How to Be More Supportive of Your Kids With Online Learning
Now that your children are stuck at home and transitioned to online learning, as a parent, how can you help them do well academically?
With parents furloughed from their jobs and pupils moved to home learning, they find themselves in the same boat — both are stuck at home — in the middle of the ocean of minutes passing like hours.
Teachers and educators have been very busy making sure the lockdown affects their pupils’ academic development as little as possible. Students at home were assigned written exercises, have been given slide shows, and have been attending their classes through videoconference.
While the transition to online learning has been seamless for some students, others find themselves struggling. Others are searching for motivation as it remains unclear when face-to-face classes will take up again for all.
If you’re a parent, you can help your kids keep up with their school work.
- 1 Supporting your kids with online learning: Setting ground rules
- 2 Five ways to support your child’s online learning
- 3 How to keep children happy and learning
- 4 We’re all in this together
Supporting your kids with online learning: Setting ground rules
According to UNICEF, about 3 billion people are in lockdown around the world, and almost 90 percent of the student population is cut off from school. Being stuck at home, it is no surprise that kids are increasingly connecting to the outside world through their mobile devices.
Indeed, the internet has never been this critical for everyone to get access to online learning, playing, social interaction, and entertainment.
Even before the pandemic, parents were already worried about how much time their children spend on social media and online games. It’s understandable that parents should be more concerned about their kids’ screentime now that they are stuck at home for an indefinite time.
It’s even more challenging because media outlets have instilled in the minds of the children that gaming can save their sanity during social distancing, and that playing video games is actually a productive thing to do during the quarantine period.
What you can do
To help your children with their online learning, consider limiting their screen time (cell phones, tablets, computers, and TV) until their schoolwork is done — properly and satisfactorily. By doing so, their projects or assignments will receive undivided attention.
Yes, games, apps, and messaging features are fun. And yes, they do help keep your kids sane during isolation, but take note that they can also prove distracting.
If you have the means to provide your kids with a dedicated device for online learning (i.e., school laptop), then great. It will help your children maximize their online learning.
If you are fortunate enough to have several rooms in your house, then giving your children a dedicated online learning space shouldn’t be much of a problem.
A learning space at home can boost your child’s creativity, sharpen their focus, and even spike their motivation levels. Classrooms are designed to help learners center their attention to learning, and although you do not have the same square footage as school, you can still create an impactful learning space for your kids.
You may be wondering, “Why can’t my kid just hop on the family couch and learn there?” That can work, yes; but it might not be the best way for your child to learn.
When you do not have a specific learning spot for your child, your young learner can get easily distracted. Moreover, there is no sense of consistency and they do not have the supplies they need nearby.
Although the family couch is comfortable, it may not be the best option for your children who are still in the process of learning about routines, self-regulation, and early education. This is also true for teens.
What you can do
Some families have the luxury to have extra rooms that they can turn into dedicated learning spots for their kids. If that’s your case, then we encourage you to do so. But don’t worry. A dedicated space in your home can also be your child’s learning spot. Know there are tons of easy and exciting ways to create space!
- Declutter the space – create a clean and organized environment by removing distractions. Having too many books, supplies, and toys can create a feeling of chaos.
- Ensure the space is comfortable – Like adults, young learners need to have a comfortable place to work. And as a parent, it’s your role to ensure your child is comfortable enough to want to spend more time learning. Whether you have to give them a weighted blanket to alleviate stress or putting bean bags so they are seated with ease, comfort really does matter!
- Keep it well-light with natural lighting – Studies from the University of Nebraska show that natural lighting is essential for learning environments as it boosts performance, creativity, and well-being. If you do not have good lighting, you can put a mirror across from a window to reflect natural light into the room.
- Provide books, hands-on activities, and room for growth – Have books and activities readily available. According to research from Oxford Academic, “Books in the home have a positive payoff in improved test scores throughout the world.” It doesn’t matter how many books a home has. The bottom line is that a home library does help children do better in reading.
- Be mindful of the color – Colors do have different effects. In fact, some colors are more conducive to learning. Young learners thrive in bright and stimulating colors. Orange, for example, helps enhance productivity. On the other hand, green is a cool color that has a calming effect.
Monitor the monitor
The pandemic has forced millions of students to stay at home and transition to online learning. In this new learning setting, you can support your children by monitoring their levels of interest, interaction, and engagement to their new learning environment and at-home materials.
What you can do
Learning what your kids are interested in needs time and patience. The best way to monitor your children’s levels of interest is by observing them. Check if their eyes are following along with the screen. See if they are snoozing, distracted, taking notes, or zoning out.
