Tips to Help Your Child with Distance Learning
By Stephanie Frumkin, M.A. Ed.
Educational Consultant, Exceptional Educational Solutions
Even as we approach a full year of distance learning, and many students are getting ready to go back to the classroom as schools open their doors, we are all still engaging in some form of distance learning at this time and into the foreseeable future. Even students in full-time school may have a pod or class that goes virtual for up to two weeks when there is a Covid exposure, while many other students are engaging in a hybrid school model or full-time virtual schooling.
Therefore, I have written this article (part 2) to offer parents important strategies to help their child have success in the distance learning environment. My previous article (part 1), discussed the topics of parenting, health and wellness, and learning space. This article offers information and tips on school advocacy, family time, leisure and socialization to help your child succeed.
It is important to recognize that you are your child’s best advocate. You know your child intimately, including their strengths and struggles, and you care the most about their success and well-being. Due to the nature of your relationship with your child and the fact that most schools are under-resourced and school staff have likely too many students on their roster to fully monitor, ultimately the responsibility of advocacy falls on the parents.
- Ask your child’s teachers, counselor and administrator for help if your child is struggling with their schoolwork or any other aspect of distance learning.
- Know who is who in the school and school system. Reaching out to the right person when your child is having challenges in a particular area can get your child on track the fastest.
- Develop a home-school communication system. For example, it could be a two-way shared Google document between parents and school staff or a weekly report from all teachers in the areas in which your child is struggling.
- Request a parent-teacher conference. You could directly reach out to a particular teacher for a meeting or ask the guidance counselor to set up a conference between parents and all of the child’s teachers and support personnel to get on the same page in helping the student.
- Know your child’s IEP or 504 plan if your child has a disability. Ensure that supports are adequate, especially for this unique learning situation, and that the plan is being implemented as written.
- Call an IEP or 504 meeting as needed. Do not wait until the annual meeting to address important concerns.
- Escalate unresolved issues to special education supervisors or the compliance department in the school system.
Seek outside help from professionals (e.g., advocates, mental health providers, educational consultants, physicians), disability rights organizations, your school’s PTA, or a parent resource center.
A silver lining of the pandemic is that families are able to step off the hamster wheel and spend more time with each other. This family time is also critical to your child’s well-being especially if they are involved in full-time virtual learning as it may be their lifeline to human contact. Where social distancing is the norm, hugs and close contact are generally welcome at home, a sacred space in the pandemic.
- Develop regular family rituals to look forward to such as board game marathons, Sunday movie nights, or afterschool hikes and bike rides.
- Enjoy meals together–breakfast, lunch and/or dinner depending on your family’s schedule.
- Stay in touch with extended family by calling, hosting virtual gatherings, or getting together in-person safely. Cousins can make great online playmates.
- Encourage regular sibling bonding time. Brothers and sisters can be excellent companions for each other during this isolated time period. They can shoot hoops in the driveway, play games, or go on daily walks together.
- Schedule parent-child “special time” (one-on-one time with each parent engaging in a child-led activity) to keep those important familial bonds strong.
Socialization and Leisure
The pandemic has been hard on our kids socially. With schools closed completely or in a hybrid situation, the opportunity to socialize has been greatly reduced. Many kids are lonely which sometimes leads to clinical depression or anxiety. Many extracurriculars have been cancelled and it is hard to find social outlets that are critical for many children’s development and well-being. However, without the usual long commute times and the shorter online school days, there is more time for students to spend on their hobbies and interests.
- Ensure your child is having healthy opportunities to socialize and taking enjoyable breaks from schoolwork.
- Encourage your child to stay in touch with friends (e.g., call, text, Zoom, visit in person safely). It is all too easy to let relationships dwindle in the pandemic.
- Ask your child what activities they would like to engage in with their newfound time and sign them up for enjoyable classes and clubs (e.g., learning a musical instrument or foreign language, painting, robotics, coding). Suggest websites where they can learn about high-interest topics.
- Help your child plan activities with peers based on your child’s interests such as a book club, a Netflix movie party, or a gaming event.
- Register your child for safe sports teams where they can not only get regular exercise, but build friendships.
- Encourage your child to engage in screen-free breaks to develop hobbies, read good books, and engage in self-directed learning in areas of interest.
- If your child struggles socially, find a “Big Brother/Sister” from an established organization or a teen in your neighborhood to socialize with your child regularly.
Even as schools are opening up and many students are returning to in-person learning, all students are going to be involved in some amount of virtual learning for the foreseeable future. Children and teens are still vulnerable in this distance learning or hybrid environment and parental involvement is important in helping them to stay on track with their learning and overall well-being.
These are unique and challenging times where parenting can seem overwhelming. Hopefully these suggestions related to school advocacy, family time, socialization and leisure are helpful. For other topics and related suggestions, please see part 1 of this article. Best of luck with helping your child and whole family through these difficult times!
If you need individualized help, Exceptional Educational Solutions offers distance learning support as well as assistance with finding a school fit in traditional or alternative education where your child will thrive.