The Work-From-Home Parent’s Guide to At-Home Learning During COVID-19

at-home learning

Instead of class to class, many American children are moving from one digital room to another, confined to their homes as a precaution against the new coronavirus. Others are ecstatic, as school has let out months early. Nonetheless, they are at risk of losing knowledge if they’re not immersed in at-home learning activities.  So what does all that mean for parents?

Here, we’ve detailed how to support your child in remote learning, whether that’s school prescribed or you as a parent stepping up to make it happen. These tips and tools will help you and your children create a successful academic experience and develop skills for life. 

The Positive Power of Routine in At-Home Learning 

Success, in this case, begins with routines. Routines create the structure children need to excel. Keeping your child’s wake up, meal, and bedtimes the same while schools are closed, will provide a sense of stability and comfort for them. It will also help them transition back into normal routines more seamlessly when they return to school. 

Clinical child psychologist, Cathy Guttentag, of The University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, explained that while some children will resist sticking to routines, especially bedtimes, it’s important parents not give in.

“While children may appreciate sleeping later than they are able to on school days, it benefits them to get up at a reasonable time and stick to their usual schedule of naps and bedtime,” Guttentag said.

In the midst of remote or at-home learning as a result of COVID-19, Guttentag recommends developing a daily schedule your family follows, including meals, quiet time (i.e. reading), schoolwork, play, and outdoor activity. Although some outdoor options may be limited at the moment, Guttentag stresses that families can still do activities such as taking walks, building an indoor obstacle course, and enjoying dance videos.

Parent Guide to Remote Learning

If your school is not offering online work, check out the alternative educational opportunities we’ve highlighted in the next section.

At-Home Learning: What to Expect

For a glimpse into the day of students already attending school remotely in two locations around the U.S., visit one mother’s description of Northshore School District in Washington or the perspective of a variety of individuals from Central Jersey schools

1. Give them time to get familiar with the online platforms they’re using

In most cases, students in districts that choose e-learning will have experience with turning in assignments through digital classrooms. They are likely less accustomed to “live” lessons featuring their teachers and other students via video conference from each person’s respective home office or living room. Whether your student is an expert at all aspects of their online education platform(s) or they’ve never touched a computer at school before, ask them to login to each platform at least a day before courses start. Place all usernames and passwords in large print and in a visible location of their workspace in case they forget. For little ones, this also enables you to easily check on their progress.

Watch a short YouTube tutorial with your child for any system they have limited experience with, and/or follow the guided tutorial the platform provides upon signing up or logging in. Practice using your computer’s camera and microphone with your child from separate rooms to ensure these tools are working as well. When it comes time for them to start regular days with e-learning, technology is far less likely to present any obstacles.

2. Establish a dedicated workspace for at-home learning 

Once your student is comfortable with all the technology related to their remote learning, set up an effective home education workspace for your child. Designating a specific space for at-home learning will help put your child in a focused mindset and lead to higher productivity over time. While full-time e-learning may be temporary for your child, the workspace you create would make an ideal after-school study space. When you are able, fill the space with age appropriate supplies (pencils, paper, calculator, etc), a comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair, a dry erase board, and  a lamp.

3. Be involved, at the appropriate level

With older, motivated children, involvement can be as minimal as asking them to share three things they learned that day and asking if there are any updates from the school or teacher. If your child doesn’t do as well left on their own just yet, check in with them 3-4 times a day. Ask them to recap each lesson and how they know if they mastered the concepts. Have them show you each of their courses in the school’s learning management system and their assignments for that day.

If you have younger children, set up their workspace near where you plan to be located most of the day or at least somewhere you frequent. Even with live classes, consider staying nearby in case they need extra help. Check out what resources your child’s teacher(s) has provided. If you see your child struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for extra resources. After a class concludes or they finish working on assigned work that takes the place of class, ask them one thing they learned and one thing they are still confused on. Make sure they know “nothing” is not an acceptable answer choice.

4. Encourage regular breaks during at-home learning

Breaks are critical in youth education, whether that’s lunch, a brain break, or recess. Naturally, kids need the time to wiggle and move around. More importantly, because children have such short attention spans, small breaks have the ability to increase productivity and reduce stress and improve brain function. Try to keep breaks similar to the ones they have at school or at least remain consistent. Free play and time outside are also invaluable ways to spend breaks, as they have both physical and mental health and improve creativity. 

5. Teach them to cope with frustration and to extend grace

For many schools, the transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis is the educational community’s first attempt at e-learning. Snags and kinks will inevitably leave members of both the faculty and the student body frustrated and anxious. This may very well include your own child. If this is you, remind them that even when they are feeling strong emotions, they can still control their response to those feelings.

Stress the importance of being kind and patient with other students or teachers who are having trouble acclimating to the new environment or are less responsive than they’d prefer. Suggest that if they feel extremely frustrated, as if they can’t contain their response, they get up and do some jumping jacks and push ups or run on the treadmill for five minutes. Alternatively, encourage them to take a deep breath then slowly let it out five times. Emphasize that they should always think twice about their responses when they’re upset or on technology.

