School’s Out (Sort Of!): 5 Distance Learning Tips to Wrap up the School Year

5 Tips for Distance Learning For many parents, school at home has gone from a novel temporary measure to a longer-term challenge as schools in 45 states are closed through the end of the school year. This leaves many of us wondering how we can continue to support our children’s distance learning and overall health as they wrap up their current school year from home.

Many of us are still facing a few more weeks of school at home and are looking towards the coming school year with the possibility of continued distance learning.

Additionally, as we always do in the summer months, we need ways to continue our children’s education and learning mindset throughout the summer. The following distance learning tips offers simple ways you can create a stable, consistent educational environment at home through the end of the school year and beyond.

1. Establish a Place to Learn

Your home has always been a place for your family to eat, sleep, and spend time together. Suddenly, school is closed and your home needs to serve a new function. How do you make your home a place to learn?

Assemble your curriculum. Make a list of the school’s requirements, including video classes, live online classes, and independent assignments. Compile a short list of additional resources you can consult for extra help, including online sources, physical reference materials, learning games, and people you can contact for support.

Arrange your learning environment. Everyone’s setup will look different. Consider including these elements:

    • Adequate lighting, including natural lighting when possible
    • Seating that promotes good body mechanics
    • Enough table space for each child working
    • Resources kept in a consistent, convenient location
    • Lack of distractions such as TV, radio, and toys

Establish a schedule. Begin by noting the times of any required class meetings, then choose a routine that will work for your family. Include time for schoolwork, movement, and unstructured activity. Children need to know both what is expected of them and when they will have respite from their work.


2. Encourage Independence

You want your child to succeed with distance learning. But how do you help them gain independence? It might be worth taking a little extra time to remind them of some study skills and independent learning techniques, such as strategies for reading comprehension, appropriate online research, using graphic organizers, and following the scientific method of inquiry.

At the beginning of each school day, help your child make a list of what they need to accomplish and what help they might need along the way. Let them know when you will be available to provide help. When you need to get some work done, set your child up with independent activity. If they’re finished with assigned schoolwork, consider other active learning:

Scientific method: Ask a question, conduct an experiment, and record results – this will vary with your child’s age and interests, but might include questions like “What is magnetic in my house?” or “How does the shape of an object affect my ability to throw it?”

Journaling: Write about an activity, experience, or emotion.

Teaching: Teach a younger sibling to do something new. If there are no younger siblings, call a friend!


3. What if My Child has Special Needs?

If your child has special needs, the task of distance learning takes on an added layer of complication. Without the usual support system, how can you help your child keep up with their schoolwork while addressing their special needs?

Establish communication with your child’s teachers.

Make a list of what works well for your child and what is difficult for them within the distance learning structure provided by your school. Talk to your child’s teacher and ask for suggestions to address their specific struggles.

Determine the goals of each week’s instruction. Consider alternate ways to teach your child the key skill or concept. If your child struggles with a video lesson on adding decimals, maybe you can play a game or do a concrete activity instead.

Consider alternate ways for your child to prove their knowledge. Ask their teacher for input.

Review your child’s IEP or 504 plan. While this document was created with the school environment in mind, recommendations and accommodations can give you ideas for your home school.

Focus on emotional health. Make sure to break up schoolwork with movement and other breaks. Encourage your child to engage in activities they find relaxing, such as calm music, walking, yoga, or painting. Be understanding and flexible with your child, praising their efforts and acknowledging their frustration.


4. Keep Your Family Sane

Are you and your children feeling stressed? In today’s challenging circumstances, that’s not surprising. Here are a few items to consider.

Identify your priorities. What is most important for your and your family during this time? Is it communication, physical and emotional health, learning, meeting financial needs? Evaluate the demands on your time based on your priorities and share your priorities with your children.

Name your emotions, then address them. Identify your feelings and encourage your children to do the same. This allows you to address the reasons for stressful behavior. Anger at cancelled activities does not need to translate into sibling (or family) battles.

Find the positive. There are plenty of negative circumstances that are begging for our attention. Take time to help your children identify something positive several times each day.


5. Last But Not Least, Continue to Rise to the Challenge

The bottom line is that in uncertain times, you have no choice but to adapt. Parents, teachers, schools, and children are trying their best to do the right thing. As you think outside the box and utilize available resources, remember to be flexible, take a deep breath, and take one day at a time. Find a reason to celebrate today, because you and your family are doing an amazing thing.


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