Do you have youngsters, middle grade kids, or teens learning online this fall? Not sure how to make distance learning work for your family, and wondering how to create a routine that makes school time more productive, engaging, and sustainable?
Schools across the country are choosing different approaches to reopening. Some are using a hybrid model, while others have created a fully-virtual curriculum. This means that many families are tackling the task of home learning for the very first time.
You might have noticed that having a daily routine can make a positive difference in your child’s home education. According to Edutopia, good routines set the foundation for a productive year, make life easier for students and teachers, save time, and improve learning.
So, just how do you make a structure that works for your family? How do you design a distance learning routine that’s actually effective? Let’s take a look at five ways to lay the foundation for home learning success.
1. Take Time to Prepare for Class
Distance learning makes it easy to come to class unprepared. After all, how long could it possibly take to get ready, if you don’t even have to drive to school?
However, class preparation is even more important during remote learning. By taking a little time to prepare for class, you can help school time feel more official, and your child can enter their virtual classroom with confidence.
Before class, make sure any necessary devices are charged, that you have a Zoom or other classroom link readily available, sound and video capabilities enabled, and that your child has a quiet place to learn if possible.
Then, help your child log in to class five minutes before the start time. This way, they can get signed in, connect with classmates, and be ready when class officially starts.
2. Support Active Participation in Class
One of the biggest challenges of distance learning is, well, the distance. It’s incredibly hard to recreate the same kind of meaningful connections between teachers and their students in a virtual classroom. And it’s hard for teachers to provide one-on-one feedback and guidance.
Luckily, students have some power to bridge that divide. Students can build stronger connections with their teachers by actively participating in class, asking questions, and taking part in conversations.
- Encourage Your Child to Speak Up: remind your child that their questions and opinions are important. Young children may need support during class time to ask their questions, but even older children can use a reminder that their thoughts are important, and that it’s critical they ask their questions.
- Jot Down Questions Before Class: have your child keep track of questions that come up during homework time, this way they can quickly reference their list during class, and have an accessible way to participate and engage.
- Work Class Subjects Into Everyday Life: be aware of what your child is learning, and look for ways to bring up those subjects outside of school time. Is your child studying photosynthesis? Go for a walk and see if you can find examples of photosynthesis in the real world. Is your child writing a paper on social justice? Have a conversation at dinner time and ask what they’ve learned.
As an article in The New York Times puts it, “once you understand what your kid is expected to learn, you’ll be able to better engage them in the learning process.”
3. Leave Class Gracefully
During distance learning, the “Leave Meeting” button on a Zoom classroom can loom large. It’s easier than ever to duck out of class early, and tempting for students to turn off their video midway through class time.
Instead, encourage your child to make the most of class time by staying all the way through to the end, thanking their teacher before signing out, and then logging out of all applications to protect your family’s privacy.
4. Prioritize Your Child’s Homework
When all learning is happening at home, how do you differentiate between school time and homework? How do you create a remote learning routine that supports your child in tackling their assignments?
- Put it on the Schedule: schedule in homework time after class, and avoid leaving it for the hours right before bedtime. Creating a predictable homework schedule helps your child know that this part of the day is non-negotiable, and also gives them a sense of safety and predictability.
- Make a Work Station: create a space where your child can sit down and tackle their homework each day. This can be as fancy as a desk or as simple as one end of the kitchen table. Make sure this space is ready and available for your child whenever they need.
- Vanish Distractions: one of the biggest challenges of distance learning is the sheer volume of distractions, from siblings to computer notifications, pets to texts buzzing on a phone. The more you can minimize these distractions, the greater chance your child has of tackling their homework successfully.
By making sure homework is completed daily, your child can enter the virtual classroom feeling more confident and prepared. Even better, they’ll be getting the most out of their education.
5. Build a Meaningful Reward System
As anyone who’s ever worked remotely knows, getting tasks completed at home takes an extraordinary amount of discipline. Learning remotely is no different. Distance learning is a serious challenge for kids, who can also experience stress and exhaustion from too many hours on Zoom or from the lack of social interaction they may be experiencing.
So, how can you keep children motivated when each day seems to bleed into the next? How can you help them maintain focus, discipline, and passion for learning while tackling schoolwork at home?
Creating a reward system is one option, and this means acknowledging both short and long-term milestones.
- Short-Term Milestones: reward small achievements. Maybe your child gets a gold star when they finish an assignment. Maybe they get to do an art project after they finish their math homework. Or, maybe they get to listen to a podcast if they actively participate in class. Rewards can be healthy, educational, and personalized to your child.
- Long-Term Milestones: make sure your child has bigger goals that they’re working towards. And ensure that major milestones and achievements don’t go unnoticed. Set aside time to celebrate the end of a semester, a graduation, or even an assignment that has taken lots of effort.
A simple reward system can help your child stay motivated, and act as a reminder of your child’s long-term goals, whether those include finishing first grade, or applying to a top college.
Remember, Distance Learning Will Be Unique To Your Family
Every child is different, with their own unique learning style, challenges, preferences, and passions. That means that your distance learning routine may not look like anyone else’s.
Remember to take an approach that’s customized to your family’s structure, schedule, and needs. Most importantly, remember that your presence and encouragement will go a long way in helping your child stay motivated and focused during distance learning.
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