You might not remember long division or the fifty state capitals, but you don’t have to revisit these lessons to help your child succeed in remote learning. Instead, focusing on communication and empathy will probably be most impactful for your child.
Here are five tips to help your child succeed with remote learning that don’t involve learning their whole syllabus.
1. Team up with the teacher
If you’re nervous about becoming a homeschool teacher, don’t stress—you’re not expected to suddenly replace your child’s teacher. However, you can help your child significantly by becoming their teacher’s teammate.
Take some time to get in contact with your child’s teacher either via email or your school’s learning interface. Ask them about their expectations for your child and how you can help promote those goals from home. Remote learning support may look different from the support you gave your child for on-campus schooling!
In the physical classroom, the teacher can keep everyone on-task. The online classroom is a totally different story, though. Ultimately, you will be responsible for your child’s behavior and discipline during the workday. That said, resist the urge to become a “helicopter parent!” Try not to interrogate your child about every assignment. You’ll probably have greater success by inviting them to comment on how they feel about schoolwork over dinner.
2. Role-model healthy working behaviors
Let’s face it, Zoom fatigue is real. Sitting in front of the computer all day for work or for school is exhausting. One of the best ways to help your child excel in remote learning is to model healthy engagement with work. Especially if you’re working from home, this is both easy to demonstrate and good for your own productivity.
While working, stay on-task. Don’t downplay the importance of being engaged! Scrolling social media or playing word games on your phone while you’re in a video conference implicitly gives your child permission to do the same. If you both struggle with this, you can set restrictions on certain apps during class periods or working hours.
Break up these focused sessions with intentional breaks, at least ten minutes every hour or so. Set up each break as a mini-vacation for your brain and your body—get out of your chair to refill your water, stretch out your back, and get your eyes away from a screen. If your child emulates this behavior, they’ll have a much easier time staying focused in class. And chances are, you’ll feel better, too.
3. Help your child generate a routine
Having a predictable routine provides stability for both your schedule and your mental health—and your child can reap these benefits, too.
You can help by establishing regular mealtimes and a consistent sleep schedule. Sleeping and eating at the same time every day regulates the body’s internal clock (AKA circadian rhythm), which maximizes energy and focus. Your child can boost this effect with physical activity and natural light. A 20-minute walk in the neighborhood or some stretching next to a bright window can be enough to reap the benefits.
Additionally, if you’re working from home, see if your work schedule can coincide with your child’s class schedule. This also gives you a chance to work on role-modeling and can keep you both accountable. You may even bond over the perks of telecommuting—try sneaking them a snack to share while you work, or make inside jokes with them during meetings (as long as your microphone is muted)!
4. Empathize with your child
This situation is hard for you—but it’s hard for your child, too! Temper your expectations with empathy, now more than ever. Remember that it might be difficult for kids to be vulnerable about learning difficulties or separation from their friends. Younger children especially may not have strong coping skills for the emotions they’re experiencing right now.
Your child may need more emotional support than usual. If they need to vent, make time and space to listen actively. You’ll probably have ideas and solutions that you want to offer, but try not to throw too much at them. Sometimes, kids—like adults—just want someone to listen.
At the same time, respect your child’s boundaries. If your household is all working or schooling from home, you’re probably all in each other’s space more than you’re used to. Try to create time and space for everyone in your home to have their own recovery time. Sometimes your child just needs an hour to cool off by themselves before they want to share their frustrations or seek advice. If you’re unsure, ask! Most kids would LOVE to hear their guardian say, “I’m happy to either chat or give you space. What would help you the most right now?”
5. Supplement your child’s learning
Remember that learning and personal development happens outside the classroom, too! Play some casual tennis or basketball with your child for at-home recess. If the weather is bad or you don’t have a good outdoor space, board games or party games are another great option! Logic, math skills, and reading comprehension can all benefit from play.
You can even try taking on some learning projects at home. DIY science experiments and art projects offer hands-on learning for your child, which is especially important for remote learners. You can find a variety of these projects online, and our STEAM @ Home newsletter brings a curated selection straight to your email inbox. To register for this free newsletter, sign up on your local IDEA Lab Kids website!