Though you likely settled into some kind of a routine when schools first went remote this spring, the thought of continued, pandemic-enforced remote learning can seem daunting. Most parents wonder what to do with kids at home for so much of the day, and they're not alone. Figuring out how to best support your children’s remote learning experience while balancing your workday, whether remote or outside the home, as well as play, chores, family time, and other day-to-day activities doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Find out the best ways to optimize your kids' learning, keep them busy, and set them up for the future while maintaining your sanity and strengthening family bonds.
Setting Up the Learning Environment and Myth-Busting
There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around what it means to learn and teach from home. Let’s set the stage for the best possible environment by getting imposter ideas out of the way.
Myth: I’m figuring this out on my own.
Fact: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
First, let’s remember that remote learning is nothing new. In-person learning institutions, private and public, are considered a ”normal” setting for most of the United States and first-world families. But if you are keeping your kids at home for the 2020-2021 school year because of COVID-19, you may take comfort in the fact that you don’t need to recreate the wheel.
In fact, there are vast resources, well-established tools and homeschooling communities with the remote learning experience dialed in. Keep in mind that 3% of all U.S. students were already homeschooled before the pandemic. Child actors, young athletes, military children, learning or developmentally disabled children, and gifted children are just a few of the most common types of kids for whom learning from home is the norm.
Some nontraditional students are now household names. Just do a quick Google search to find countless names from history and today who were homeschooled and are now breaking records, breaking into show business, shattering the glass ceiling, and breaking the mold.
Myth: Remote learning is quiet and organized.
Fact: Learning from home is fun, engaging and doesn’t resemble traditional learning.
One of the biggest myths surrounding remote learning is that it’s a quiet activity done in solitude. A common misconception is that homeschooling is traditionally for highly religious families who isolate their kids and only study the Bible. Others imagine remote learning will be accomplished quietly on the computer, thinking it will be just like their child is in a classroom.
These are harmful myths that injure the learning process. While some families choose to homeschool because of their faith and some students work best in front of a computer for several hours, it’s not actually the norm, nor is it conducive to complete education.
Instead, learning is a participatory process with interactive lessons that encourage and engage all learning styles, including visual, auditory, and tactile. Parents (or tutors, if you go that route) are not just supervisors, but are supportive reinforcers of the actual lessons students are processing. Parents and other education participants are partners in the students’ learning process.
Myth: All traditional schools can easily make the switch to remote learning.
Fact: This is a change with a learning curve.
Many traditional institutions are coping well and are leaning heavily on models built by highly regarded homeschooling communities. They are redesigning curriculums and using tested homeschool tools and resources. However, making the switch to learning at home is new to the administrations and teachers of traditional in-person classrooms. They are learning how to do this, and they are all doing it a little differently.
One of the best ways to partner with your child and their institution is to ask questions about their transition into the remote learning model. Remember that mature adults making the switch from classroom environments to online learning classes at the college level face many challenges, too. It’s not realistic to put children in front of computers and have them pretend like it’s the same as being in a classroom. When the environment is different, so is learning.
What To Do With Your Kids While They’re at Home
Suddenly being thrust into a learning partnership with your kids and their school is a massive change for most families that needs to be recognized and validated. Here are a few pro tips to help you stay engaged, manage a new lifestyle with kids learning at home, and incorporate activities for parents and kids as you navigate this school year together.
Find a schedule That Works for Everyone
If only one person in the household is a morning person and learning is expected to happen in the morning, only one person will really benefit. Remember that chronotypes are biological, not learned or formed from habits. Reliable schedules and building habits are crucial, so maintain expectations and regularity. But this is an opportunity to truly embrace the best schedule for everyone to maximize learning—and mood.
Take a Breather
Kids and adults have good and bad days. Sometimes it feels like you have good and bad moments. Forgive lapses in concentration, ”getting stuck,” and other setbacks. Focus on optimism and the future. Take breaks when they are needed, not just when they are scheduled.
Communication Is Key
Like in any relationship, whether with school, work, romantic, roommate, family or friend, quality communication is vital. Make communication one of the most important topics you study and the best skill you implement every single day.
Play and Direct Energy Constructively
Play is one of the best ways people of all ages learn. It’s also one of the best ways to redirect frustrations. Remember to play games and turn everyday activities into games. Also, remember to get outside to play and be active. Oxygen and blood flow are necessary for learning as well as overall health. Just be sure to observe social distancing rules, and encourage the whole family to wear a mask like the Boomer Adult Multi-Use Protective Nano-Silver Face Mask and the Boomer Child Multi-Use Protective Nano-Silver Face Mask.
Limit News and Unnecessary Screens
Parents can forget that news and headlines are streams of negativity that can create anxiety and distraction. Avoid having the news on in the background all day. Plus, there are concerns about mental health impact, sleep cycle disruptions, eye and body strain and more when people of any age spend more than six hours in front of a screen. If schooling is all online, be sure to create balance with limited TV time, quality screen-time and getting outside. There is no shortage of conclusive research on the benefits of spending time in nature.
Diet and Energy
There is a clear connection between quality food and learning. You don’t have to buy exclusively expensive organic foods and cook every meal from scratch. However, you can keep the kitchen stocked with healthy foods while avoiding the presence of sugary or high-fat foods. An apple or high protein cheese and meat slices are just as easy to grab and go as a high-sugar energy bar. Kids have fewer energy bursts and behavioral problems when their body isn’t awash with sugar and additives.
Everyone is struggling and thriving in their own way, but your experience isn’t 100% unique. Lean on your network of friends, family, school officials and other resources. This can also be a great time to engage a family counselor or behavioral therapist. You don’t have to do so because there is something wrong, but can engage counselors and therapists for resources and ideas. There’s also no shortage of tutors and communities to tap into for added support.
Embrace the Honor
While a life where kids are home all the time is new, challenging and unexpected, it’s also fleeting. Take each day in bite-sized pieces, enjoy the wonderful moments you are sure to have, focus on the future and embrace the honor of having this role in your child’s life. Whether you are teaching them or facilitating their learning experience with someone else, you are setting your children up for a bright future, and that’s a beautiful thing.