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Optimize your Home for remote learning

It’s that time of year again! The school bell rings, but this time it’s with a twist—remote learning. Even if your district allows students inside the school, chances are they are operating on some hybrid remote/in-person learning. As a middle-school teacher with two kids in school myself, I experienced first-hand the increased stress that both students and parents feel from adjusting to the new routines of online learning. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your child’s (or children’s) chances for a successful school year.

Be Flexible yet Structured:
This seems like a contradiction in terms, yet it simply means being flexible with your time and space. Think about the where, when, and how of learning. Make sure you understand the school’s planned schedule—especially for younger children—which requires students to meet at set times for teacher’s virtual instruction. And keep in mind that your child may return to school at any time for face-to-face instruction. To prepare for sudden changes, try to keep your child on a schedule as if it were a typical school day. For example, if your child eats breakfast typically at 6:30 AM to catch a 7:00 AM bus, try to do the same during remote learning days. This will make the transition much more manageable when your child (children) returns to school.

Create a Learning-Friendly Environment:
With many parents working from home, it might be a challenge to create a dedicated work/learning space for everyone in the house. It would be ideal for creating a workspace for your child in an area already designated as a home office, but you don’t need an elaborate home office set-up to optimize learning. Chances are your child already has a space in your home where they do their homework, such as the kitchen table or a desk in their bedroom. However, keep in mind they will be spending much more time sitting in this one place. Make sure they have a comfortable chair and enough space to organize and keep folders, colored notebook, pencils, pens, paper, and their computer. Prepare a space close by where they can easily pack-up and clear their areas after the school day. If you need to move furniture around to make it happen, so be it. Remember, this is only temporary.

Minimize Distractions:
Even if you’re able to create the most optimal work environment, distractions are bound to happen. If your child needs to share space with a sibling or a work-from-home adult, it will help to invest in some headphones. They are relatively inexpensive and can help minimize distractions from Zoom meetings. You can help by setting limits on tv time and cell phone use, including YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or whatever the next procrastinating-inducing video platform that comes along. I don’t recommend the total shutdown of all social media during the day. Kids strive for social interaction, especially since they are isolated at home, but establishing designated times and time limits will help them learn discipline, which will serve them well throughout their lives. Note: this is a good idea even during normal times. It takes a child 30 consecutive days to learn new habits or establish a dependable routine.

Create Online Study Groups:
Creating online study groups via Zoom, Skype, or any other remote meeting platform is a great way to fill the need for social interaction. Your school may have tutors, staff, or teachers online willing to assist you and your child in ironing out problems, concerns, and tutoring needs. Online study groups are also great for socialization with study peers, friends, and family at the end of the day. An added benefit is that they will help your child learn the art of conversation.

Organize Digital Files:
On your family computer, create a folder and event calendar to keep up with schedules, due dates, and reminders, include folders for documents, emails, and announcements. Create a separate folder for other resources to extend learning. You know your child better than their teacher, so what are his/her interests to keep them motivated and to work along with learning the lessons’ standards?

Allow Time for Mental Breaks and Exercise:
Brain breaks and exercise are just as important as the work to keep your child focused and staying motivated. Allow for time in your child’s schedule for breaks such as snacks, exercise, a walk outside with the dog, or just jumping in place. Monitor the time, and you take your coffee break too. This is also a great time to start conversations as you organize and clean to prepare for the next class—a critical habit to help build with your child.

Schedule a Weekly Check-ins:
Most schools will be sharing emails and announcements with parents for what is ahead for the week. So, check your email online Sunday night or Monday mornings. Then set aside 15-20 minutes on the weekend to review the week’s to-dos. Understand what assignments are due and the progress of your child. Remember, social disconnections from friends and peers can cause emotional distress making it more challenging to focus on learning. Use this time to check-in on your child and see how she/he is feeling.

As a parent, there will be times that you will feel stressed-out and irritated. The good news is that most kids adapt quickly to change. However, kids take cues from their parents. Take time for yourself. Keep optimistic and remember that this is only temporary. Have a great school year!