Ten Tips for Parents Supporting Distance Learning
The transition to distance learning may be challenging (and exciting) for families. Parents will need to think differently about how to support their children; how to create structures and routines that allow their children to be successful; and how to monitor and support their child(ren)’s learning. In this evolving landscape where predictability becomes less… predictable, we need to find ways to hold our youth and cultivate their sense of security, hope, and joy. For some students, distance learning might be a great thing, while for others it might feel more challenging at first. The ten guidelines provided here are intended to help parents think about what they can do to help their children find success in a distance learning environment
1. Establish routines and expectations
We encourage parents to set up regular hours for your child(ren)’s school work. For lower level students, instruction should begin early in the morning. Keep normal bedtime routines for your children (young and older). Your children should move regularly and take periodic breaks as they study.
2. Define the physical space for your child’s study
While under normal circumstances, your child(ren) may have a regular space for doing homework, this space may or may not be suitable for an extended period of time. Establish a space/location where your child(ren) will learn most of the time. This should be a public/family space, not in your child’s bedroom. It should be a place that can be quiet at times and have a strong wireless internet signal, if possible. Also, having this designated space will make school materials management easier for your family.
3. Monitor communication from your children’s teachers
Teachers will communicate with parents through email and phone calls, as necessary. The frequency and detail of these communications will be determined by your children’s ages/grade level, and their degree of independence. When you need to contact teachers, please remember that teachers will be communicating with many students as well as other parents, and that communications should be essential, succinct, and self-aware.
4. Begin and end each day with a check-in
Parents, we encourage you to start and finish each day with a simple check-in. In the morning, ask what is your child learning today? What are their learning targets or goals? How will they spend their time? What resources do they require? What support do they need? This grounding conversation matters. It allows children to process the instructions they’ve received from their teachers. It helps them organize themselves and set priorities. Older students may not want these check-ins with parents (completely age-appropriate) but you should have them nevertheless. Establish these check-ins as part of the daily routine and remember that they provide opportunities for our children to share how they’re feeling day-to-day.
5. Take an active role in helping your child(ren) process and own their learning
Human beings learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others. Students will interact with their teachers online via live Zoom or pre-recorded sessions, and older students will have the opportunity to connect in small groups with their teachers to support learning. Beyond the check-ins recommended at the start and end of each day, parents should regularly circle back and engage with their children about what they’re learning. However, it’s important that your child own their work; don’t complete assignments for them, even when they’re struggling.
6. Establish times for quiet and reflection
A huge challenge for families with multiple children will be how to manage all of their children’s needs, especially when those children are different ages and have different needs. There may be times when siblings need to work in a different room to avoid distraction. Consider noise-cancelling headphones (no music necessary) as a handy tool to block out distractions.
7. Encourage physical activity and/or exercise
Make sure your children (and you) remember to move and exercise. This is vitally important to their health, wellbeing, and to their learning. Think also about how your child can pitch in more around the house with chores or other responsibilities. Don't let your children off the hook - expect them to pitch in!
8. Remain mindful of your child’s stress or worry
These are unprecedented times, and the suspension of regularly defined activities and routines such as going to school, can (likely will) feel disconcerting for our children. It is imperative that parents help their children manage the worry, anxiety, and range of emotions they may experience. While it may be challenging, do your best NOT to transfer your stress or worry to your children. They will be out of sorts, whether they admit it or not, and need as much of a “normal” routine as parents can provide.
9. Monitor how much time your child is spending online
We do not want our students staring at computer screens for extended hours a day. We ask that parents remember that there is going to be a learning curve for all of our teachers as we transition to distance learning. This will require some trial-and-error before we find the right balance between online and offline learning experiences. Principals, teachers, and other staff will check in periodically to assess what you’re seeing at home and what we need to adjust. Thank you for your patience and partnership.
10. Keep your children social, but set rules around their social media interactions
Help your children maintain contact with friends and see them virtually as we observe shelter-in-place. Please also monitor your children’s social media use, especially during an extended school closure. Older students rely more on social media to communicate with friends. We ask that parents monitor your children’s use of social media.