Challenges of distance learning and how to tackle them
- It is vital for students to engage in daily distance learning and not quit, in order to prevent a "Summer Learning Loss", which means the loss of skills and learning that results from being out of a teaching environment for a long period of time, more than the usual summer break. Daily online learning also allows students to socialize with their peers while they are at home.
- A lot of parents who are taking the roles of teachers are simultaneously working from home and might be sharing a family work station such as a PC or laptop, which makes it difficult for everyone involved to use. Hence, parents can create with their children a schedule of tasks to be done throughout the day, that way they can trade off on computer-based work and assignments.
- Since children thrive on routine, the best way to support their distance learning as parents is to create a physical location that’s dedicated to school-based work. Make sure it is quiet place, free from distractions (noise-cancelling headphones is a good option) and with good internet connection. Even a two-year old can learn to follow instructions. Therefore, plan well in advance about how the week is going to look like and establish routines for work and creative activities to help your children stay productively busy within the house.
- It’s important to put in place systems to help your children keep up to date with school work. This will help them stay organized. You can post a calendar on your child’s bedroom wall or even the fridge and mark it with due dates. Use visual organizers to break down assignments down into small steps with the specific strategies needed to complete them. You can also use color-coding for tasks, for example, use a blue pen for writing and a red pen for math.
- Look for ways to reduce barriers to learning. If your child has learning difficulties, it’s important for you to review the learning material and tasks that the teacher sends you and work with your child to identify and remove these barriers. For example, if he/she has writing difficulties, ask the teacher if it’s ok to send her a video response instead. If he/she needs more visual cues to understand the task, the teacher can then definitely use more visual aids.
- Parents are highly advised to keep the lines of communication open with teachers, assistant teachers, school leaders and the school psychologist. If you have questions or concerns, let someone know, we are all here to offer guidance.
- Setting realistic expectations: Parents need to realize that they are not expected to recreate their child’s school schedule to be successful at home. Yes, it is recommended that they help their children understand their learning goals and objectives, but they should also know that learning from home is going to be different from a traditional seven-hour school day that covers many subjects. With the right expectations and a positive attitude, you might be surprised to realize how efficiently you and your children can get things done.
- Parents are expected to help their children “own” their learning. It is not required from parents to be full-time teachers or educational experts. You can certainly support your child and offer encouragement; however, you should expect your child to do his part. Don’t do your child’s assignments even if he/she is struggling, offer some guidance and step back. It takes a lot of practice to become an independent learner.
- It is important for parents to understand what the educational goals and tasks are for each day. If you struggle to understand or explain certain subjects, you can ask the teachers to help you by providing step-by-step instructions to make learning easier.
- Knowing when to take breaks is a central element of distance learning. Whenever parents and/or students start to feel overwhelmed, it is advisable to stop the task at hand and take a break. The learning experience should be a positive one, and if there is frustration or tension, your children may not benefit or learn much.
- In order to minimize stress, try as much as possible to be patient with your children who are distance learning. Children thrive on routine and not having a conventional classroom setting for those who have never been homeschooled before might make them feel anxious, lost and overwhelmed.
- For students of the “maternelle”, allow ample time for play. In these early years, children mainly learn and develop their knowledge through play. At this age, you don't really need to aim for an intense daily schedule full of hands-on activities and experiments. These kids cannot stay focused for more than 20-25 minutes in a row.
- Begin the day and end it by checking- in with your children:
- In the morning, you could ask:
- What subjects do you have today?
- What will you start with?
- Do you have the needed resources?
- Do you have your questions ready for the teacher? (in case something was not clear in the lesson)
- At the end of the day you could ask:
- How far did you get in your learning tasks today?
- What did you discover? What was hard/easy?
- What could we do to make it better/easier tomorrow?
- In the morning, you could ask:
These check-in routines matter and can help our children get more organized and set priorities right. They also help them develop self-management skills and gain better self-awareness.
While no one can predict how long the distance learning will last, we all know that it won’t be forever. Children observe adult behaviour and model it, so it is important to communicate a composed, confident and positive attitude as much as possible throughout the crisis. Managing our own anxiety and emotions will positively impact our children’s learning experience and help them look forward to another school year.
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