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Screen on, screen off; schools open, then closed—returning to school in fall 2020 has been chaotic. Many schools that opened had to immediately close when students or staff reported COVID-19 infections. As a result, most districts will continue to teach remotely for at least part—if not all—of the week. Here are some tips on preparing children for virtual learning.
Encourage Routines and Boundaries
We hear a lot about how kids need structure. It’s tough to provide it, though, when you’re trying to get your own work done while kids are attending online classes. Create a schedule or routine based on your children’s class schedule, homework, and activities. If they’re old enough to participate, involve them in creating their schedule. Together, you can identify goals, rewards, and ways to work in some time to relax.
Encourage your kids to be proactive in asking their teachers for help if they are struggling. Schedule time to talk to teachers and ask what you can do to support the education they have scrambled to provide. Although you shouldn’t hover over your kids, check periodically to see if they look engaged with their online class. Find a time to talk to your kid about it to identify the issue that’s hampering their learning. Then, talk to the teacher about any issues.
Everyone needs a break. If you are working full-time from home, you’re still entitled to lunch and your usual breaks. Schedule them at a time when your kids also have a break. Have a snack or eat lunch together, take a quick walk outside, or play a game of catch. Give kids a chance to go to “gym class,” which gives them plenty of exercises to help them feel energized and alert. Taking these breaks will refresh everyone and help prepare your kids for virtual learning for the rest of their day.
Vary the Learning Environment
Tweens and teens move around to different classrooms when they attend school physically. Although much of the online learning advice you’ll get revolves around setting up a dedicated workspace for your kids, give your kids a chance to take the laptop to another room or out on the patio once in a while. For example, if they’re doing a unit in science class about insects, let them go outside and look for butterflies.
Home is the only place kids can safely participate in “extracurriculars” right now. These activities build friendships and social skills. Don’t discount the importance of keeping up connections with friends. Encourage your kids to go schedule one-on-one video calls with their buddies rather than scroll passively through social media during their downtime.
Finally, remember that learning starts the minute a child is born. Don’t neglect the importance of developmental toys and play for your littlest ones. They’ll need the skills they develop a few years from now when school is back to normal, in-person instruction.