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January 27, 2021

A Parent’s Guide To Navigating Remote Learning

Jacqueline Lau

Child sits at a desk using an iPad, resting her head on one hand.

Remote Learning Challenges

If your child is struggling with remote learning, there are key factors you could consider implementing to ease frustration and create a better experience.

If you are a parent with school-aged children or post-secondary young adults, you are likely not new to remote learning. You have probably experienced the first extended school closures last March, took it in stride, and made the best of the situation. With the most recent state of emergency in Ontario, parents are once again finding themselves juggling various hats during the day such as math teachers, chemistry teachers, and IT support, just to name a few – all the while managing personal tasks and a professional workload if they are working from home. It is no easy feat and by no means, easier the second time around. You may have already learned what works for your child and your family. Perhaps you are curious for more ideas. Below are some suggestions that can help you set your child up for success and consequently, make remote learning a more enjoyable experience for all.  

Structure, Predictability, and Consistency

In a period where there are many unknowns, these three factors are keystones to establishing a sense of safety and security. Structure, predictability, and consistency allow children, youth, and young adults to know what to expect, which in turn decreases feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

  • Most students are more engaged, focused, and have higher energy levels during the mornings. Consider scheduling their day accordingly.
  • Have a designated work area, preferably a common area where parents and caregivers can provide supervision or assistance if needed. Discourage working in bed.
  • Eliminate distractions. If this involves a family pet, consider moving them to another room when your child is engaged in classes.
  • Provide a schedule of the day. A visual schedule is best for young students. Consider including as many details as possible, such as recess, lunch, and breaks to help your child stay on task.
  • Establish a schedule that is as close as your child’s schedule when they are in in-person learning. This means:
  • Establishing a morning routine: For example, waking up at the same time each day, washing up, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, turning on their laptop on by a certain time each day.
  • Prepare for the next school day the evening before: For example, checking to ensure homework for the following day is completed, organizing the workspace, allowing your child to choose their snack for the following day.

Breaks/Movement

Screen fatigue is real. Encourage your child to take breaks throughout the school day. Breaks can be tailored to your child’s interests to keep them engaged and stimulated. Try to encourage your child to walk away from their screens so that they can give their eyes a rest. Incorporating movement breaks can help reduce stress and anxiety as well as help the child feel refreshed for learning.

  • Encourage movement breaks prior to beginning an academic task.
  • Suggest going for a walk during lunch time.
  • Stretch (i.e. chair yoga).
  • Have a 5-minute dance party.
  • For younger children, imitate the movement of different animals (i.e. Walk like an elephant - slowly with one arm swinging as the trunk, jump like a kangaroo, wiggle like a worm).
  • Doodle.
  • Utilize fidget toys. Fidget toys may also be used during class time (it helps some students with concentration) provided that it is not a distraction.
  • Allow your child to stand during part of their class time.
  • Eye games (I Spy, ask your child to look outside and see if they can spot 3 things that are red, 1 thing that starts with an A, etc.). Feel free to be creative!

Organization and Transition

Since students remain in more or less the same place throughout school hours, you could consider helping them to break up their day so that academic tasks feel more manageable.

  • Chunking provides opportunities for students to complete tasks in small portions as it may be overwhelming finishing it all in one sitting. For example, you can have an agreement with your child to take a break when they have completed 5 math questions.
  • Encourage your child to tackle an academic task they prefer before working on another one they don’t enjoy as much. This may build confidence and momentum for subsequent tasks.
  • Set goals and provide non-monetary rewards when goals have been achieved.
  • Allow adequate time to start and end a task.
  • Provide prompts and gentle reminders (i.e. We will be starting homework in 5 minutes, We will take a break and go for a walk when the big hand on the clock reaches 12).

Proximity and Connection

The reality is, many things in the home may be a distraction. When we consider how teachers keep their students focused and engaged in the classroom, it gives us a glimpse of the strategies that may also be effective at home.

  • Try to be near your child when they are participating in class times. This is one way you can help your child to stay focused without interfering with their learning. You and your child may decide on a fun non-verbal signal (i.e. A tickle on their arm, a dance move) or a one-worded cue that can be used to redirect their attention if you notice that they are getting distracted.
  • Provide positive feedback, encouragement, and praise.
  • Listen to and validate your child’s emotions. Perhaps you and your child can have a casual conversation about how they are finding remote learning, their likes, their dislikes, and things that may make the experience more enjoyable. Consider brainstorming potential solutions with your child. Remind your child that they are not the only ones struggling. Chances are, other students may be finding this difficult as well. Let your child know you understand and you’re here to support them.

Happy learning! 

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