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I clearly remember that day in March, when I received an email from my son’s school telling me that they will switch to distance learning for a while.
The first days were easy because my son was happy to discover all the online learning apps. Then he started to receive more and more worksheets and assignments, and the initial excitement turned into frustration.
Helping him with his schoolwork turned out to be a lot harder than I imagined.
He was in kindergarten, so he needed a lot of support with everything, from accessing the online assignments to understanding them and uploading his work in Google Classroom.
It felt like I spent more than half of my day printing worksheets, scanning papers, explaining assignments, helping him stay focused on his work, hearing endless complaints, dealing with power struggles, and trying to keep my calm in all this chaos.
I felt overwhelmed and exhausted!
I knew we both need a better way to manage distance learning, so I started focusing on finding ways to make things easier for us.
In time, we discovered ideas that helped us a lot!
Distance learning was still challenging at times, but the ideas we tried made our days easier to handle and more peaceful.
At first, distance learning was meant to last just a few weeks. Then the weeks turned into months, and we ended up finishing the last school year from home.
We hoped that things would get better over the summer, but they didn’t.
Now my son will not only start the school year learning from home, but he will probably continue distance learning for several months.
The best distance learning tips for parents
If your kids will also learn from home at the start of this school year, I want to share with you all the distance learning tips that made a difference for us.
I hope these ideas will help you make this experience easier for your whole family!
1. Create a schedule and stick with it
The biggest mistake I made when my son started learning from home was not creating a schedule for him.
I thought that having more flexibility will make this change easier for him, but the lack of structure just made things worse.
Having a schedule made it easier for him to stay on track, and helped us have all the assignments ready by 2 p.m. (including plenty of time for breaks and play) instead of dragging them throughout the whole day.
Our schedule includes:
- the online morning meetings (and any other online meeting set by the teacher)
- blocks of time for schoolwork
- blocks of time for breaks (either small breaks to have a snack or do something relaxing, or big breaks like one hour of playtime, or 45 minutes of family time)
- checkpoints when I check on his progress and help him with the assignments he finds difficult.
Having a routine is very helpful for kids, and makes it easier for them to stay on track and do their work.
Here are 2 additional things that helped us create a schedule that works for us:
- We plan the assignments he usually finds more frustrating (like reading or opinion writing) earlier in the day, before the easier ones. This way, he is not tired when he does them, and he can focus better. Also, once he finishes the “hard” tasks, he is a lot happier to move on to the next ones and finish everything on time.
- We usually plan the written assignments before the online assignments. He enjoys the learning apps more than the worksheets, so he is more willing to work on the written assignments when he knows he will have his “screen time” afterward.
You can see one of our schedules below in case you need some inspiration. Also, you can download the templates and create your own schedule here.
2. Create a checklist at the start of each day
Even if you have a schedule, the list of assignments changes every day.
An easy way to keep track of all the schoolwork is to do a short checklist in the morning.
On the checklist, add all the tasks your child needs to complete during the day (e.g., math worksheets, reading assignment, opinion writing, science experiment, online meeting, show and tell, etc).
Invite the kids to check them on the list as they complete them. This will make it easier for them to learn independently and for you to check if they completed all their work.
You can download the printable templates for the distance learning schedule and the daily checklist by clicking on the link below.
3. Give choices and offer encouragement
Offering choices (while still following the schedule) helps kids feel more in control and be more cooperative.
Also, offering encouragement helps kids overcome challenges easier and be more determined to keep working even when things get hard.
Sometimes, we are so focused on finishing all the daily schoolwork that we forget to slow down and celebrate the small wins.
An easy way to do this is to create a “New things I learned” jar.
Every day, ask your child to share with you something new they learned (like a meaning for a word, a new interesting fact about their favorite animal, a new math concept, etc). When your child shares something they learned with you, add a little note to the jar.
This is a nice way to celebrate learning, and also encourage them to share with you the interesting things they learn.
4. Schedule regular breaks
Kids have short attention spans and it’s unrealistic to expect them to focus on schoolwork for long periods of time.
Planning plenty of breaks throughout the day to allow kids to relax and play makes the schedule more fun for them and this also reflects on their mood.
Here is the list of breaks we include in our schedule:
- short breaks after each completed assignment
- snack time
- lunch time
- play time
- active breaks (when we play music and dance, or he runs and jump around the house)
- family time (we try to make room for 45 minutes of family time every day, during my husband’s lunch break – we play card games, go for a walk, or just hang out together in the living room).
We also incorporate art time and building time into our daily schedule because these are my son’s favorite ways to relax.
