Dear Parents: Tips for Supporting Your Distance Learning Child

As a teacher I am crushed that my students will be virtual again for the start of this year.  I wish I could see them in person.  The dynamic in the classroom is not easily to replicate online.  I am going to work hard to connect with my students, but there are some challenges that are going to be difficult to overcome.  I am not going to get to meet with my students daily.  You are going to be my proxy when my class can't be together.  On top of working and being a parent, I know it is asking a lot of you.  I appreciate your support that you give until we can go back to life as we love it.  

To make working with your child a little easier, here's some tips from students I know that I have spent years distant learning:

  1. Be in class
  2. Have a schedule and be consistent:  If there are days where your student is not with your teacher, keep a schedule.  Working at the same time every day is important.  You have to think of it like "going to school" even if you don't leave your bedroom or get out of your pajamas.  Some students work best in the morning, have breakfast and then gets right to work.  Others need a good hour to hour and a half to deal with the world.  It's okay to have a little time in the morning to get going as long as there is a set start time. 
  3. Take reasonable breaks:  Most students find that about 45-50 minute work sessions followed by 10 minute stretch, chat, snack breaks helps significantly.  Moving for just a little bit gets the brain going again.  Students are much more effective after the break than for the last 15 minutes before the break.  
  4. Switch it up:  Work on more than one subject during a day rather than just "get through world history" all in one day.  Also, change up when different topics are worked on.  For example if Monday begins with Biology than Tuesday begins with Calculus.  My high school actually did this which was extremely helpful so that I didn't always have Calculus after lunch when I was most sleepy!
  5. Stay hydrated:  work with a water bottle next to you.  You will find that you drink absently.  It is very easy to get dehydrated, and you feel more tired when you are dehydrated.  A little sip on a regular basis helps.
  6. Daily goals:  it can be helpful to have daily goals as well such as: "I will finish the third essay on the bio test today or take notes on 2 chapters."  "I will work for 45 minutes" is less effective because it is VERY easy to get distracted or space out.
  7. Something to look forward:  When the students are most tired and struggling to finish a daily goal, they push through knowing there is a break at the end that will make them happy.  Sometimes something to look forward to can be challenging in these times.  It can be as simple as time to play video games or a call to a friend.
  8. When you are done, be done:  Just like brick and mortar school, it's good to be "done" at the end of the day.  When you are home start and end of the day are difficult to find.  When they have finished their goals/time for the day, students put their work away and don't go back to it.  The mental break is very important.  Otherwise, it can feel like a slog.