We are all experiencing challenging times as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. As we implement new health and safety procedures at home, work, and public spaces, our nation’s schools are doing the same.
Many schools are offering 100% virtual learning for the school year. For parents whose children will be participating in distance learning, here is a list of things you can do to help your children have a productive school year from home.
MORE FROM DR. JOBIA KEYS: White Parents Must Have ‘The Talk’ With Their Children: Here Are Three Ways to Start
Take These 5 Steps to Help Your Kids Master Virtual Learning
1. Establish a “School Area”
Designating an area for your children to complete their schoolwork is essential for success. This space should have little to no distractions and be used only for school purposes (if possible). When children enter this space, they will mentally transition into school mode. If you don’t have an extra room for the school area, use a corner of any room in the home.
You can even think outside of the box and establish an outdoor learning space. If you have the time, space, and resources, you can find lots of inspiration for a DIY project by doing a simple Internet search for homework spaces for children. However, for folks who cannot take on a DIY project, your children will have the necessities for virtual learning if you have space for a small desk or table and a chair.
Make sure that you include the required supplies in the school area. Your children need space for a desktop, laptop, or tablet. Make a little room for pencils, notebooks, crayons, and other supplies. Local dollar stores sell office organization supplies for reasonable prices. I went to my local dollar store and spent $5 to organize our school area.
2. Dress Your Children in Their School Clothes
We hear the phrase “dress for success” often. We’ve seen how what you wear can impact how you are perceived and how you perform. This shouldn’t be any different for our children. If they are dressed in pajamas or play clothes for virtual school, chances are they are going to put forth lackluster effort toward their schoolwork. Why would they do anything different when they are dressed to play or sleep?
For many children in the U.S., this means putting on a school uniform each day just like they would if they were going to a brick and mortar learning environment. When you dress for success, you’ll be successful!
3. Remember That Communication Is Key
Reach out to your child’s teacher and get a clear idea of how he or she will facilitate the online learning process. Make sure you ask for specific details on required materials (including computers, headphones, etc.) the daily schedule, behavior expectations, and work submission rules.
If the workload seems too easy, too difficult, or just right, let the teacher know. If your child does not understand a concept, and you cannot help them, email the teacher, and ask for help. Teachers and parents are distance learning partners, so it is imperative to make sure everyone is on the same page. Maintaining constant communication with your child’s teacher is key to your child’s distance learning success.
4. Create a Schedule
Children are used to having a daily routine at school and virtual learning shouldn’t be any different. Coordinate with your child’s teacher so you have a clear understanding of the virtual school schedule. Then, ask your children about what they love most about school and what they miss most about school. Then try to incorporate those subjects/activities into the schedule. This way, your kids will feel like they are being heard and contributing to their learning experience.
Don’t forget to schedule in breaks when you can. Your children (and you) will need to take a break from the screen each day. Schedule 30-60 minutes for some physical activity. You can even do this in 10-minute increments. I’m often inundated with work and helping to facilitate virtual learning for my kids, so I love to take quick 10-minute breaks for exercise. You can find lots of great 10-minute workouts on YouTube!
5. Be Flexible
Many parents are in survival mode these days, so make sure you are flexible. If you get off schedule, don’t worry, everything will be fine. Virtual learning is new for many of us, so give yourself and your children a break if things don’t go exactly as you plan. Some days, you might follow the schedule to a T, and other days you might be all over the place, because, well… life happens! Flexibility is important as we work through the Coivd-19 pandemic. Take mental breaks when you need them.
Our new #saferathome environment can be frustrating for parents and children at times. When children are frustrated, they won’t be able to learn. You need to have balance. Your mental health is important, so take time to pray, meditate, or just pause each day to refresh your mind, body, and spirit. If you are stressed, your children will be stressed, and nothing will get accomplished.
During these uncertain times, it’s important to remain as calm, kind and flexible as possible. There are many moving pieces surrounding us. But one thing remains the same- our children are looking at how we handle this situation. They look to us for guidance and comfort. They want to know that everything will be okay. And, eventually, everything will. Properly preparing your children for distance learning is key to their success and your sanity! And, remember, when things get tough, and they likely will…f ollow Dory’s advice and “just keep swimming!”
Follow Dr. Jobia Keys on Instagram.
Dr. Jobia Keys is a wife, mother of two young children, author and Professor of Communication. Her research centers on media literacy, media representations and entertainment education. She is regularly invited to speak on topics such as gender, race and class representations in media, strategic communication planning, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. Her first children’s book, Grand Angel, was published in 2015, and her research has been published in The Journal of Children and Media. When she is not spending time with her family, writing, or reading, she is traveling, listening to great music, cooking, and volunteering in her community. You can find her on Instagram.