The New Home Schooling: Help Your Student Thrive Through Virtual Learning

By Addison Dunn

Parents, students, and educators everywhere are in a world of uncharted waters. Families are facing new challenges every day and parents are being asked to take on a whole new role with their children. The fast transitions are overwhelming and we are all asking, “Am I doing this right?” and “How am I going to last beyond two weeks?” or you may simply be saying, “I am not tech savvy enough!” We asked 5th Grade teacher Debra K. Lackey at Kernersville Elementary for some tips to help your student thrive with virtual learning during this difficult time.

Mrs. Lackey explained, “Advice for families would include communicating technology needs or issues with their child’s school, reaching out via email to introduce themselves to their child’s teacher(s) at the beginning of the year, helping set up a “school spot” somewhere in the home that children can feel is their workspace (preferably away from other screens or distracting places), and helping their child utilize an online or paper checklist/planner on a daily basis to keep track of tasks.  

Depending on the age of the child, some students will need more assistance than others, but in the beginning, the students are going to need help getting into the routine of meeting their teachers online at the scheduled times and making sure they are completing their independent tasks. It is also beneficial for an adult to check in with them throughout the day to see what help they need, what has been accomplished, work through any issues, and determine what still needs to be done. If a student needs help, try to provide assistance or suggest reaching out to the teacher so he or she is aware of this. Also, I would encourage patience for all parties involved: this is a new way of beginning a school year for all of us and we are utilizing a new Learning Management System called Canvas. We all are going to take a few days to adjust to this mix of online “face-to-face” time and independent practice/small group time.”

Studies have shown that children, and most adults, thrive on a routine. The routine should consist of academic time with structured breaks throughout the day for mind and body. Routines for all ages should mimic the school day the student just left behind.

  • If possible, contact your child’s teacher and ask for the daily schedule so you can try to incorporate this at home.
  • Set your alarms for the same time as when you were physically going to school each morning.
  • Eat lunch at the time your child ate lunch at school.
  • If your child enjoyed PE, make sure to plan for movement breaks at various times and specifically at the same times each day.

During this time at home, it is also very important to consider your own needs as a parent. Ensure you have time to shower, sleep, and have some moments of quiet time throughout the day. Plan for predictable afternoons and relaxing evenings with your children, and as much as possible, plan for them to be as typical as they would be during the normal school week.

A routine is crucial when it comes to screen time and using devices for virtual learning. Excessive screen time does have an impact on brain development. Technology is a very powerful resource for learning and we must remember to limit our student’s windows of time on devices. Ensuring the screen time is scheduled with movement breaks is crucial to the daily routine for you to have a successful remote learning plan. 

As we navigate the extended period of time at home, it will be very important for you and your child to have a specific space for learning. The environment should be an area you and your child can create together to ensure that it promotes excitement towards learning.

Here are some things to consider when setting up a learning space:

  • Ensure the space has appropriate seating for the age of your learner.
  • Center it around a hard surface for a device, writing, and reading materials.
  • Make sure it is a quiet, distraction-free area.
  • It needs to be well-lit with as much natural light as possible.
  • Spacious enough for you and your child to work together.
  • Access to outlets as devices will need chargers to continue virtual learning.

If you are working with multiple children in your family, consider giving each child their own basket with supplies and a place to store materials specific to them, just as they would have at school. This will provide a sense of ownership to their space. In each student’s basket, you can provide pencils, paper, books, headphones, and any other materials they may need. The basket is also a handy place to store a water bottle or cup so you do not have to keep washing used ones throughout the day.

“This school year’s remote instruction is going to look very different from last spring. We essentially had a few workdays to reinvent the wheel and there was not as much accountability for when and how students completed work. I do not believe this will be the case in the fall as daily attendance for each class will be expected and there will be graded work occurring with feedback in each class. Fridays are again scheduled to be Flex Fridays. This provides times for students to get additional assistance in small groups or one-on-one with a teacher through the virtual setting. Students can also do additional practice on skills or makeup missing work. Teachers will also provide some enrichment opportunities for students to explore according to their own interests,” Mrs. Lackey explained.

Parents, children, and teachers are in a world of unknown right now, all trying to survive and thrive with virtual learning. We must be patient, understanding, and work together to support our children to the best of our ability. As you work at home to support your young learner, setting up a routine for them and providing a learning space will give them a structure they crave while they are not able to attend school.

For more information reach out to the school system for help or use their Safe Return to School portion of the WSFCS website. Here you will find a plethora of information about how the year will work and tips for families to help their children be successful.

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