August is usually filled with an air of anticipation and excitement for getting back to school. This year, however, you’re probably in a cloud of stress. With distance learning on the horizon, parents will be doubling as part-time teachers, siblings will replace familiar classmates and friends, and schedules still include a LOT of time at home.
As with anything in life, a positive mindset and adequate preparation can have a huge effect on success. Let’s look at a few ways to get your kids ready and even excited for a year of online learning.
Build Hype with Shopping
School shopping has always been about more than gathering supplies. Our kids’ preferences and personalities shine through their choices, and shopping builds excitement for the new year. Even though online shopping may be less of a thrill, be sure to involve your kids whenever and however possible. When that Amazon box arrives, make it a BIG deal.
Here are some ideas about what you’ll need for online learning.
- Folders and Notebooks: It’s still a good idea to grab that unicorn folder or Marvel notebook. Organization for subject notes is important with online learning, too! If you’re doing hybrid learning, where kids go to school part-time, organization means fewer headaches for you.
- Planners or Calendars: Yes, calendars DO still exist! Writing down daily assignments and putting live Zoom meetings on a calendar is a good habit to start. Review the planner with your student each night. It’s a great communication tool that allows you to monitor your student’s progress.
- Desk Organization Tools: Don’t forget that pencil box. You’ll still need it! Even if you already have pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue at home, it’s important to keep designated school supplies in one place. An organized workspace will help your child to be prepared for any assignment without searching for the supplies they need to begin.
Offer Choice in the Schedule
Online learning offers an abundance of flexibility, but a loose schedule is still beneficial. Engage your child in the process of making your family’s plan.
- Don’t over schedule: Skip the minute by minute plan and opt for a loose time-block schedule instead. Remember, what takes all day in a typical classroom of 25 can be accomplished more quickly at home in a class of 1. Your child’s school district or online curriculum provider should offer suggestions on screen-time for schoolwork so that you can plan accordingly. If they don’t, ask them. Create a general schedule for your student and tape it inside their planner so expectations are clear from the start.
- Don’t fight habits: Some kids just aren’t morning people. Revel in the power to work around sleep schedules so everyone starts the day well-rested and in a good mood.
- Add lots of screen breaks: Kids will love getting more free time than the typical school recess. Frequent breaks to stretch and move will improve their productivity when they sit to work.
Create an Organized Setup
Create a space conducive to learning. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be a desk!
- Try a lap desk: A lap desk (in addition to a real desk) will give your student the ability to work from the comfort of the couch or while sprawled out on the floor. While this might not sound like the optimal learning environment, it’s a great option for households with siblings. Consider how frustrating it is for Aiden to watch his Science video while Evie practices reading aloud. With the possibility of parents working from home, too, the ability to pick up and move to a quiet spot will be helpful.
- Device set-up: If your children are sharing a home computer, set it up so that each child has a separate profile. No matter the device, be sure to create desktop shortcuts to frequently visited school sites. Create a password list and tape it inside that unicorn folder.
- Charging Station: As schools send home devices for distance learning, cords quickly become tangled and open outlets disappear. To organize this chaos, wrap a piece of masking tape around each cord and label it with Evie’s Chromebook or Mom’s Work Computer. Clear off some desk or counter space to store all cords near accessible outlets. Create the habit of plugging in all devices after each use to ensure your family’s devices are always ready when it’s time to log on.
Remember that every school year starts with a few days focused on processes and procedures. Start your online school year in the same way. Try to be hands-on those first few days:
- Teach tech navigation skills.
- Reinforce where school supplies are located.
- Help to organize notebooks and folders.
With a strong foundation, you can empower your children to lead their online learning, which will ultimately lead to the healthy home/school/work balance we’re all striving to achieve.
Ryan Jackson recently joined the Lincoln Learning Solutions team as a mathematics teacher. She has more than 8 years of experience in online education. Ryan spends her free time traveling across the U.S. with her husband and two children.