This School Year Looks Different for All of Us
The start of the 2020 - 2021 school year has begun! What it looks like is very different than what school looked like pre-covid. Based on what part of the country you live in, your options for school may have also changed. Your options for school may have been homeschool, hybrid (mix of in-person and remote) in person, or full remote.
If you have a child attending school remotely, this article is for you! It has become very clear that the struggle is real! But, you can determine what boundaries are needed to help maintain your sanity during this experience.
A remote learning experience definitely looks different based on your school district. It is an evolving new way of looking at how to teach, which has been met with many challenges for parents to juggle.
Maintaining a regular routine will help you and your child. If some of this structure has not been put in place up to this point, you may get some resistance but that is usually the case with our kids. Dealing with the resistance up front will eventually lead to a new routine that will help you and your kids in the long run.
10 Steps to Help You Get Through Remote Learning
1. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule - That’s right! Even though there is extra time in the day due to not having to travel to and from school right now, kids still need to maintain a regular bedtime and wake up time that will help them get the rest that they need to do well. Studies have shown the benefits to getting enough sleep, which include improved attention, learning, memory, and mental health.
2. Get Dressed for the School Day - Studies are showing the importance of getting dressed when showing up for online interactions. By making yourself presentable to be in front of the screen, you are priming your mind to be prepared to engage in a more prepared way for the task at hand. If the world is shifting to a bigger remote future, in terms of jobs and life after school, this is your child’s opportunity to learn the etiquette of the online world that is different from gaming. Even if your child is showing up on a screen, your child is still showing up for school.
3. Make lunch or have some easily accessible lunch options - Depending on your child’s daily remote schedule, there may be a limited amount of time in between class periods. Some class times have also been condensed, which means that there may be some stress associated with preparing a quick meal and making it back onto the screen on time.
4. Create a Physical Space for Your Child to Engage Remotely - The most ideal place in your home for your child to participate remotely will have less distractions so your child can focus more. It would be very helpful for kids to have a desk and to be seated in a way that places a wall behind them. If your child is in his or her bedroom for school and the camera is including the whole bedroom in the background, then all of your child’s classmates have literally been invited into that space. Are you and your child comfortable with that? This remote learning experience is an opportunity to talk about Internet safety, who they should interact with online, what that should like like, and how much of their personal space to show. Kids need some help to define this.
5. Have a Daily Schedule Posted - A daily schedule of what your child’s remote log in times will help you maintain the structure of the school day. If you have any family members helping you on certain days of remote learning, having the schedule already posted will also help the day transition from one helper to the next more smoothly.
6. Limit Your Child’s Access to Non-School Technology During School Hours - It is important to assess the need for access to personal devices during school hours. Some students are setting alarms on cell phones to help them remember what time to get back online for their next class, others may have a hard time clicking around on apps while sharing a screen via whichever video software or app is being used for classes. But others, are distracted by video games and non-school related content. Assess how your student is using personal technology during school hours and decide how to limit it based on the information that you gather.
7. Create An Opportunity for Movement During and After School - If your child has been sitting in front of a screen all day, with very little movement, a walk and some human interaction will be good for them. If you are home with your child, try taking a family walk while the weather is still nice enough for it. Leave the house, go for a drive, do something that will allow your child’s brain to take a tech break. If your child is exhausted from screen time and is craving a nap, be sure to set an alarm so your child doesn’t oversleep and end up disrupting their regular sleep routine.
8. Know Who to Contact If Your Child is Struggling Academically - School being in session means that your child’s teachers are still the teachers. You have become a partner in the process but your child’s school is responsible for providing the curriculum, instruction, expectations, grades, etc. If you are concerned with the academic expectations that are being placed on our child, such as the amount of work being assigned or if your child is struggling with understanding the content, this is a time to advocate for your child. You can start with reaching out to your child’s teachers and then branch out from there. Many school districts are offering additional academic support remotely through tutoring, teacher office hours, or extra time to get through assignments. You must communicate your needs to the school!
9. Know Who to Contact If Your Child is Struggling Emotionally - This pandemic and time of remote learning has been taking a toll on the mental health of many. Studies are reporting that depression an anxiety are on the rise. There are a lot of contributing factors as each household has unique stressors to deal with. Know who to call if your child is struggling emotionally.
If your child is showing symptoms of depression and anxiety or feeling overwhelmed to the point of being unable to meet the current demands, then reach out for some help. Help for your child can begin with pastoral counseling, your child’s primary care physician, a counseling agency, or even by calling your child’s school to speak with a counselor or social worker for referrals to different supports that are available and to help you navigate your way through connecting with the right type of support.
If there is a mental health emergency, such as evidence of suicidal thoughts or expressions and you are concerned for your child’s safety, take your child to an emergency room for an evaluation by a mental health professional to determine the level of care necessary to ensure for your child’s safety.
10. Create and Maintain a Wifi Curfew at Night - Since our world has quickly become a digital place for our children to live, this last step is an important one. By setting a tech/wife curfew at night, your children will have to unplug in order to wind down and get their brains ready for sleep in order to get ready for the next day.
If your child is working on an assignment that is due by midnight or needs extra wifi time for some valid reason, make it his or her responsibility to talk to you about why the extra time is needed. As parents, you still have a responsibility to help your child with time management and with getting back to number one on this list!
In fact, this final step is a keeper for when school is in person as well.
Being a remote learner does not take away the need for structure. Studies show that our brains continue to grow and develop well into their twenties.The remote learning experience is placing expectations on our kids that they are not necessarily ready for.
This time of remote learning is overwhelming for parents and students. We are all experiencing this time in very different and unique ways. It is important for you to identify what you need in order to get through this time and be stronger because of it.
Parents are the First Teachers Our Children Ever Meet
Give yourself the time and space that you need to model the peace and resilience that you want your children to have in the midst of this unprecedented time. Children will follow your lead on how to feel about the pandemic and their return to school experience. Each child is different but one thing will never change regardless of this pandemic…
One of the most important parenting lessons I have learned is that, as parents, we are the first teachers that our children ever meet. Our classrooms are within our family experiences, inside and outside of our homes, in every exchange we have with them, at the dinner table, during walks, game nights, prayer time, in times of grief and uncertainty, behind their screens, and in every aspect of our life that they observe.
Our responsibility in our children’s education has always overlapped with the hours of a school day because our children are always our responsibility.
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