After their online learning class, ask them questions. If you find that your kids are not engaging with the online classes, you may want to contact the teachers or school district to help you explore the issue.
Sometimes, what causes students to zone out are simple things like bad audio, poor camera angle, or dropping internet connection that you could easily remedy. Having a good hardware setup can make all the difference!
Staying at home and online learning should not be reasons for your kids to be physically inactive. Give them plenty of breaks to get physical activities and time off from screens.
Did you know? Screentime is a huge contributor to childhood obesity and is actually a leading risk factor for global mortality, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
That doesn’t mean though that screen time is all bad. In fact, some kids may be only getting physical activity through digital devices. Active video games or exercise videos prove that kids can still be physically active even being stuck inside.
The aim of the digital recess is to allow your children to get time away from screen.
What you can do
Set alarms to encourage your children to get up and get some fresh air. Sometimes, it depends on the teacher whether to give breaks or not. It’s best to talk to the teacher and get an idea of what the class would be like and know if there would be a digital recess.
Encourage video chat
We’re not sure when this pandemic will be gone. Kids will not return to school until it’s safe. Your kids must be missing in-person interaction with their friends. And you sure do not want your kids to feel socially isolated, but at the same time, you want to protect them from becoming wholly addicted to their devices — scrolling through social media.
Social connections are extremely important. School offers kids not only time to interact and play with their friends but also a larger community where they belong to, with its own norms and culture.
In schools, kids are constantly practicing their social skills with each other. They test what behavior is proper and acceptable, analyze what goes too far, and identify what could be reciprocated. This dynamic process is hard to replicate at home.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents are loosening strict limits on screen time as part of their online learning. Parents home that virtual playdates can help their kids can spare their kids the anxiety the pandemic is spreading.
That doesn’t mean screen time shouldn’t have limits. As discussed earlier, digital quarantine plays a significant role in your children’s academic success.
What you can do
Encourage virtual playdates. Thanks to technology, almost anything that kids used to do offline before the coronavirus can now be done online with just a few taps or clicks and a dash of creativity.
Game and movie nights, dance and homework parties, storytime and circle time, charades — your kids can do these virtually with their friends.
Any opportunity to keep up your children’s social contact with others is good for their mental health. This is especially true for younger kids, in which social interaction is a crucial part of education. For older kids, social interaction is important for their social development.
While your children are confined in your home, encourage them to interact with their peers virtually — not only is it fun but it also helps fight cabin fever.
Their virtual social interaction should not be explicit to their classmates and peers only. You may also encourage them to contact their cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents.
Not a vacation
The rapid growth of school closures forced students and workers to stay at home. But be reminded that this is not a vacation nor it is a spring break.
Staying at home from school really feels like a holiday, but you have to remind your kids that they are not on vacation and that they still need to continue their online learning by taking assignments and exams.
Classes may have moved online, but that doesn’t make SATs and ACTs go away. They still have schedules to follow, homework to complete, and requirements to comply. Most of the time to be spent at home should be for online learning, not for binge-watching movies and snoozing all day.
What you can do
You can help your kids set their minds for online learning by following their schedules. We understand that this can be a bit troublesome in the first few weeks, considering everyone’s schedules are messed up.
Help them follow a daily routine and fight procrastination.
If you’re a teacher, try different schedules until you find one that works well for you and your learners. Try sampling different schedules during the school week to identify which one is the most beneficial for your students.
For parents, talk to your child about how he or she would organize the school schedule.
Although the closing of schools is not a vacation, that doesn’t necessarily mean your children should not have fun with their online learning.
Make time for enjoyable activities and ensure to include breaks. This leads us to our next online learning ground rule…
Don’t forget to have fun
Students should never put away their focus on online learning, but that doesn’t mean they cannot have fun. The transition must have been very overwhelming for them, especially for those who do not have the luxury of having the needed resources.
Many students are still scrambling to move to online classes. Not only do learners have to deal with technical difficulties, but many of them are struggling with the instructional materials (or the lack of it).
They are now encouraged to study most of the lessons by themselves using the materials provided. They cannot always ask questions when they need to or get the support when they’re zoning out.
What you can do
Keeping in mind the challenges and hurdles that students face with online learning, it’s essential to plan off-screen activities for the whole family. The school closures and work furloughs must have been very hard for both students and parents, but the lockdown is actually a blessing in disguise — it gives families the opportunity to bond.
At the end of their school day, play games with your kids. It could be something like writing predictions for a TV show or movie that the whole family watches. You can also play card games, charades, or Pictionary.
Screen time does have positive effects on kids, but let’s not forget about the adverse effects. That said, we encourage parents to never neglect off-screen activities with kids.
