Nobody expected it. No one was ready for it. Distance learning is something new, for parents, teachers, and most students alike. With everyone trying to figure out how to make this work, there is a huge range in the difference between how some are actually thriving, and others are either just coping or at their wits end. Here are 8 strategies to help you now.
Ready? Let’s jump in:
1.Cut yourself some slack
Remember that this is not going to be perfect. No one is perfect, and hey, we’re in a pandemic: new territory for everyone. Parents, please don’t expect to know it all, the same is true for teachers and students. Know that everyone is trying their best.
Self-compassion, speaking to yourself in a kind rather than judgmental way, really does make a huge difference. This stuff is hard, and it is not the time to do it alone. It can be a relief to supplement with additional resources, like Khan Academy, Discovery Education, and so many others.
Kathryn Haydon, education consultant, innovation expert, and former second grade teacher explains, that the goal of distance learning should be to engage kids in learning, to provide connection, and to provide a sense of continuity and normalcy. “The goal should not be to cram a ton of concepts down kids’ throats out of fear that they will ‘be behind.’ This is an opportunity to find different ways of learning in a new context.”
2. Make the schedule work for you too
The truth is that some parents have busy work schedules at home or in essential services where they have to be out, and this can take up to 12 hours a day. Naturally, homework has to be pushed to evenings or weekends. That’s ok too. The reality is that work needs to be done, food needs to be provided, and sleep has to happen in order to keep everything running.
Is it possible to set up a daily or weekly schedule to help juggle all the tasks and responsibilities in a way that reduces stress? Psychologist Wendy Walsh suggests “having your kids help you to make a schedule that works for everyone involved, and then allowing them to decorate it on a big poster board you can keep where schooling will most often take place.” "The purpose really is to create some structure for your child where they will feel safer and more organized,” she explained. “By the way, it will also help you as the parent feel safer.”
Hayden adds, “For me, remembering that I didn’t need to offer my child a traditional 7-hour school day was key to creating a schedule that allowed room for her schooling and my work. I allotted 2 hours a day to helping her with school, broken up into 3 different sessions throughout the day… In between those sessions, scheduled time for her to work on art projects and have uninterrupted screen time — a survival tool allowing me to work uninterrupted as well.”
3. Mental Health
It is important to support children’s emotional well-being. “There are resources for mindfulness that can be very useful. It’s also important that everybody gets their priorities right regarding the academics of the child. The priority should be that everybody be OK... If you’re dealing with these types of major mental health challenges, with kids with learning challenges or special needs, remember, kids are going to do things they love and are interested in. Gradually, as your child gets better, you add in other academics, as your child can handle it.”
Don’t be trapped by worry that your child will “fall behind.” Education will have to bend to keep pace with the situation, qnd you can reach out to your teacher and set some limits as well. Flexibility on all sides is key.
4. Take charge of your energy
Self-awareness, self-management – know when you are being triggered, when you need time to yourself, and have some go-to breathing techniques that you can do yourself. The box breath or belly breathing is great to teach your kids. Here are two other good ones.
Box breath – used by navy seals for calm under pressure
478 breath – developed by Dr.Andrew Weil to help with anxiety
Having a favorite breath can be surprisingly useful.
is an important practice to keep morale up. Consider, around the table, having a mention of what you are all grateful for. Or jot down these ideas and put them in a gratitude jar. When anyone needs a little boost, they can pick a note from the jar. There are so many things to be grateful for: all the helpers keeping things going, our health, that we have each other, for a roof over our heads, that we still have the ability to connect with other, even if others are far away. Consider doing a project to help others too – like baking bread for the homeless or sending drawings to kids in hospitals. Our world becomes larger when we let other know we care.
6. To compensate for screen time, take breaks
To refresh both brain and body, get out in nature; exercise. “Physical activity produces a protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps maintain and create neurons, the part of the brain that deals with storing and transmitting information.”
Jordan Werner, who was named the 2018 Physical Education Teacher of the Year by the Oregon Society of Health & Physical Educators, suggests: search #PEatHome online to find hundreds of resources to keep families moving with little to no equipment. Don’t have a basket to shoot into? Grab a trash can or laundry basket.
Werner reiterates, “Going for a walk, doing yard work, planting a garden and visiting public lands that are open while practicing safe social distancing are all great ways to spend time outside to recharge your social-emotional health.” It will also make you happier.
7. Redefine Learning
Teresa Harrington from edsource suggests: Ask your children what they would like to learn. This is a wonderful opportunity to not just do worksheets. Do real life. Make a meal, make a bed, fold laundry, serve meals, clean up, do repairs around the house. Learning is far more than books or assignments.
Give your kids a way to learn through a hands-on experience (such as a science experiment; ask your child’s teacher if you can bake instead of practicing pages of fractions.)
Children are most passionate to learn subjects that truly interest them and will want to learn them for the pure joy of learning that subject, not because they have to. One teacher suggests that if your child is interested in American Football for instance, then have your child learn about all the different plays, statistics, & players. There are many roads to Rome.
8. Keep Things in Perspective
This period will pass. An important question is how do you and your kids want to remember it? Brene Brown recently said, “What is the filter we want to run all our decisions through now?” Consider kindness, compassion – how we will show up during and after this. Explore the conversation with homeschooling experts for actionable tips to move in this direction.
Your priority is to provide connection, and to provide a sense of continuity and remind yourself and your loved ones that we will all get through this. In the meantime, let’s use the opportunity to rediscover on a deeper level, what is most important as priorities in our lives.
For added inspiration, you can also view a vibrant video conversation with experts in homeschooling sharing their top tips for homeschooling with ease.