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Remote-learning tips for parents

Practical tips for making at-home learning a success for your kids


A friend recently reached out to me for advice on remote-learning. Her kid's school is switching to 100% remote, and she knows I have been in the thick of it for a while now.


I was pleasantly surprised to realize I had a lot to say.


One or more of my kids have been remote since the beginning of the school year, and I’ve learned a lot since then. Once you get the big items (like obtaining a device and reliable internet connection) out of the way, there are lots of simple actions you can take to make your remote-learning experience go (sort of) smoothly:


SNACKS: Get a lot of them. Seriously. I deliver a bowl of snacks for each of my three kids in the morning and another in the afternoon, and they eagerly look forward to both. Focus on things they can munch on slowly and that aren’t messy for their face or fingers. For me, the winning snacks have been things like pretzels mixed with M&M’s, cut-up apples, carrots, crackers and yogurt drinks.


WATER: Make sure they each have a good-sized water bottle and that it’s filled up each morning. I bring them fresh water with their morning snack. I’ve been surprised by how much water they drink – more than on normal days, for sure. What I notice is that, if water is there, they will drink it; but if water is not there, they will not go get it.


HEADPHONES: Headphones can get uncomfortable fast if kids have to wear them all day. If you are able to spread your kids out in your house so they have enough space to listen to their teacher without disturbing one another, that is ideal. If this is not possible, be sure to have some comfy headphones ready for when video classes get too loud. Keep in mind that it is a LOT easier to keep track of whether or not your kid is in the right class if you can *hear* their teacher. Use this knowledge when deciding where kids should be stationed.


SUPPLIES: Put each kid’s supplies (including notebooks, workbooks, writing utensils, Kleenex, trash can, laptop and charger) together in a box or bin. Put the items at their work area each school day and make sure they all get returned to the bin at the end of the school day. There is nothing more frustrating than being constantly interrupted by kids asking where their pencil/charger/gym jump rope/etc. is. INSIST ON THIS RULE. You’ll be glad you did.


LOGINS: Hopefully your school will set up a central online location for the students to view their schedule and link to each class. If they don’t, MAKE ONE for each kid so you don’t have to keep helping them with the logins and passwords. You can write it down in their notebook or wherever is convenient, but I highly recommend that you set up an electronic sheet for this since the list can be extensive, and the passwords might change during the schoolyear. Hand-written lists get messy fast. Consider setting up a Google Doc for this and sharing it with your child’s Google account. Be sure to list out ZOOM meeting IDs and passwords in addition to the actual hyperlink (in case the hyperlink somehow gets broken). To start, this will be your biggest challenge, but hang in there, and your kids will soon be navigating the computer links and bookmarks (yes, show them how to make bookmarks) faster and better than you.


PENCIL SHARPENER: Purchase a good electric pencil sharpener. Your kids will use it a ton.


SCHEDULE: Keep your kid’s schedule handy. My 3rd-grader has a tough time staying focused with remote-school. For this reason, he sits right next to me while I work, so I can keep a close eye and ear on his class-time. I keep his school schedule up on my computer screen so I can quickly check to see which class he is supposed to be in, and nudge him if he forgets to switch.


DESK CHAIRS: A few weeks into the school year, my middle schooler’s #1 complaint was that his chair was uncomfortable. Older kids are often sitting for MUCH longer periods of time than squirmy elementary students are. Get a comfortable chair for them. Some schools are providing desks and chairs for students who request them, so be sure to reach out if you need one.


TIMERS: Use timers to keep your kids on track with their schedules and assigned activity times. Kids love setting timers themselves, so show your kids how to do them on the computer (just type “15 minute timer” in the google search bar) and let them pick which one to use.


GOOGLE DOCS: I use Google Docs as a way to message with my 6-year-old throughout the school day. He loves learning, so once he got the hang of using the computer to link to classes and school sites, I was able to put him at the top of the stairs – far enough away that he doesn’t have to use headphones, but close enough that he can holler down to me if he needs help. When he has a question, we’ll write back and forth in his Google Doc about what he needs. I’m pretty good at deciphering his rudimentary spelling now! Plus, he feels super cool to be “texting” me.


Above all else: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR FAMILY.


Not every parent will be comfortable with the same techniques. Not every technique will work with every kid. So do your best to build your personal toolkit and PLEASE SHARE IT with every fellow parent you know so we can all get smarter together.

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