Schools moving to a remote learning model for the start of the academic year is the talk of the town. Many parents who are already juggling work and household responsibilities are now also planning what fall will look like with their children learning at home. This creates new challenges for parents, students and teachers alike. Even with some childcare services offering new programs, many parents are looking for ways to help their children be as successful as possible in a remote learning environment. Here are a few ideas to help you start off the school year:
Kids are more likely to be successful with routines and organization. This will look different for every family, but having a routine to mark the start and end the school day can be beneficial. This can be as simple as starting the day with breakfast, getting dressed, and brushing your teeth before learning starts. Simple daily routines to mark the end of the school day could be to have your child(ren) put all their school materials and Chromebook away in a designated spot, going on a daily afterschool walk, or covering up their work area with an old bed sheet. If possible get your child’s input on what routines they would like to start and end each day with.
Ask Your Child’s Teacher for Support
What should you do if things aren’t going well? If your child seems confused and overwhelmed? If your child is refusing to do their schoolwork? The first place you should turn is to your child’s teacher. They are going to be your best resource. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them and let them know what is going on. They can’t help with problems they don’t know exist. In general it is easier to address problems when they are small and just starting rather than waiting until things feel really out of hand to ask for help. Communication between home and school is going to be more important this year than ever.
Designated Work Space
Try to create a space in your home designated for your child’s remote learning. If you have a spare desk or table that you can set up for them that is amazing, but it isn’t the only way to make it work. Even if you are using the kitchen table for school, having something as simple as an old hamper for them to store all their remote learning supplies in can ease the transition between school and play time. As much as possible, try to reduce distractions while your child is doing their schoolwork. This includes both noise and visual clutter in their workspace.
Schedules and Checklists
Making an individualized schedule or checklist for your child’s school day will help make their days more predictable. This helps children feel secure, stay organized, and have a sense of control. For older children this could just be sitting down with them for 5 minutes at the end of the school day to write out a checklist for what classes and assignments they have tomorrow. For younger children this might mean printing or making simple drawings to represent things they will need to do each day so they can cross them off as they finish each task. Think about the schedules teachers often post at the front of their classroom each day and help your child create something similar for themselves. You can find lots of sample schedules for kids of different ages online. Don’t forget that you can now print at the library if you don’t have access to a printer at home.
Kids need to move their bodies frequently throughout the day. When your child has breaks encourage them to get outside whenever possible. If you can’t get outside, encourage them to do jumping jacks, spin in circles, play balloon volleyball, or do a Go Noodle video.
Parents have many concerns about remote learning, not the least of which is how the lack of social opportunities may affect their child(rens) mental health. Consider signing your child up for some programs through the library! We are offering a variety of virtual programs such as book clubs, STEM programs, nature exploration opportunities, “lock-ins”, and crafts. You can also reach out to other parents to schedule Zoom chats or socially distant outdoor activities with friends.
Know What is Available
There are so many resources available to students, parents and families. Familiarizing yourself with them before you need them will help you feel more confident going into the school year. Check out this video to see some of the amazing resources we have available at the library! You can also use BrainFuse to interact with live tutors if your child needs homework help, test preparation, writing assistance and more after school hours when teachers aren’t available. Create a free account with BrainFuse to access live help from 2-11pm.
Many teachers use flexible seating in their classrooms, especially for younger students. To provide flexible seating options at home consider letting your child sit on a yoga ball, stool, rocking chair, or standing to work at an ironing board. If your child is sitting in an adult sized chair check to see if their feet touch the ground when they are sitting. If not, use an old box or bathroom step stool as a footrest. Having comfortable seating can improve a child’s concentration.
Often when children and adults need to sit and listen for long periods of time they can focus better if their hands are busy. For adults this often looks like fidgeting with a pen, sipping water regularly, chewing gum, or bouncing their feet. Oftentimes children need something a bit more than this. Giving your child a small bin with a few different fidget options can help extend the amount of time they are able to focus on their remote learning. Look around your house for things like pipe cleaners they can twist around their fingers, small long-forgotten party favors (like mini slinkies and spinning tops), fidget spinners, yo-yos, stress balls, or oil and water toys. If you are really brave, Silly Putty can be a great fidget. If you can’t find anything around your house there are tons of ideas online for DIY fidgets and sensory bottles that you could try making with your child.
Taking Care of Yourself
We see you, parents and caregivers! We know that you want the best for your children and are working so hard. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, too. If you are not taking care of your physical and emotional needs you will not have as much energy and patience with your children. Take breaks when you need them and if you have concerns about your mental health, or the mental health of others in your household, please reach out to a professional. You can find information for McHenry County Crisis Services here or for residents of Kane County you can learn more about Crisis Services in your area here.
We hope that you find some of these tips helpful. Every child is unique and you know your child best so take what you need and leave the rest. If there is anything we can do to help you on your educational journey this year, please reach out to us!