With more and more school districts adopting some form of online learning, parents and students alike are going to have to make some huge adjustments. Staying motivated while working from home can be difficult for everyone. Read on for tips on how to make the transition to online school easier for children.
1. Recreate the school day
In this time of great uncertainty, add some structure to your life with a daily schedule. Sticking to a routine reduces stress in children by letting them know what to expect. Scheduling regular meal times, work times, breaks, etc., can help boost cognitive function and decrease behavioral problems. Try going over your daily schedule during breakfast so your kids know what to look forward to for the day.
It is also important to create a physical space for schooling that is separate from their space for play. Their “school environment” should have minimal distractions and comfortable conditions. For younger kids this means creating separate spaces for work and play. Children should understand that when they are in their school area they should be doing school work and when they are in their play area they can play. This concept is just as important for teenagers and college students. Though it willl be tempting for them to do their classes in bed, having a desk or work station will greatly increase their productivity, retention, and engagement. Doing non-sleep activities in bed can also lead to trouble falling asleep at night.
When creating a schedule for your child, remember to give them varied types of stimulation. During school kids do more than academic work all day. They have music, art, playtime, physical activity, independent reading. Rotating types of learning activities will keep them engaged and prevent burnout.
2. Take breaks from the screen
Be sure to give kids frequent breaks from working on computers. Outside of classes, find ways to entertain them other than television or electronic devices. Another way to limit screen time is to print out worksheets so children can fill them out by hand. This gives their eyes a break and lets them work on their handwriting and fine motor skills.
Kids also need time outdoors now more than ever. Angela J. Hanscom, the author of Barefoot and Balanced, says that playing outdoors “improves everything from creativity to academic success to emotional stability”. She recommends that children have free-time outside at least 3 hours a day. In addition to the physical health benefits of being active, spending time outside also reduces stress and feelings of anxiety and depression in children and adults. Check out our article on Workplace Recess for more about how recess can help adults.
3. Reach Out to Others
Start the year off right by creating a dialogue with your child’s teacher. Be proactive about addressing any concerns such as school work or technological difficulties. Teachers will be more able to help the more advanced notice they have about an issue. With classes moving online, teachers will feel more disconnected from their students. Opening a line of dialogue early on is important to establishing that connection and staying informed. Remember to be patient with teachers as well. They have never had to make the transition to online school either and are trying their best in unprecedented circumstances.
Communication with teachers is especially important for students with an IEP (Individualized Education Program). Collaboration between the teacher and parent is imperative to mitigating the unprecedented barriers that may arise. Parents should meet with an IEP team to determine the best strategies for their student. Remember that every student is unique and has different needs. Set aside time to observe your child and see what strategies they react best to.
Creating contact with other parents and classmates is a great way to encourage social learning. Collaborating with other parents may yield new tips for dealing with online school. Many parents are creating learning pods where they meet up with other students and hire a personal tutor. Study groups may also make a comeback for families that cannot afford tutoring. If meeting face to face is not a good option, video chatting with friends is a safer way to help increase casual social interaction.
4. Communicate Openly
Providing children with immediate positive feedback is especially important. They are used to receiving a lot of encouragement from teachers and classmates in school. Celebrating small victories can offset the stress and frustration kids will experience during this adjustment period. It is also important to set expectations and goals for each day. This can help children compartmentalize their responsibilities, making their goals feel much more attainable. It will also help if you use visual aids like stickers, charts, trackers, or whatever else you can think of!
Kids may feel disappointed or upset about not being able to go back to school. Help them process their feelings by talking to them about it. Allowing them to express their feelings will help them build communication skills, process their emotions, and establish trust.
The Bottom Line:
Online schooling is going to be a challenge for everyone. There is no magical cure that will make the transition seamless for everybody. Right now it is important that we all continue to help each other and be understanding of what we all are going through. Hopefully this article was helpful and please feel free to leave a comment with any tips for online school that you’ve found yourself.