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Making a plan and setting a structure for school at home

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Back-to-school is usually an exciting time, but with many schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, families across the country are facing new challenges as they prepare for the move to online, at-home learning.

If your children will be among the millions continuing their education online this fall, you may find it’s up to you as a parent to build a classroom-like experience at home. For some knowledge and expertise on navigating the uncertainty of back-to-school planning during this unique time, we turned to Denise Rose and Jamie Mattila--two career educators with over 40 years of combined elementary, middle and high school teaching experience. These two classroom experts shared their answers to some nagging questions to help parents and kids succeed this school year.

How do I keep my kids engaged in their education with the challenges of remote learning?

Although some things are out of your control when schools go online, one thing you can control is your kids’ work space. You can provide a good work space by keeping school supplies easily accessible, and keeping distractions like extra screens and loud noise to a minimum.

For younger children or those with learning difficulties, you can offer some additional comforts to help your kid stay engaged in their learning space. Whether that means keeping a drawing book nearby, holding a family pet or just taking extra breaks–downtime is essential, and channeling energy towards something that isn’t a computer screen is healthy and expected.

And remember, kids need to move around. Don’t just stay in the same room all the time—make sure they are standing up and moving around. Go outside if you can! Kids stay better connected when they have occasional breaks and their brains can relax for a minute.

How can parents and teachers work together to support each other?

This school year will be a partnership between teachers and parents more than ever before. With many parent-teacher conferences on hold, make sure you and your child’s teacher(s) still find time to connect one-on-one (virtually, of course). Ask your kids and their teachers what kind of interactive learning experiences they have planned, in addition to any pre-recorded material. Check if there are any workbooks, activities or other learning materials that you can access ahead of time in case you have technical difficulties or internet issues later on.

And make sure your kid has a planner or scheduler, too. Online plan books are available and work for some, but others do better with pen and paper. Either way, it’s important that everyone is on the same page and communicating.

Teachers can see their students’ work and whether or not the material is clicking, but their engagement and true understanding of the concepts will be harder for teachers to gauge. You can help keep the line of communication open between your kids and their teachers.

What if my kids starts falling behind at home?

Communication is key. If you feel your child is falling behind or struggling, start by contacting their teacher. If your child feels behind, then chances are good that other students might feel that way, too. Teachers are masters of their domain, but they aren’t always aware of other time demands and distractions that students face at home. If you feel like your kid is spending too much time on homework or gets constantly frustrated—share that with their teachers. They may be able to build in opportunities like work days or study periods to help.

There are important conversions and education that happens outside of just homework. Every now and then, check in with your kids and ask them how they are feeling, if they are frustrated by anything and if they understand the material. It’s up to both parents and teachers to check in on how kids are doing emotionally sometimes.

How can I keep my kid engaged with their friends during remote learning?

Socializing plays a critical role in learning. From early development through advanced education, kids of all ages need to get together and share with peers in order to grow. While there’s no great way to recreate it remotely, group chats and online study groups can be a start. It’s natural that your kids will want to spend time with their friends, so if the online group sessions just aren’t working, then small study groups can be ok if they are done safely. That typically means outdoors and being mindful of maintaining a safe social distance. If your kids are using a “pod” style of learning, where they are paired with a teacher and a smaller group of other kids in the same space, make sure all of the safe social distancing guidelines still apply.

If our teachers, parents and kids all keep an open line of communication, maintain a healthy routine and observe safe social distancing, we can all succeed in these challenging times and get back to doing what we each do best!