Making it Through Online Distance Learning Without Losing Your Mind
As so many of us are having to get our children through distance learning, it seemed like a good time to contemplate how to keep our kids engaged and having fun with school.
To be totally honest, my kids have really struggled with distance learning. They are both very smart and have usually done very well at school. I think the problem with distance learning, for them, is that it is the biggest representation of being stuck at home and this new normal we are in.
They miss their friends. They miss being able to have conversations with their teachers about their school work. And they miss the routine and normalcy that school brought to their lives.
The Struggle as a Parent with Distance Learning
Being put into this situation where we are having to step in and “teach” our children can be really tough. I know a lot of my friends have voiced the concern that they are not teachers which makes helping their kids through online distance learning really tough.
In addition to feeling like we don’t have the skills to make this as successful as we would like, we are all also struggling with the roller coaster of emotions that this time brings. For me, there are days that just feel really hard in general. Having to add in fighting with my kids to get their school work done feels so overwhelming and exhausting!
The Struggle for Kids with Doing School at Home
Another tough part of this whole situation is that there are a lot of distractions. Generally, my kids are using their devices to play Roblox or Minecraft with their friends, so having to use them to do school feels like an abrupt, and unwelcome change.
They are distracted by wanting to play video games, feeling bored, and worrying that they are missing out on time with their friends in their games.
In addition, all of this is still new. Every week things are slightly different and our kids are having to learn how to “do school” on top of doing their assignments.
I keep trying to remind myself to be patient and remember what it feels like when I get a new computer with a new operating system or a new phone – it takes time and patience to become proficient.
How to Overcome the Challenges of Online Schooling
While I definitely don’t think there is a one size fits all solution to these issues, I do think that there are some things we can try that may make this time easier for our kids – and for us!
Routines and Schedules
For some families having a routine that has an expected schedule is very helpful. Kids actually need routines in order to feel balanced and safe.
According to Education.com, “One of the most important things that you can do to make your young child feel safe is to establish as much routine in his life as possible. Children (and adults) feel the most secure when their lives are predictable.”
When kids don’t have a routine, they experience more stress over their unpredictable future. Add that on top of the stress that we are all feeling these days over our unpredictable future and you can see why kids might act out when it comes to just about anything!
If you decide to implement a routine it doesn’t have to be super structured and strict. It is fine to leave blocks of free time. The important thing is to make it as consistent as possible and communicate the new routine clearly to your children.
Some of my friends who are teachers have recommended a self-led learning option. I think this works really well if you are trying to balance work, distance learning, and dealing with all of the household chores.
To use this method, create a Chart with 3 columns titled: Need to Do, Working On, and Done.
Then, using sticky notes write all of the assignments, chores, and activities that you expect your child to get done in a day.
Your students are then allowed to choose what they want to do and when they want to do it. The expectation is that everything will be in the done column by an agreed-upon time.
You could update this daily or weekly. If you choose to do it weekly, make sure to write important due dates on assignments.
Another way to motivate your children to get through their daily assignments is to add rewards and break times.
At school your child’s classroom probably has a rewards system – my kids’ classes have used tickets (with a prize shopping day once a month), stamps, tokens, and even puzzle pieces. The concept is generally that kids collect the token (or stamp, ticket, etc.) and once they have a certain amount, they get a reward.
The rewards could really be just about anything:
- A fun activity
- Device time
- A small prize
- A small candy, cookie, or other treats
- One on One playtime with you
Taking breaks in the middle of learning is also another important strategy. At school, I have seen teachers use “wiggle breaks” where you get up and get your wiggles out for the length of one song.
I also love the website GoNoodle.com. Chances are your kids’ teachers have used this in their classrooms for indoor recess or for breaks throughout the day. You can create a free family account and access the fun active videos to work in breaks in your day at home!
At school kids also get recess and P.E. time which are other important breaks for their brains. Bringing activity into your daily schedule such as an online P.E. class, time on a trampoline or riding bikes, or even a quick dance party will help your kids feel refreshed and better able to focus.
Online Study Sessions
A lot of schools are doing zoom meetings with their classes. My kids tend to fight being on these but once they get on their whole demeanor changes. They need to see and talk to their friends and teachers just as much as we need that right now.
I have been playing around with an idea to take this one step further for my kids. I am thinking of reaching out to a few of my son’s friends and having them do one of their assignments together over Zoom or Google Hangouts each week.
I am hopeful that this might bring a little sense of normalcy back to their schoolwork and allow them to help each other out as they would in the normal classroom setting.
Making it Through Online Distance Learning
In the end, this period of time will hopefully be short-lived in the scheme of our kid’s total school career. There will be days that are harder than others. And there will be days that you and your kids breeze through school easily.
Make sure to have plenty of grace and patience for your kids and yourself during this time. I know our school keeps communicating that message and letting us know that they are here for us. Believe that and ask for help if you need it.
None of us (our kids included) signed up for school to be like this!
If you have other good ideas that are working for you and your kids, enter them in the comments below. I would love to hear them and I know that others could benefit from them as well.
Sending You Love and Light,
By the way, I have an online parenting resource library full of printables and tools that you can use with your kids (mainly around social-emotional issues such as anger, sibling rivalry, fear, and gratitude.) You can access the library for free by entering your email below.