Parents, Here Are Much-Needed Distance Learning Tips From An Expert

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Parents, Here Are Much-Needed Distance Learning Tips From an Expert
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It’s all my parent friends are talking about right now, and my guess is that you’re talking about it, too. Distance learning, AKA: helping our kids learn at home, is no joke. After all, we have a lot on our plates right now. Many of us are working from home, tying to keep up with our household chores and bills, and entertaining and educating our children. The COVID19 global pandemic has led us to social isolation, an an abrupt change that none of us were prepared for.

We know the teachers are working their rears off to help us, and we appreciate them for it. However, at the end of the day, we know that the responsibility of educating our kids during this undetermined amount of time mainly falls on us. You probably feel ill-equipped. After all, most don’t have a background in education (or patience). How are we supposed to survive this remote learning business when we feel so defeated and stressed?

When we take a step back and realize that this is a challenging time for parents and students alike and that perfection is impossible to achieve, we can fall back on the reality. Our kids’ mental health and physical well-being is what matters most. Education is secondary. Ok, but we still need to somehow figure out a way for our children to learn while at home, right? Yes. Mickey Revenaugh, the co-founder of Pearson’s Connections Academy, a K-12 online learning system, has some tips for us.

Prioritize well-being over academics.

Revenaugh shared, “Kids learn best when they feel safe and secure. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, and reassure them that they are not alone.” I couldn’t agree more with this. After years of researching (and putting-into-practice) connective parenting, our family is grounded in connection first and foremost. Furthermore, if a child (or adult) is in a state of dysregulation (AKA: off balance), learning doesn’t happen. It doesn’t make any sense to push academics when a child is tired, hungry, distracted, or thirsty. Thus, it’s essential that a routine is put into place that includes all the basics.

Create a routine with your child’s input.

As much as all of us would love to have perfect harmony in our homes while allowing a free-for-all, it simply won’t work. Kids tend to thrive when there are expectations and organization. Revenaugh reiterated, “Kids are used to routines, so keep them going at home. Create a schedule for each person in the house and place them side by side.” Make sure you develop the schedule with your child, giving them ownership in the process.

Give your child choices, within reason.

After you’ve developed a schedule with your child’s input, work in ways to give your child some confidence and control–within reason. Revenaugh offered, “For example, maybe your child wants to do math and science first thing. Great! Let them decide. As long as you are meeting your teacher’s expectations, you have some flexibility.” I’ve found that my kids learn best in the morning, so we’ve decided that we will do more academic work earlier in the day, right after breakfast and home “recess.”

Take frequent breaks.

Don’t forget, Revenaugh reminds us, to “allocate time for physical activity, brain breaks, snacks and meals, household chores, and family activity time.” Too much close-up work causes eye strain and restlessness, neither of which are productive to learning. And again, if a child is hungry, thirsty, tired, or distracted, they aren’t learning. Breaks are crucial to academic success. Go outside, make a PB&J, and do a load of laundry.

Ask the teacher for help.

Revenaugh offers, “Your child’s teacher is the teacher, so rely on them for help.” Parents should consider themselves to be a Learning Coach. It’s also a good idea to readily admit to your kids that this is a challenging time, there will be bumps in the road, and that first and foremost, you are their parent. Stay in communication with your child’s educators, asking questions and seeking additional support.

Celebrate the victories.

It’s very easy to get bogged down in the things that aren’t going well. However, it’s very important, Revenaugh reports that we acknowledge all the things that are going well. She said, “Celebrate small wins by noticing accomplishments and calling them out.” I’ve stored up a few surprises for my kids, not based on how school is going, but just because. One day we tie-dyed shirts, we’re having a surprise Easter egg hunt in the yard, and I got each of them a few new books. These are small ways I’m cheering them on for all of our collective hard work.

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Don’t expect perfection.

Newsflash: things don’t happen perfectly or smoothly in the classroom, so they aren’t going to at home, either. Teachers know that flexibility and revisions are key to student success. You aren’t perfect, your child isn’t perfect, and this situation certainly isn’t perfect. That’s a whole lot of imperfections that parents are grappling with when helping their kids with distance learning. Revenaugh shares, “Everything won’t go perfectly, especially in the beginning, and that’s okay. Accept that this is a learning process for both you and your children, and it will get easier over time.”

With these tips in mind, you can have a more productive and positive home learning environment that sets your children up to succeed. Revenaugh stresses that “Every little win counts, and you will get through this.”

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