With schools being closed due to the pandemic, parents and kids alike are being forced to quickly adapt to the rigors of online classes. Almost every school system in the nation has converted to some kind of remote learning system.
Older children probably can adapt fairly quickly — but what about your pre-teen or grade school children? Without the structure of a classroom and a teacher hovering over them, how can they keep their focus?
It isn’t always an easy task to keep your children oriented around their schoolwork under the best of circumstances. Remote learning, therefore, presents some unique challenges — but we believe that you can handle them! Here are some tips that can help:
- Have a Dedicated Space and a Plan
Everyone focuses a little better when they’re in an organized, comfortable workspace. Whether your child has a desk or you’re improvising classroom space at the dining room table, make sure:
- The space is clean and clear of clutter. Put only the things that need to be in the space for effective learning. Most likely, that’s your child’s computer, books, a notebook and writing materials.
Removing clutter is the number one thing you can do to help encourage your children to be productive. The negative physical and psychological effects of clutter are well-documented. Studies show that clutter raises the level of cortisol, the human stress hormone, in our bodies and overstimulates our brains. That makes it much harder for young students (and grown adults) to process new information and concentrate on the tasks they have at hand.
Clutter also has a negative effect on childhood behavior. Crowded, cluttered homes are associated with a lack of routine — both of which can contribute to a child’s difficulty regulating their behavior. That’s nothing you want to be dealing with when you’re trying to effectively homeschool.
- Limit Potential Distractions and Media Usage
Distractions abound, wherever you are — but it can be especially difficult to overcome them when you’re in your own home. For online students, the biggest distractions are usually:
- Social media, whether that’s falling down a rabbit hole on Discord or browsing through Tumblr for jokes
- Electronics, whether that’s texting on their phones or the deep desire to binge-watch another anime series on Netflix
- Pets and family, because the dog, cat and their siblings are infinitely more interesting than their schoolwork to the average kid
As the parent in this situation, your job is to put a stop to as many distractions as possible. That may mean collecting cellphones at the start of class, shutting the dog out of the kids’ workspace and putting the television remotes out of reach until school time is done.
- Create a Visible Schedule and Use a Timer
Unless your child is an e-learning veteran, they are pretty used to having a set schedule for their classes. (Think back to your own days and how you probably watched the clock from time to time.)
Don’t let e-classes drag on forever. While e-classes often give you the benefit of flexible learning times, they can also become wearisome after a while. Your child needs to know, for example, that if they tough it out in math class for the next 45 minutes that they can move on to something they like much better. Math will still be waiting on them when it’s time to turn back.
To keep your children from staring at the clock, try using an egg timer or the alarm function on your phone. Once the bell rings, just like at school, they can move on.
- Make Room for Breaks and Social Time
Hand-in-hand with the idea of scheduled work times is the need for regular breaks and social time. Regular breaks are considered essential in schools everywhere because they help:
- Improve student attentiveness: When a lesson drags on too long, minds wander and the time spent trying to hammer some new information home becomes counterproductive.
- Consolidate information: The human brain actually needs “downtime” to process information, make plans and reflect. Your kids may not really understand the information they’ve learned by rote until they have some time to themselves.
- Boost brain function: Physical activity helps increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, boosts neural activity and helps stimulate the human ability to remember and learn.
It’s perfectly okay to add some social time into the picture. You can, guilt-free, let your kids chat with their friends on social media, post their favorite memes or play with their siblings or the dog if you want — as long as you have the clear understanding that it’s time to head back to class when the timer goes off.
- Mix Hands-On Learning and Screen Time
Sitting in front of a computer screen and taking in all of your lessons can get terribly dreary. It may also be harder for some kids to learn that way. Try to mix a few “hands-on” lessons during the day.
You can have an art period, for example, and let them play in finger paints or break out the crayons. Or, whip up a simple chemistry experiment, like a homemade tornado in a bottle or a baking soda volcano. Such experiments will not only engage their imaginations but cement your position as the “coolest teacher ever” in their minds.
You may find that you have to put more energy into the e-learning process at the start than you anticipate, but those efforts should pay off in the end as the kids (and you) gradually grow into their new routines and the entire process becomes more streamlined.