The second-grade teacher’s computer is frozen, and your bored seven-year-old has left the room to play with the dog. Your fifth-grader is staring into space instead of working on math. You feel like you should do something but it’s time for your Zoom meeting.
You can help your kids with online schooling without losing your job and your sanity. Investing time, in the beginning, getting organised, creating routines, and practising strategies for coping with obstacles will save you and your kids time and frustration in the long run.
The first step is to make sure that you understand what’s expected of your child. Read through any information the school has sent home, looking for answers to these questions:
- When is your child supposed to be online?
- How will assignments and deadlines be given?
- How are assignments supposed to be turned in?
- What is your child supposed to be getting done offline?
- Are there educational sites where your child needs to have an account?
If you can’t find answers that you need, email your child’s teacher. You and the teacher are both working on the project of your child’s education. You should contact the teacher whenever you have a question, a concern, or information to share, just as you would with any colleague.
Another critical step in getting organised is creating a workspace. If it’s possible, try to give your student a separate space for schoolwork away from the distractions of the television, pets, and other siblings. Decide where materials, tools, and work should be kept so that your child doesn’t misplace them. Near where the computer will be stationed, write down your student’s accounts, user names, and passwords; you may even want to tape this right to the surface they’re working on.
Finally, help your child create a calendar. For elementary-aged kids, that might be a poster board that you’ve divided into spaces and a stack of sticky notes that can be filled out and moved around on the calendar as needed. Middle and high-school students are able to use paper planners or online calendars. Online calendars are especially handy because they can be easily shared with you.
Once you know what’s required, help your child stay on track by creating and sticking to a routine. For younger students, writing the routine on a poster board in their workspace is helpful, it also helps for mental health. At a minimum, kids should know:
- What time they need to get up in the morning
- What they should get done before school starts
- What time they need to sign on so that they’re ready when class starts
- When homework and studying should be done
- The deadline for submitting each day’s assignments
- What times of day the computer is off-limits
- When they have free time.
Kids aren’t natural clock-watchers, so it’s best to find a way to remind them to stick with the schedule. Setting alarms on their phones, using a kitchen timer, creating alerts on their computers there are many different ways to tackle this problem, and depending on the age of your student some may work better than others.
Practice Overcoming Obstacles
All the organisation and routines in the world won’t help a student when the unexpected happens. Unforeseen obstacles can derail students, causing them to give up and look for distractions. One of the most important things you can do is talk about and, for younger students, role-play what happens when they encounter a roadblock.
- What should your child do if the class meeting is interrupted by a technology problem? Can they call you or come get you? Is there another adult who can help? If it’s the teacher’s computer that’s having problems, how long should your student wait before leaving the meeting?
- Kids sometimes seem to know more about computers than they do. Does your child understand the steps for submitting work, finding materials, and so on, or do they need to practice some of these skills with you? What should they do if they find a program or website hard to understand?
- Where can your child get help with difficult material? Have them practice emailing and sending chat messages so that you’re sure they can contact the teacher or a classmate if they’re struggling. Have them practice the procedure for getting their teacher’s attention during an online meeting so that they can ask questions.
- Help your child set up an online study group so that there are other students to do homework with and get help from.
- Show your student how to locate educational resources on Khan Academy, YouTube, and other sites.
- What should your child do if the online classroom, materials, or assignments present barriers because of a disability? Should your student approach the teacher, or do you want to do that yourself?
- If it would be helpful, show your student how to turn on closed captions and access transcripts for videos, adjust text size and brightness on Websites and documents and use text-to-speech features where they are available.
- If your child has a disability, remember that the school still should provide accommodations whether your child is taking classes in the school building or at home.
Online schooling doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Getting organised, creating a routine, and making sure your student knows what to do when unexpected obstacles crop up will go a long way toward making distance learning a more enjoyable and productive experience.
If you’re interested, here are 4 homeschooling teaching methods widely used.