5. Teach kids how to learn independently and help them develop a growth mindset
One of the few good things about distance learning is that it allows us to help our kids develop good learning habits and improve their learning skills.
It may seem that this only adds more work to our already busy schedules, but in the long run it actually make things easier.
Here is what I’ve been focusing on:
- teaching my son how to work independently on his assignments (and try his best before asking for my help)
- encouraging him to see learning challenges as opportunities to learn new things or improve his skills
- promoting a growth mindset and teaching him how to overcome challenges without giving up.
The Growth Mindset Printables Kits is one of the best resources for helping kids develop a growth mindset.
We also ordered this daily journal that helps children grow resilient, confident, and emotionally healthy, and I can’t wait to start using it with my son!
6. Prepare a special learning space
Having a special learning space with no distractions makes a big difference in helping kids stay focused on their schoolwork! Also, it makes distance learning more enjoyable!
Involve your child in creating a space for them to learn. Invite them to decorate it with their artworks and organize their favorite school supplies so they have them at hand anytime they need them.
It’s also helpful to create a portable “schoolwork caddy” in case your kids want to learn in a different place in the house or you want to invite them to work close to you so you can better check on their progress.
We have this cute rolling cart for our son to use as a portable schoolwork station.
7. Begin and end each day with a check-in
When I first discovered this idea, it was just about checking on how kids manage their schoolwork.
But distance learning also came with emotional challenges our kids need to face. It’s hard to deal with the frustration of doing schoolwork on their own, spend so much time without their colleagues, feel isolated at home instead of having fun with their friends.
So I also wanted to use our daily check-ins to encourage my son to talk about his feelings.
The morning check-in includes:
- talking about the plan for the day
- asking him how I can help him manage his schoolwork better (and coming up with improvement ideas together)
- sharing our thoughts, feelings, or worries (we take turns and share how we are feeling, plus one thing we are looking forward to doing that day and one thing that we find challenging).
The afternoon check-in includes:
- talking about how his school day went
- asking him what was hard for him and how we can make things better the next day.
Then, in the evening, before bedtime, we do another emotional check-in when we share how we are feeling and share our favorite and our least favorite thing about our day.
It may feel like this has nothing to do with distance learning, but it has a great impact on how kids manage their schoolwork.
When kids feel supported and connected to their parents, they behave better and they are more willing to cooperate when asked to do something.
This makes distance learning easier to manage for the parents, and more enjoyable for the little ones.
More distance learning tips for parents
8. Reduce distractions
If possible, offer your kids a quiet place where they can do their schoolwork without being distracted by noises or interrupted by siblings.
9. Balance independent schoolwork with support time
Invite your child to work on their own for a while, without asking for help. (The duration of the independent learning time depends on the child’s age and their attention span.)
Ask them to try their best to solve the assignments on their own. If it’s something they really don’t know how to do, ask them to skip it and ask you about it later.
When the independent learning time is over, start a “support time” when you answer all their questions.
Alternate independent work with support time throughout the day to make sure that your kids stay on track and make progress with their assignments.
This approach will help kids improve their independent learning skills, and will also help you avoid constant interruptions during the day.
10. Offer your child additional support when needed
If you notice that your child asks for help for a particular subject over and over again (e.g., spelling, solving word problems, etc), offer them some additional support.
You can either find educational materials online and work together on improving their skills, or ask for help from a teacher. If your child’s teacher can’t help, Outschool is a great place to find online classes on many subjects and even private tutoring with a certified teacher.
11. Add more fun to school days
Kids have a lot of fun with their friends at school, so finding themselves stuck at home all day doing schoolwork can be very frustrating.
Here are some easy ways to add more fun to their days:
- do video calls with their friends
- play games during their breaks
- go for short walks
- play music and dance together
- leave nice notes on their desk
- prepare their favorite snacks
- talk about their favorite topics
- give them opportunities to explore their interests.
12. Be gentle on yourself and your kids
Kids need us to respond with patience and kindness when they struggle, even if in the heat of the moment this is not always easy.
Distance learning is a new experience for the kids, and it takes time and patience for them to learn how to manage it.
This big change also comes in a challenging time, when we are all facing many uncertainties, fears, and worries, so we don’t need to put any more pressure on us or our kids.
We all struggle at times. We all make mistakes. We all wonder if we are doing the right thing in the midst of all this challenging situation.
You are doing the best you can. Your kids are doing the best they can. Being gentle on yourself and your kids is the best gift you can give your family right now!
P.S. If you want to implement a distance learning schedule for your kids, don’t forget to download the printable template from here.