As the school year gears up to start again, many parents are looking at a very different set-up. Since March, parents have been dealing with some form of at-home learning. Some schools already had some online classes, while others scrambled in the first few weeks to set things up – my son’s school fell into the latter group. Now that a new school year is approaching, many parents have had to make the decision on whether to send their kids to school or keep them home to attend online classes. For those who are choosing at-home learning, there are some steps you can take now to make it successful.
Remember, whether your child is learning at-home or in-school to set up a back-to-school routine. This helps them transition from their summertime freedom to a more structured day for learning.
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At-home learning, how to make it successful
Create and stick to a schedule
The most important item to consider is creating and sticking to a schedule. Your child is used to going to and finishing school at a certain time. Even though they will be doing school at home, you should try to keep their work time as close to school hours as possible. They may even have online meetings to attend that are scheduled for a particular time every day. I know back in April, my son had an almost daily online meeting at eleven in the morning. So we would make sure he got online early, started to tackle any of the day’s assignments so that when the meeting time arrived he could focus on that.
Your child’s schedule will depend a lot on their grade, workload, and home situation. The older grades will have a heavier workload compared to younger kids. It’s important to remember that at-home learning doesn’t always last as long as a regular school day. So it may take a week or so to find the perfect routine that works for your child.
If you have multiple children, you may need to create an individual schedule for each child. The first few weeks of school are the time to see what the teachers expect from your children and sculpt a schedule around that. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments as the year progresses. What works in September may need to be changed for February. To help keep your child on schedule, buy them a planner. This will also come in handy for keeping track of upcoming assignments or online meetings.
Create a learning space
Having a dedicated location to do the school work will help make it feel like the kids are in the classroom. Where you set up that space will depend on your home and the needs of your children.
Make sure it’s distraction-free. You don’t want your child surrounded by toys and video games and other items that will pull their attention away from the learning. Those items should be reserved for breaks or once their daily learning is complete.
What is included in that space will greatly depend on your child’s age, grade, and school requirements. A laptop and internet would be the most important item, as it will allow your child to access all of their online work. Many schools can provide a laptop to families unable to buy their own.
Additionally, picking up basic supplies, like paper, pens and a calculator will be very helpful. Though most of the work will be done online, they will still need to take notes and do some assignments by hand, so having a pen and paper handy is a good idea.
Create a priority list
As the assigned work comes in every day, it’s important to prioritize what is due first. Any project that is due that day or the next needs to be finished first. This way, no assignments will be handed in late. Once that is done, your child can shift focus to the tasks that are due further down the road. This may seem obvious, as this is how they would do things in the classroom, but it’s easy to fall into a routine of picking the easiest or quickest tasks first and leaving those that are due soon to the last minute. Doing this leads to a lot of stress for both students and parents.
This is where having a planner comes in handy. After all, kids are usually given a planner at school. So having one at home helps tremendously. Once they have an assignment done, they can check it off the list.
Keep it fun
We all know kids will get bored if they are forced to sit down for several hours without any breaks or fun activities. After all, that’s why they have recess during school. However, it’s not just the breaks that should be fun, but the learning itself – especially for younger kids. Create and play games that include math problems, history lessons, or fun facts.
Go beyond the regular curriculum
Obviously, you will want to ensure your child is doing the work that the school assigns. But don’t restrict their learning to that. Find ways to incorporate learning that hits on their interests. Does your child love fossils and dinosaurs? Then watch some documentaries and read books on the subject. Is there a skill they have shown an interest in learning? Now is as good of a time as any to encourage that interest. It can be something crafty like crochet or making ornaments for an upcoming holiday. Perhaps it could be learning how to cook, a skill everyone should learn. You can start with a simple recipe, like muffins, and work your way up from there.
If you wish, you can also grab some grade-appropriate workbooks to add additional learning into your child’s routine.
Get them up and moving
We all know a large amount of school work happens at the desk and the same applies to at-home learning. So it’s important to include some activity time ala recess and gym. Let the kids run around the backyard, go for a walk, or have a dance-off. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they are up and moving. Plus getting away from the screen for a short time can help alleviate any stress, especially when they are stuck on a difficult problem.
Be involved in their at-home learning
Before at-home learning, I was completely unaware of what my son learned in school. Anytime I asked him about it, I always got a vague answer of “We did math today” but I never got any details. Even the school offered little communication between teacher and parent, so the advantage of at-home learning is getting to be a part of the learning. Granted, when your child asks you for help, especially with math, and you have no clue how it’s done anymore, it can be difficult. However, if you can be involved in their lessons, it will help to refresh your own knowledge of subjects making it easier for you to help them in the future.
Make sure they get enough sleep
It’s easy to fall into the habit of letting your child stay up late and thus sleep in. After all, they don’t need to catch a bus in the morning, so why not let them sleep late? But try to stick to the normal bed and wake time during school days. Not only will this make them less grumpy, but it gives them a sense of normalcy that they are used to when it comes to school.
At-home learning doesn’t need to be a chore. With a bit of planning, it can work out for most families. Are your kids staying home this year?