Many schools around the world have transitioned to online learning during this global pandemic. For many families, taking on the responsibility of schooling outside of the classroom walls is uncharted territory, and it is not a natural process for everyone. Educators who normally work within the traditional academic setting are shifting their lesson plans to a different format, while students are navigating the world of a differently structured school day.
How are parents coping with this change? Many of them are working from home, while trying to oversee and understand their child’s academic life in a brand new context. Some of them are struggling to find their way through this new world. We tapped into our parent community at Laurel Springs and asked them to give their advice about how to effectively handle the transition to online learning. They were all new at this once, too.
What did you observe or implement that contributed greatly to your child’s successful transition to learning online?
“Empower them. Make them own their experiences.”
“I relaxed and gave us all time to adjust. I tried to set an example of learning a new thing, and I showed that adapting to a new situation was important and fun.”
“Focus on teaching self sufficiency skills first, then focus on content. Younger kids might need help with the basics—supplies, learning space, body position, best time to learn, list of things to do, how to prioritize, strategies to find help, fun ways to exhibit their work to the world.”
“Create a structured environment. Our daughter creates a weekly schedule for herself every Sunday. She adapts the schedule as needed throughout the week. She is a self-starter, which makes our jobs easier, as parents. However, it is important for her to report her progress each day and at the end of the week. This way she feels seen, and we can offer her feedback or congratulate her on her successes for the week.”
“PATIENCE and STRUCTURE are what will help through the transition. Have patience in knowing that this is going to be bumpy, but despite the bumps, you have to stick to whatever plan you initially made. You have to hold to the structure you set in order to model the appropriate behavior for your child.”
“There is a learning curve for the child to adjust to online learning. Be patient in the beginning. They will increase in independence very quickly and will soon be off and running.”
“Give yourself and your child lots of grace. If they’re having an off hour or day…regroup. Ask your child questions to find what’s not working. It could be the sounds or the lights in a room, which are both easy fixes. Or maybe they prefer soft music in the background. Take some time to figure out what environment and conditions your child works best in.”
“Recognize that online learning does not look like classroom learning. A lot more can be accomplished in less time when working at home. Class length doesn’t have to be regimented or timed. Some days, my son will work a large block of time on one class and not even touch another. As long as the learning is happening, it’s successful.”
“We do all the work for one class on one day. Math on Mondays, History on Tuesdays, for example. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked really well for all three of my kids, each of whom have attended Laurel Springs School. It allowed them to delve deeply into one subject and focus their attention more intently on the lesson at hand, rather than being divided by distractions and changing gears as you would in a brick-and-mortar setting while changing classes throughout the day. They got more accomplished in a day, and they retained the information.”
Please share your recommendations and/or strategies for helping a child create structure conducive to doing their school work at home.
“It’s important to let the kids do the work. They are so quick at learning new learning platforms. Don’t come in between.”
“Let them find their own schedule and encourage a self rewarding system that helps them feel proud of their own accomplishments and independence.”
“We treat schoolwork like a job with a flexible schedule. I think by allowing some decision-making in the process of older children is successful.”
“You have to have something to be working towards—graduation, a show, completing the school year, something that has meaning. Your kid has to be self-motivated to want to do the work.”
“Balance of checking in with my daughter and letting her manage her time on her own.”
“We have always tried to cover material quickly. Then we go out to apply real-world relevance.”
“Get your child’s buy-in to the idea that they can become more autonomous by showing you, their teachers, and their peers that they are in control of the work they are doing.”
“Maintain social connections outside of school.”
“Make time for physical activity and fitness.”
“Be flexible in your scheduling—be willing to change and tweak.”
What advice would you offer a parent who is new to supporting a child learning online?
“Give them the option to figure it out for themselves. They need to feel in control rather than overwhelmed.”
“Be supportive and patient. The transition to online learning is not always smooth.”
“Stay diligent with their schedules and don’t let them get too far behind.”
“It takes a few weeks to get the hang of it, to get into a rhythm, and have the kinks worked out. Stick to a schedule, look at the parent portal at least once a week, and get to know your child’s teachers at LSS—they are valuable resources and will help guide you through this process. Also, take advantage of the LSS live help room and encourage your child to take part in the school’s extracurricular activities—it gives them a chance to do something other than homework, introduces them to kids already familiar with the online school process, and allows them to make “virtual” friends that they can talk to so they don’t feel isolated.”
“One of the more challenging aspects of online learning is screen distraction. There are just so many things that are more interesting to do on the internet than study. As a result, even fairly independent kids do need to be supervised when they are doing school and we need to implement pretty strict rules around recreational screen time. When they need a break from schoolwork, they can go play basketball in the driveway, take the dog on a walk, do an art project, or go to the beach and build a sand castle. Pretty much anything besides starting at another screen. We find that if we bend on this rule and allow them to watch videos or play video games during their breaks, then they have a very difficult time refocusing when it’s time to get back to school. So movies and video games are limited to evening times when the school day is over.”
If there was one thing you wish you had known at the start of your child’s transition to online learning, what was it?
“Encourage them to ask questions—early and often. Don’t be shy. Reach out to your teachers, even if it’s a small question or just a feeling that you are not sure about how to do something. This prevents bigger problems further down the road.”
“Initially, we were also new and didn’t set a schedule. It was an oversight for us to believe a child was going to properly structure their day for success as we saw it. Set a schedule for each hour of the day. In our case, she rides horses from 7AM until late morning or early afternoon, depending on the day, then school from about 1PM to 6PM. After that, we enjoy our evenings together for dinner.”
“Due to the flexible schedule online school affords, we have our evenings back, and more often than not, we all have dinner together.”
“24 hours goes fast. I was far too ambitious when we started, thinking that we would have time to learn everything under the sun. There needs to be a balanced approach. There’s no way you are going to do everything you can possibly dream up, and they do need other things as well—physical activity, family time, and downtime.”
“Looking back, I was concerned that I would not be able to educate my kids like a true professional. However, I found we learned so much together and many life skills and lessons on the way. Have fun, be creative, and enjoy the opportunity!”