Updated: Oct 3, 2021
My child is having a hard time with remote learning. What can I do?
It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply rattled school structure and learning for kids, parents and teachers. It’s estimated that 90% of kids worldwide have participated in online learning since the start of the pandemic.
If your child has struggled with remote learning, you aren’t alone. Most students (and parents!) have had their education flipped on its head by moving from the classroom to the home computer screen – sometimes upwards of 6 hours of the day.
Many parents described the transition as a “disaster” that included “melt-downs”, “crying” and “begging for it to stop”. But many months into the online learning model, the tension hasn’t leveled off. So how can you help your struggling child with online learning challenges? First, let’s talk about the effects it can have on kids.
The effects of online learning
We’ve all heard about the negative effects being felt by students due to being forced online during the pandemic. Interrupted learning, loss of educational time, lack of access to proper technology equipment and the internet and general disengagement has all taken a toll on students.
Of particular concern is the lack of engagement many students have with an online model for learning. Because they are away from their friends, not interacting as much with their teacher, and doing less hands-on and group work, their entire way of learning has been disrupted by being forced to look at a screen all day in isolation from their peers.
A recent article from the Childmind Institute explains the different ways students might struggle with engagement.
‘For instance, students who struggle to process auditory information may have trouble with video lessons. Students who need more visual support may struggle with text-heavy directions and materials. English language learners may have difficulty accessing content without the support they’d typically have in your physical classroom.’ -Amanda Morin, Childmind.org
To combat this, it is essential that parents find ways to help increase their child’s engagement in an online environment.
On the flip side: Some students thrive with online learning.
It’s not all bad. In fact, teachers have been reporting that some students are suddenly doing better with remote learning than they were doing in the physical classroom. They cite that it tends to be the shy kids, the hyperactive kids and the highly creative kids who are doing surprisingly well in an online learning environment.
It’s believed the reasons for this are that as school schedules have suddenly become more fluid, these students are less stressed about packed agendas and back-to-back activities during the day. They also have more chance to exercise, take breaks, and they are less over-extended in general because extra circular activities have been cancelled.
Unfortunately, the kids thriving, or at least handling, the switch to online learning is small compared to those struggling.
How to help your child struggling with online learning
So, what are the best ways to help your child – whether they have a learning impairment or not, hate online learning less and have more enjoyment and success from it?
Set up an area for “school time”.
Just like in the classroom, your home student should have their desk or table area to do their schoolwork. The space can be anywhere in the home, but free from negative distractions such as televisions, phones or other people’s conversations.
That being said, having your child relegated to the silence of their bedroom or basement office doesn’t provide enough stimulation and they may become bored, restless and unproductive rather fast.
The key is to try what you think will work best for your child and your home situation and adjust it if it’s not working.
The home school area should be able to house a laptop and provide enough space to open a notebook (and textbook for older kids), and they should have access to all the materials they may need such as pencils, pens, colored crayons, highlighters, rulers, calculators etc.
Most of what they need would have come home with them when they cleared their desk from the school. Talk to their teacher if you’re not sure.
This is one tip a lot of people don’t know about. Using headphones actually helps kids focus better on what the teacher is saying, and it also helps them be more engaged with the lessons.
It also mutes classroom chatter for the other members of the household who may well be working from home, too. So, win-win for everyone!
Learn in small chunks of time.
Online school days can seem incredibly LONG. Most schools have tried to adjust their delivery to meet the needs of curriculum and factor in attention spans based on age, but it’s still a work in progress for most.
The benefits of taking breaks has long been proven to help kids focus, increase their productivity, and reduce their stress. And, when it comes to online learning, breaks become even more important.
Besides scheduling breaks, another tool that can help break up the day is to make a written schedule that your child can check off once they complete a task. It’s very motivating to see themselves getting closer to the finish line for the day!
Practice mindfulness skills.
Mindfulness creates resilience, helps maintain positive outlook through stressful times and fosters a can-do attitude. This is why as an online educator I focus so much on the topic of mindfulness.
For ideas on how to practice mindfulness at home you can download my free Mindfulness Toolkit and get started with some really fun and easy mindfulness activities with your child.
Every kid is different, and not every strategy will work for them. What education experts all agree on is garnering an attitude of flexibility with each child in your home and pick your battles wisely.
Is their workstation not working? Move it in front of the window in the room or change the location of it in the house.
Are they having trouble with focusing or getting bored easily? Use a plastic sheet and have them paint on it while listening to class instruction.
Getting to the peak of stress and tantrums? Allow for an unscheduled break, or even take a day off.
There is no right or wrong way to handle the online learning journey we’ve all been thrown into, and even experts agree we each must do what we think is best for our kids.
If you feel you need more support, reach out to me about online tutoring, classes or resources that might be the extra support you and your child need.
And be gentle on yourself as a parent – we are all doing our best in a very uncertain time.