Five ways to support your child’s online learning
Setting ground rules for online learning is just the beginning of showing the support to your child. Below are tips on how to support your kids’ online learning:
Keep them engaged
Does your child hate spending the day at a desk on their homework? You can keep them engaged by doing real-time interactive activities.
Interactive games featuring puzzles and problem-solving activities are a great way to keep them learning and engaged. You can also have your students watch videos on YouTube Learning or BBC Teach. Accompanied by printable resources covering a wide range of topics, you can make sure your children are learning even during screen time.
Keep them full
We all know how children get grumpy when they are starving. It can be really daunting to ask your kids to do their homework while they are screaming for ice cream, right?
So how do you keep them full while learning? You can teach your children through cooking. For example, baking cookies with kids is a great opportunity to teach them the concepts of fractions, adjectives, or even foreign languages.
You and your kid can work on simple recipes, such as chocolate chip cookies, pancakes, ice cream, or as simple as a lemonade!
This is not surprising, but it helps to remember that hunger may impact your child’s academic performance. Research shows that kids from families who aren’t stable when it comes to food are more likely to have lower math scores and repeat a grade.
Hungry kids might be less equipped to reach their maximum potential as they engage with the world around them.
Is your child zoning out in his or her online class? Perhaps a quick snack can help sharpen his or her focus again.
Keep them active
There’s another global epidemic that’s been spreading, and it has affected millions of kids — childhood inactivity. The online classes may not involve so many physical activities. If that’s the case, then it’s your responsibility to ensure to get your children moving.
Screentime could also mean exercise. Consider Wii games like virtual sports and dancing. Fitness videos can also help your kids to get the physical activity they need.
Keep things short and simple
Does making your children watch a feature-length documentary on TV can help them learn for a longer period of time? Maybe. But it could also mean that they are not absorbing the information in the most effective way.
Students learn when there is a balance between task demand and available resources. That means you have to consider how hard the topic is, how long it takes versus your children’s prior knowledge about the topic, and the resources that they already have on hand.
Successful content should have the right amount of load — not too high that will make students to disengage, and not too low that learners will feel they are not challenged.
Keep them wanting for more
Until the scientists and doctors find a cure against the new coronavirus, students won’t be returning to schools. They will need to stay inside and continue their online learning. And because they are to stay at home for an indefinite period, you have to ensure they are kept occupied for the whole period.
Offer your kids bite-sized lessons that they will enjoy. When difficult lessons are chunked into smaller pieces, kids are more likely to absorb the information and feel less intimidated with the lessons.
BBC Bitesize, for example, is a site entirely dedicated for student use. Students can have access to the content easily. It has thousands of free quizzes, as well as fun and educational games designed for primary-aged children.
How to keep children happy and learning
No viruses or school closures should stop children from learning and being happy. As a parent, here are things you can to ensure your kids do not lack the happiness and learning they need:
Maintain a routine
When you spend the entire day in the house, things can easily become unstructured. And because of that, maintaining a routine for yourself and your children can be difficult.
During the school closures, students may also have a lack of routine. What will help is if you try to mimic a classroom environment at home. But not just that, it also helps if you set out what to do each day.
We suggest parents to stick to a structure and routine. Older children can create a timetable to help them set their plans throughout the day.
It would also help if you hold a family meeting and discuss the changes that will take place at home. Your kids may have questions, and it’s important that you take the time to explain the coronavirus and why things have to be the way it is.
Exercise and activity
It’s common knowledge that exercise enhances physical well-being. But it’s barely discussed how physical activities can impact mental health.
Confinement is not good for human beings, more so to kids who are thirsty for social interactions.
Both adults and young people need to do physical activities each week in order to stay up and healthy. Light exercises should not be taken for granted.
This also reminds parents to reduce the time their kids spend sitting or lying down. Encourage your kids to dance, do puzzles, build Lego constructions, sing, bake, or cook.
Socialize as much as possible
Children, without a doubt, miss their classmates and crave social interaction with their peers. The good news is that you can make use of technology to fill the void.
Playdates via Zoom, Skype, or other communication tools are highly encouraged, especially during these times.
You can also get your children online with some of his or her classmates so they can see each other and discuss assignments.
We’re all in this together
If you think you’re the only one who has kids to support with online learning, then you’re absolutely wrong. Thousands of parents around the world are helping their children to adapt to the new normal, that is, distance learning.
You are not alone. If you ever find yourself needing help, you can always check in with other parents and see what they have been effectively doing to support their kids’ online learning. It also helps to contact the teachers of your kids.
Reach out to PTA or the school district. Connecting with other parents and teachers can go a long way.
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