Parents are essential to their child’s academic success, but if helping kids with school work was challenging before the COVID-19 pandemic, it's at a whole new level now.
The majority of schools in the United States have developed partial or fully remote learning platforms through which students attend class and complete assignments. With teachers and schools doing their best, parents are simultaneously saddled with additional duties, acting as tutor, manager, homework monitor, and IT support.
Fall semester is coming to a close with more students than usual failing at least one of their classes. First-quarter grades are also lower for virtual learners; kids are having to relearn how to learn, retraining their brains to adapt to an independent environment. Instructors are reporting lack of attendance and weak engagement, especially for students in low-income areas. And the social consequences of at-home virtual learning are yet to be reconciled.
Studies show that a child’s academic success can be positively affected by their parents’ engagement, but with so many balls to juggle already, what can you prioritize? While every parent has their own approach and level of availability, there are tools you can access, or ask for, to better support your children through remote learning.
Don’t stress about the tech
There are dozens of remote learning tools and apps in the online marketplace, and each school district prefers different systems. Parents are not expected to master each different platform. Instead, focus on these two basic questions:
- How will the teacher communicate with students through the online environment?
- Who is the school’s contact for IT questions?
Encourage your online learners to get comfortable asking their teachers for clarification if they feel confused or behind. Teaching children how to ask for help is more important than an already busy parent mastering Google Classroom or Zoom.
If time permits, set up a check-in with your child’s teacher once or twice a month, and let them know if you prefer email or phone calls. This will allow you to stay in the loop and get an overview of your child’s success and struggles without it becoming too overwhelming, but also not allowing too much time to pass by. Ask for simple suggestions that the teacher can offer to support your student.
Identify opportunities for more personalized engagement
Parents can help identify more hands-on lessons and activities, but there’s no need to do all the legwork. Wide Open School helps families and students find trusted resources for daily enrichment and academic support in a variety of areas like fitness, emotional well-being, art, and all the core subject areas.
As time allows, some activities that might fit in here and there that can help your child feel like they’re taking a break from online learning:
- Bake a recipe together: play with fractions as children measure ingredients
- Take a walk: identify plants and animals in your neighborhood, practice reading signs, or playing I Spy
- Create art: encourage your child’s creativity by occasionally putting out different art supplies - even a pencil and some paper can become a comic strip!
- Take advantage of local resources: some libraries, while closed to the public, are still offering take-home activities for kids
Better Manage Stress and Establish a Routine
Social-emotional support is equally important to ensuring a student’s (and a parent’s) success. Basic steps can be taken to help mitigate extra anxiety during a challenging time. Families supporting students with learning and thinking differences can find amazing resources at Understood.org - dedicated to growing and shaping a world where everyone who learns and thinks differently feels supported at home, at school, and at work.
- Designate a specific space in the house for “class.” Ensure that this space receives a consistent internet connection.
- Work with your child to create a schedule for the day. This doesn't have to be complicated or win any Pinterest awards. Even simple blocks of time like:
- Class time
- Break time - no screen
- School work focus
- Outside break/snack
- Free time (some kind of time, like video games, that may act as an incentive for your child to work toward)
- Allow your child to outline his or her daily schedule, but hold them accountable for it by going over a simple checklist before earning free time.
- If possible, include opportunities for physical activity during the week - GoNoodle has fun online options when the weather isn't so great. Exercise can improve focus and wellbeing in both children and adults.
Similarly, encourage your child to take breaks for play, rest, or snacks. Taking breaks allows kids to reset and return to their work refreshed and ready to start again. Limiting screen time on non-school devices will also help to frame technology as an educational tool.
Remember you don't have to do it all. If you were inspired by one or two ideas here, pick one to try out with your family's routine. If that sticks (or doesn't!), adjust or try another. These ideas are meant to be a menu to pick and choose from - not a must do list. If you're already maxed and simply can't take on one more thing today, that's okay too. Take a deep breath or two and come back when you're ready. ❤️