As fall approaches, the return to school is weighing heavily on students and their parents alike. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most schools have adopted at least a partially remote learning model for the fall semester. Families were first rushed into remote learning in March 2020 as schools quickly shut down, and many are looking to find ways to improve the experience of remote learning for the fall.
For younger students especially, remote learning can pose many challenges. Young children often struggle to remain focused on their work, and the home environment and its many distractions can heighten this difficulty.
Parents should attempt to mitigate the distractions for their children while they are doing schoolwork. Try to find a small, quiet area of the home for them to attend virtual classes and complete homework. Personalize the space (and enjoy some creative crafts!) with poster boards and decorate with name tags, stickers and school supplies for the area.
While it can be hard for parents to manage their children’s classwork alongside their own work and other responsibilities, it is important to help younger children stay on task. Familiarize yourself with the schedule your school has set up for your children to ensure they attend online classes and do not miss assignments.
For older children in elementary and middle school, parents can see this as a chance to foster their children’s independence. While, again, it is useful to be familiar with your children’s schedules, encourage them to keep track of their work themselves. Simple planners, dry-erase calendars and creative task lists can be helpful.
This age group will also likely struggle with managing distractions. Encourage your children to include fun activities in their schedules. Once their school day comes to an end and their homework is complete, use these activities, such as video games or outdoor play, as a reward for finishing their tasks.
It is also important for these children to keep in touch with their peers safely. Explore virtual options to connect with friends, including Netflix party and Jackbox Games. Weather permitting, take advantage of the outdoors to spend time with friends safely and enjoy the fresh air.
High school students will need their own space to do their work. Ensure that they have a quiet environment to attend their remote classes and work on their assignments. These students will need to stay on top of their responsibilities. With remote learning, this can be a challenging task for the most organized of students. Encourage them to maintain planners and take advantage of online resources. Google Suite offers many different services that can aid students of all ages, including Google calendar, drive and classroom. Applications for both smartphones and computers can also help to stay on track, including the Reminder app from Apple (already pre-installed on all their devices!) and Todoist.
College students are in a particularly difficult state of flux. With many schools opting for either hybrid or entirely online plans, many students are unsure of where they should choose to stay. If you are on-campus, explore the options that are safely open. Libraries and study spaces at many universities have been redesigned to ensure social distancing and adherence to safety protocols in order to remain available to students.
Whether at home or in a dorm, be sure to establish a dedicated space for studying and attending classes. Just like all the other age groups, minimizing distractions is a must. When attending an online lecture, consider putting your phone in another room and set all notifications on your computer to “do not disturb” for the class time.
Make a master list of synchronous class times, in-person class events (if you have them), asynchronous assignments and due dates, as well as the dates of any exams you have and the way in which they will be administered. Reflect on the end of last semester and the beginning of online courses. What worked for you? What did not?
Reach out to your peers, advisors and professors for advice if you find yourself accidentally falling behind. Many professors are empathetic given the turbulent situation, so try not to get too down on yourself if you slip up. You are only human, and your professors know this too. These are trying times for everyone, so remember to be kind to yourself. Just as younger kids will need dedicated time for non-school-related activities they enjoy, incorporate alone and self-care time into your schedule.
While this semester will be challenging and unpredictable, parents and students alike should attempt to stay focused and calm as best they can.
Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, expresses the challenges remote learning poses on families. “This process can be difficult for teachers and students,” she says. “In addition, the parents/caregivers might be juggling their own jobs, childcare issues, teaching their children and technology issues.”
Here are some tips from Dr. Cohen for families helping their children with remote learning:
- Encourage movement – build in time for exercise and movement before and during your child’s school activities.
- Reduce distractions including noise and visual clutter.
- Enlist your child in setting up a designated workspace that is comfortable.
- Give your child, and yourself, breaks during the day.
- Particularly for young children, give immediate positive feedback like a sticker or check mark on completed work to help with their motivation.
- Establish good and healthy routines in the home.
By preparing ahead of time, you will make this challenging situation a workable experience!