For many families, the sudden transition to online school during the pandemic has been a real challenge. Overnight, most parents have found themselves working from home, becoming teachers, as well as having to manage the usual household chores.
Everyone has been caught unprepared. No-one would have ever come close to imagining ourselves in this kind of situation.
Consequently, mums and dads have had to improvise. Doing their best to get by with a whole host of difficulties, from connection that comes and goes, to the inevitable distraction of children.
Beyond the months of stress, perhaps every parent has learned something from the pandemic. Today, each one is more prepared to deal with life at home, having developed some fundamental skills they can put to use when schools have to close again.
So what can be done to best manage distance learning?
Here are some suggestions which all share the same lowest common denominator: organisation.
Setting aside space
Let’s start with the house. Organising spaces is essential for ensuring your child has their own spot for attending lessons and studying in peace. It doesn’t have to be a room of their own: the lounge or kitchen table can be used as long as they’re free from other objects or utensils, which could distract them. It’s important they have access to everything they need during lessons or studying: pencil cases, books, notebooks, etc. Of course, don’t forget a bottle of water unless you want constant drink requests.
Establishing a routine
Children need to have structured organisation, even more at a sensitive time like this. It’s very useful to set up a daily schedule. A chalkboard is perfect for a sort of to-do list, which they can follow every day.
This gives them an opportunity to follow a routine as if they were at school. Waking up at least one hour before lessons, with plenty time to get up, wash, have breakfast, can have a positive effect on the learning process. Breaks are also important, so they should be taken into account when planning the day.
Plus, management of lessons should be well structured.
Printing off a schedule of online activities with all the information required to connect will help them become more independent. Once they’re assigned homework, a checklist to keep track of how much has been done and what there is left to do can be a great motivator.
When you notice they aren’t managing to stay focused, sitting with them can really make a difference, so perhaps work alongside them while they have their lesson or do their homework.
Sitting in front of a device is very difficult at their age. And distraction lurks in every corner of the house. Keep a watchful eye on them from time to time to ensure they don’t miss anything key from being too distracted.
Houses are full of distractions; everything can be distracting.
Just think of toys, pets or the TV. Every parent knows what distracts their child, and can keep these things out of reach. Even Wi-Fi connection, for example, can be turned off once online activities have been finished.
It may be that children don’t receive enough reassurance from teachers. Putting a reward mechanism in place can help keep their motivation up. When they’ve finished a piece of homework or a lesson, they deserve our praise.A tick, a star or a sticker next to a particular completed activity can be very encouraging. With younger children, other options can work, such as giving them a sweet, allowing them to play with a favourite toy, or pushing bedtime back by 15 minutes. For older children, watching a film or dedicating extra time to a game on their table.
Collaborating with other families
In such difficult times, maintaining close links with our community and helping one another is increasingly comforting.
School is actually much more than a place of learning. It is a place where children can socialise and hone their networking skills. Social links made at school have a positive effect on academic performance. Allowing children to interact online with their friends could reduce the effects of being socially distanced. One example might be organising a daily video chat with a friend or friendship group. If a child is struggling with a piece of work, they could be encouraged to phone a friend.
Maintaining a relationship with teachers
Teachers can help much more than we really think. And they’re usually more than willing to help. If there’s a problem, for example if a child can’t attend a lesson or if they can’t complete their work, it’s important to mention this to teachers, too.A lack of communication with the parent can be difficult for a teacher, especially with dads.If a child is struggling with a piece of homework and you have time to help them, the first thing to do is put them in contact with the teacher.
Sports and physical exercise
Whilst it’s true that a lot of sports can’t be done during the pandemic, some can be organised with a bit of creativity. Since the beginning of lockdown, there have been several online initiatives, both for adults and children.
Dancing, Zumba, Yoga and so many others are now available even for free online. Just suggest them to your children and have a go together. Or, why not follow along to some on your own? Physical exercise also helps the mind. Physical activity improves problem-solving, attention span, as well as memory. It also reduces stress and anxiety.
Sport should be part of the new daily routine, perhaps in the afternoon after finishing homework.
Finding time to take a break
At a truly exceptional time like this, things can’t be expected to go perfectly.
But distance learning can also have its advantages. It’s a time when everyone, parents and children, are living together in a new way, with the opportunity to learn so much. The pandemic will likely have a lasting impact on this generation and will affect the lives of children today and how they interact with the world.
These long days spent together at home are an opportunity to learn to be with our children more, developing a sense of unity and collaboration. The challenge is therefore to come out of this with children who are more thoughtful, more connected to their families and more caring of others. And as parents, to be reaffirmed and respected.
To read more articles on this theme, click here!