A parents’ guide to online learning

Brought to you by the East Bonner County Library District
Special to the Reader

Online learning is becoming a part of student learning. The upcoming reopening of schools on Tuesday, Sept. 8 will almost certainly have a distance-learning component. Assuring the success of the student will be a big challenge for families, especially if students are kept out of school. National polls are saying the majority of parents are not comfortable sending their children back to school for in-person classes. 

When it comes to online lessons, parents may be stressed about their child’s education. It is very challenging to keep students on task. This may entail additional work in addition to other responsibilities, adding stress to many already challenging family situations. Parents often will need to work outside the home, making it difficult to monitor progress. 

Many parents and teachers are concerned about the effectiveness of online learning. Let’s face it — it’s just not the same as being in the classroom where students can socialize and work on hands-on learning projects. 

I apologize for painting a bleak picture. Let’s assume we are still battling the spread of COVID-19 and need to make the best of online learning this fall, whether it be by itself or as a complement to abbreviated school days. Student success at home may be a good lesson in preparing them for remote work in their future career. Hopefully, these tips will equip parents with tools to assure their student’s success.

Establish routines and expectations: Cultivate a positive attitude. Make it clear that the student is accountable for their progress and completing assignments. Don’t feel you need to be an expert to help your child. Part of learning is the discovery of resources that help when the learner has questions. Fortunately, in our internet age, there are many resources they can use. I have listed some of them below. Allow 45-60 minutes for each subject. Older students may need more. If the parent is working outside the home, help the student set up calendar reminders. Checking in with the student during the day will help keep them moving.

Choose a good place to learn: Make it a quiet, comfortable, special place for the student.  

Stay in touch with the school: If you or your student have any questions about assignments, or you need additional resources, contact the school. Involve the student in the conversation.

Use online resources as necessary: The school will have assignments that you can incorporate into the schedule. Encourage your child to seek help on their own using the many resources on the internet. Set them up with one of the library’s resources in the Digital Library, Khan Academy or similar resources.

Create checklists together: For older students, use a planner to prioritize assignments. Emphasize meeting their deadlines. 

Encourage social contact: This is very important but can be tricky. How about a game of kickball? Don’t forget to be safe. 

Personal time: Play video games, read for pleasure or work on a project. It is important to keep this unstructured. Keep the electronic stuff limited. Don’t forget some quiet time during the day if necessary.

Check in: Students’ entire school experience has been uprooted. How do we explain why all this is happening? How do they feel about it? Maybe they have overheard conversations or news reports and have questions or feelings that need to be addressed. Check out the CDC’s advice about talking with children about COVID-19.

Read before bedtime: This includes reading with a young student or an older student reading on their own.

Create structure: Work with them to organize their time. Establish regular bedtimes and wake-ups. Stick with the same schedule they had when they were in school.

The school may have a suggested schedule. If they do not, make it similar to the school day. Online learning days are not vacation days. Find out how much time will be necessary for each task and schedule the time to complete it. The only difference is the learning takes place at home.

Start early. The best learning takes place in the morning. If there is no guidance from the school for new work, consider reviewing previous lessons — especially math. Structure learning days to allow for at least two to three hours of structured learning. 

Suggested schedule:

Morning meeting — have a casual conversation about what your student (or students) have learned recently and discuss tasks for the day. Have the child keep a planner to keep track of assignments. Take a look at materials. Include a fun activity. This meeting can be longer if necessary, but the idea is to review the previous lessons and plan out tasks for the day. If there isn’t work to complete from the school, use Khan Academy, or a similar resource, to access fresh material relating to their recent work, 15-30 minutes.

Math — research has shown it is best done in the morning and practice makes perfect. Include some fun games and change activities often, especially for younger students, 45-60 minutes.

Break — include some fun physical activities, 15 minutes.

Social studies or other subject — 45-60 minutes.

Break — include some fun physical activities, 15 minutes.

Other classes — accessed through the school’s distance learning platform, 45 minutes.

Practice life skills — make lunch together, organize rooms or look at the plants in the yard. Make it fun and focus on their interests. The goal is to have the child learn without realizing it, 45 minutes.

Read — find a book from the library that is at the student’s reading level and that interests them. Have your child read and then tell you the story they just read. Have them write an alternate ending or review, 45 minutes.

Encourage creativity — creating something is fun and rewarding. How about decorating their learning space? Is that refrigerator completely covered yet? Make a card for someone’s special occasion.

Reward — a treat, game, hike, bike ride or other quality time.

For a breakdown of digital resources by subject, read more on The Library Blog at ebonnerlibrary.org.

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