Some students will thrive while learning from home, while others may find it more challenging. Either way, Michael Gernon, Chief Education Innovation Officer at GEMS Education, has some essential advice to help parents support their children
Faced with remote learning and the prospect of their children studying from home for an extended period, parents, in partnership with teachers, will need to think differently about how to support their children; how to create structures and routines that allow their children to be successful; and how to monitor and support their children’s learning. The following guidelines are intended to help parents think about what they can do to help their children find success in a remote learning environment.
Establish routines and expectations
Parents need to establish routines and expectations, and we encourage parents to set regular hours for their children’s schoolwork. We recommend keeping normal bedtime routines for younger children and expect the same from your older children, too. Your children should move regularly and take periodic breaks as they study. It is important that parents set these expectations for how their children will spend their days.
Define the physical space for your child’s study
Your child may have a regular place for doing homework under normal circumstances,but this space may not necessarily be suitable for an extended period. We encourage families to establish a space/location where their children will learn most of the time. It should be a place that can be quiet when needed and have a strong wireless internet signal,if possible. Above all, it should be a space where parents/guardians are present and able to monitor their children’s learning.
Monitor communications from your children’s teacher(s)
Teachers will communicate with parents and students through email or other educational platforms as necessary. The frequency and content of these communications will be determined by your child’s age, maturity and degree of independence. I encourage parents to contact their children’s teachers if they need to – but do bear in mind that teachers will be communicating with multiple families and that communications should be essential, succinct and self-aware. I also encourage parents to have their children explain to them the various learning platforms and systems (Google Classroom and Seesaw, for example) that their teachers are using.
Begin and end each day with a check-in
Parents are encouraged to start and finish each day with a simple check-in. In the morning, find out what your child will be learning that day. What are their learning targets or goals? How will they spend their time? What resources do they require? What support do they need? This brief grounding conversation matters. It allows children to process the instructions they have received from their teachers. It helps them organise themselves and set priorities. Older students may not want to have these check-ins with parents, but they should. Not all students thrive in a distance learning environment, some struggle with too much independence or lack of structure. These check-in routines need to be established early, before students fall behind or begin to struggle.
Take an active role in helping your children process and own their learning
Over the course of a regular school day, your son or daughter engages with other students or adults dozens if not hundreds of times. These interactions include turning to a peer to exchange a thought or idea, participating in small or large group discussions, asking questions for clarification, collaborating on group projects and many more. While some of these social interactions will be recreated on virtual platforms, others will not. Human beings learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others. Beyond the check-ins, parents should regularly circle back and engage with their children about what they are learning, whenever possible. However, it is important that your child owns their work; do not complete assignments for them, even when they find it challenging.
Establish times for quiet reflection
A challenge for families with multiple children will be how to manage all their children’s needs, especially when those children are of different ages and have different needs. There may be times when siblings need to work in different rooms to avoid distraction. Parents will need to think about and plan how this can happen.
Encourage physical activity and exercise
Make sure your children remember to move and exercise. This is vitally important to their health, well-being and learning. Your child’s physical education teacher will recommend activities and exercises, but it is important for parents to model and encourage exercise! Also think about how your children can help and assist around the house with chores or other responsibilities – and do expect them to pitch in!
Remain mindful of your child’s stress or worries
It is imperative for parents to help their children manage the worries, anxieties and range of emotions they may be experiencing. Difficult though it may be, do your best not to transfer your own stress or worries to your children. They will be out of sorts, whether they admit it or not, and therefore need as much normal routine as parents can provide. As usual, feel free to reach out to your school counsellors for help, if needed.
Monitor how much time your child is spending online
Your school should be very mindful of how much screen time students may be exposed to, and it should therefore have devised a programme that combines and blends online and offline, more hands-on learning experiences. Please monitor how much time your child spends online.
Keep your children social, but set rules around their social media interactions
The initial excitement of school being closed will fade quickly when students start missing their friends, classmates and teachers. Help your child maintain contact with friends and see them in person when circumstances permit. Do also monitor your child’s social media use, especially during an extended school closure. Remind them to be polite, respectful and appropriate in their communications and to reflect your family’s values in their interactions with others.