Navigating the New World of Distance Learning: Tips for Parents

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Dunham School

Navigating the New World of Distance Learning: Tips for Parents

Just two weeks ago, we were all going about our normal daily routines. Dropping kids at school, going to work, heading to after school activities, and preparing dinner … oh, don’t forget reviewing with our kids for the upcoming tests. I was basically running through the routine of life focusing on the next task at hand. That changed quickly – almost overnight with the governor’s order to close schools during the COVID-19 outbreak. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be where we are today. Those busy days are now confined to the walls of my home and neighborhood. It seems surreal almost like a twilight zone episode at times. One thing we can all agree upon is that our appreciation for the teaching professional has grown significantly.

Being in education for nearly 20 years, I thought, sure, I can work from home and make sure my two children are doing their school work. I am a certified educator – this will be easy! Well, here I am with my tail between my legs telling you I was wrong. The first part of acceptance of being wrong is admitting it. I am learning and making adjustments each and every day – no, each and every hour.

Here are some tips that might help you embrace this new frontier while maintaining your sanity.

Routine

Come up with a routine that works with your family. I learned quickly that I cannot schedule 8:00 am conference calls because my youngest needs me. He needs me to spend some time reviewing what he is expected to do. I also learned that his routine is completely different than my daughter’s. He needs everything printed out so he can touch it and check off the list when he is finished. Both of my children have schedules that have been created for them to follow. My son and I sat down together and designed a schedule together. It won’t surprise me if we have more changes to it this week.

Setup

On day one of homeschooling, I tried to set up everyone at one table. After 30 minutes, I
realized that was not going to work for my family. My kids needed space, and so did I. The first thing I did was remove myself. I ran for shelter in my room. Needless to say, there were still issues. My kids were fighting and arguing. Yes, they do that. So, I separated them creating a special place for my son using an old table that is covered in paint. It didn’t matter because it gave him his space, and that is just what he needed. So if he wants to tap the pencil endlessly while he reads a story, it is fine because it is bothering no one … ultimately, eliminating the screaming matches with his sister!

Breaks

Everyone needs a mental break! At 10:00 am everyday, we take a break as a family. We walk outside to get fresh air and possibly have a snack. The goal of the mental break is just to stop. I have noticed this is setting my family up for success for the rest of the day. Just remember, while at school they change classes or have recess … we as parents need to encourage our kids to do the same during homeschool.

Social Interaction

The reality is that our kids miss their friends. They miss laughing and chatting with friends.
Arrange a time to do a virtual meetup among friends. Facetime is perfect for letting kids be kids and stay in contact with their buddies. Click here for directions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Since our students are not in actual school and doing school from home, many friends have
reached out asking my opinion and advice. Before jumping into their questions, two things we need to remember … we need to depend on each other. It is okay to say you don’t know something or how to do it. Secondly, this too shall pass. This situation is not forever and will come to an end, hopefully sooner rather than later.

How do I teach? I didn’t sign up to be a teacher, and I don’t know what I am doing.

First, look at what your school is recommending. They are the educators and know best. Try to follow their recommendations. You don’t need to start from scratch. If it doesn’t make sense, reach out to the teacher via email. If you are at your wits end, have your child read or read with them. Reading is such an important skill that builds a foundation in other areas. Secondly, have them help in the kitchen. Did you know that the kitchen is full of math? Cooking requires addition and measurement … and problem solving!

What if my child gets behind and isn’t ready next year?

First, let’s think positive! If you do what your school is recommending, then you will be fine! Nonetheless, you have to give it your 100% as a parent/teacher. You really need to stick to the timeline provided by the school. In this process, you will learn so much about yourself and your child. Just like we go to school five days a week, learning at home needs to take place five days a week.

My school only gave paper packets, and my child is so bored.

Try mixing in some activities in between those paper packets. For instance, do a page or two then do some PE. If you are working, that may simply be doing ComicKids Yoga on YouTube or GoNoodle. Older students can benefit from circuit training videos on YouTube. Research shows that physical activity improves brain function. Then, have them do more school packet work. Another break can be doodling or creating artwork. Mo Willems has lunch time doodles that are tons of fun! I also like to google How to Draw videos for my son who is into comic books. After the break, he’s back to the packet!

I need more resources. What do you recommend online?

There is so much out there that it can be overwhelming. One of my favorites that provides a comprehensive curriculum for all ages is Khan Academy. The information doesn’t require prep work for parents. For specific skills such as reading, I recommend Epic for children up to 12 years old. iXL is a popular site used to practice math skills up to 12th grade.

At the end of the day, we need to be reminded that this is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. We will get through these hiccups and be better for it in the end. Our children are learning valuable lessons that they will carry with them throughout their lives – we are literally living history as I type.


Nikole Blanchard is the director of innovation and technology at The Dunham School in Baton Rouge. Under her leadership, The Dunham School has been named an Apple Distinguished School for seven consecutive years. She works with teachers around the world helping them to transform classrooms with technology and prepare students for their futures. She has been an educator for 19 years teaching students all of ages! Nikole is on the board of directors for International Society for Technology in Education as the treasurer. She is also Nationally Board Certified, an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Trainer, and Google Innovator.

To gather more ideas about teaching at home, following Nikole on Facebook at “Teach for
Home” @teachfromhome2020. Learn more about The Dunham School at dunhamschool.org.

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