Our friends at Tutor.com led a webinar recently to help parents learn ways to help their students of all ages stay engaged in learning while reducing frustration and stress for families.
Here's what we learned from Atlanta-based educator Wenona Young:
Create a Workspace
Having your their own workspace helps students recreate the feeling of working at a desk at school even when they're at home. It also helps keep their work organized and separate from other family activities or distractions.
If you don't already have a homework area in your home, find a corner, a desk, a table, or other space that can be dedicated to online learning for each child. They'll need a place to sit (or stand, if they like to move while they work), a place for their computer or the device they're using for online learning, and a bag, bin, or drawer to keep their books and supplies organized.
Agree on a Schedule or Checklist for Younger Students
For parents with younger students who need help with their daily lessons, try to prioritize activities so that the most important activities are completed first.
Setting up a regular schedule with input from younger students may give them a feeling of consistency and help them stay on task each day. You could make a check list each morning and let the child choose the order in which activities are completed. Alternatively, you could create a daily schedule in which certain times are blocked for certain activities.
Don't forget to include breaks, physical activity, meals and snacks, and free time in your schedule or checklist. Being in quarantine is stressful, even for kids, so try to enjoy a little time for relaxation, quiet reading, or fun family games.
Give Older Kids Freedom, with Accountability
Older students have more experience with online learning systems and may need less help from parents with daily lessons, so parents might find it helpful to give those students more freedom to set their own schedules.
However, parents will still want to check in with their students at the end of the day to confirm that assigned work is being completed. Parents can start conversations with older kids by asking open-ended questions about their assignments or by looking at their online learning profiles together. Be sure to ask if the student needs help or would like further information on a particular topic and help them find credible resources online (Pro tip: Your library is great place to start!).
Keep Kids Connected
When they're not in school, kids miss their friends and their familiar day-to-day routines. Help them feel connected to their social circle by encouraging them to email or web chat with their teachers, participate in video calls or online classroom meetings organized by their teachers, or write letters to their friends.
Talk to Kids and Teens about COVID-19
Social distancing is tough for kids and teens and can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and even depression. It's important for parents to help kids understand and manage those feelings, since kids may not know how to start a conversation about their mental health.
Psychology Today has a helpful article with tips by age group, from toddlers to teens, to help families talk about the pandemic and process feelings of worry or anxiety. KidsHealth.org also has a helpful article guiding parents on how to search for credible information about COVID-19 with their kids and teens.
Ask for Help
Teachers and administrators at Forsyth County Schools have been working diligently to make sure their students have the tools they need to be successful with online learning. If your student needs help with learning at home, please get in touch with your child's teacher.
If your student needs help finding resources for research papers or help with math and writing, please visit the eLearning and eResources sections of www.forsythpl.org. Simply log in with your library card account to access academic databases and free, online tutoring in dozens of subjects.
Most of all, remember to be patient and flexible. There will be days that challenge you and your student. There may be days that nearly nothing gets accomplished. Please be gentle with yourself and your kids - we'll get through this!