Parent Guide to At-Home Learning — Skills They’ll Use for Life  

Whether you have additional time following classwork or your student’s school has not assigned any work while the world waits out COVID-19, education doesn’t stop with workbooks and online learning systems. We’ve compiled a short list of practical skills you can teach your child to enrich their learning at home. 

1. First aid and safety

Admit it, kids are accident prone. While we try to prevent as many incidents as possible, it’s important that children learn and prepare for emergencies. From little ones who need to memorize a parent’s phone number in case they get lost to teaching kids how to stop intense bleeding, respond to a burn, or even perform CPR*, first aid and safety readiness will help your child manage a crisis, should one arise. For ideas on teaching first aid and safety to children, explore The Healthy or Very Well Health.

*Many experts recommend waiting until age 10-12 to teach CPR, so the child can fully comprehend the process. They also make this suggestion because before then, most children lack the physical strength to actually perform CPR on a full-grown adult. Nonetheless, if your child babysits or is planning to, even solely for other siblings, CPR is an essential skill that might just help them save a life one day.

2. Nutrition (Perfect for At-Home Learning)

We’ve all got to eat. Why not take lunchtime during at-home learning to teach your to teach them nutrition and cooking skills that will set them up for a healthy life?  Find games and resources that help teach children nutrition here.

3. Keyboarding/Coding

Keyboarding: Kids are speedsters with “typing” on their smartphones but when it comes to a computer keyboard, many still single-finger type in high school. Prepare your child for college and/or the working world by emphasizing the importance of and practicing keyboarding.

Coding is responsible for our digital world. Coders can create apps, software, websites, and more. For kids, educational apps and programs have made coding exciting and enthralling. Down the road, understanding coding opens them up to well-paying jobs and gives them a competitive advantage.  Additionally, coding improves kids’ communication, confidence, creativity, and academic skills, such as math and writing. Introduce your kids to coding as part of at-home learning through smartphone and tablet apps like Kodable and codeSpark Academy

4. Foreign language

The benefits of being bilingual (or multilingual) are expansive: improved cognitive and musical abilities, increased empathy and cross-cultural skills, better career opportunities, and more. 

From computer programs to apps just for kids, the language learning resources for children do not disappoint. Set them up with a pair of headphones and a tablet for 20-30 minutes a day. Build it into your at-home learning routine and see what a whiz they become after just a few weeks or months. We recommend trying out LinguPinguin, Duo Lingo, ASL Kids, and Lingodeer (Korean, Japanese, Chinese), all available on the iOS App Store. 

5. Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”  Mindfulness 2020

Engaging in mindfulness supports kids’ ability to maintain focus, cope with stress, and regulate emotions. In Parents magazine, Ellen Sturm Niz describes her third grade daughter’s experience with mindfulness in the classroom. She shares how her daughter was initially resistant to the exercises but came around  as she got used to it and began to experience the benefits. 

Niz recommends teaching kids mindfulness using a variety of activities, such as the Stop, Breathe & Think app and going on “listening walks” where kids learn to focus on and identify what sounds they hear, what the sounds remind them of, and how they can help them remember a happy moment. Another clever mindfulness idea was documented in the “Huffington Post” as “The Spider-Man Meditation.” Kids use their “spidey senses” to focus in on the environment around them. 

6. Personal finance

We want our children to have a healthy relationship with money, for them to be smart and responsible about their financial choices. Unfortunately, nearly 70% of Americans cannot pass a basic financial literacy test. So how do we teach our children to make wise financial decisions, even while the majority of the U.S. adult population struggles to grasp the same concepts? Investopedia is a great resource for learning how to teach financial wellness to kids from toddlers to teens, and it also offers tips for instilling this valuable life skill.

 7. Digital literacy 

Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, according to the American Library Association. A 2016 study from Stanford University found that 80% of middle school students could not differentiate between real news and sponsored stories, despite the indication that it was sponsored material marked clearly on the page. In the same study, over 80% of high school students took information from an anonymous social media post as fact.  

“Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there,” said lead researcher Sam Wineburg in a Stanford news release. “Our work shows the opposite to be true.”

In order to make informed decisions, whether it be about the new coronavirus, a presidential vote, when to purchase in the housing market, or what to put in a school report in order to make the grade, understanding how to “find, evaluate, use and create digital content in meaningful ways” will always have an impact on their lives. To begin working with your student on digital literacy during at-home learning, read these tips. For additional games and activities, visit “Teaching Kids News.”

Supporting your child in at-home learning is new for a lot of us, and could be part of our lives for the next few months, let alone the next few weeks. We hope these tips and tools will help you better manage this new normal as we all work and learn from home. 

How are you navigating the new normal of overseeing your children’s at-home learning during the COVID-19 crisis? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us. We’d love to hear from you!

iStock Photo Credit: davidf


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