Sep 2, 2020

9 essential distance learning tips for parents

What you need to know to stay sane and to help your kids succeed and be safe as they transition back to school at home or partially online this fall.

While everyone wants their kids to go back to school as normal as possible, the new normal is going to look much more virtual. If you are like most parents, you are still recovering from the burnout of juggling homeschooling, childcare and work the first time around this past spring. And, the thought of round two of online-only remote learning or some hybrid of at-home and in-person education is overwhelming. 

To make it all a bit more bearable, and to help your child have the best chance for success while learning at home in a much more virtual way, we’ve put together a few or our favorite and most realistic remote learning and homeschooling tips for parents.

9 distance & hybrid learning tips for parents

1. Routine is king!

If your child is following a school lesson plan and curriculum, half the work of creating a routine is done for you. Take advantage of that. Ask teachers for help. If you are creating your own homeschool plan it will involve more work. Either way, having a schedule is essential to your family’s sanity. Just don’t overdo it. Keep it simple. Avoid using too many different tools and apps and keep each day very similar to the day before. The most abandoned plans are the most complex ones. Treat school days just like you would if your child was attending school pre-Covid. This includes getting up at the same time everyday, getting properly dressed (no spending the day in PJs, sorry!), and eating a healthy breakfast.

2. Create a designated learning space.

Related to having a routine, having a designated space helps your child concentrate and perform better. Choose a quiet place as free from distraction as possible. Make sure it is also comfortable, well lit and well ventilated.  

3. Disconnect.

Excessive screen time has been associated with a long list of physical and mental problems – from obesity, eye-strain, and changes in gray matter levels in the brain to depression, self-harm, and even suicide. And, with most of the day now spent online (school + social life + entertainment) it is more important than ever to make a conscious effort to disconnect. Let a  parental control tool like Qustodio help you set up consistent screen time limits and blackout periods.  

4. Get exercise.

Sitting in front of a computer for long stretches of time has been associated with higher rates of obesity. Make sure your child takes breaks throughout the day to move their body. Aim for a minimum of 60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day. While an online exercise or yoga class is better than nothing, ideally, your child should get their exercise outside. Our rule of thumb is for every hour of screen time, get one hour of fresh air. Here’s a great article from National Geographic on why walking is so important for the body and the mind.

5. Integrate learning into daily life.

The best learning often happens while children are at play or doing real life tasks. For younger children, you can teach them fractions while baking or cooking. Have them read signs you see while they walk. Ask them to write their name and date on every drawing that they create. Have them write down special occasions on the calendar. For older children, ask them to calculate how much it will cost to fill the gas tank. Get their help with a business plan. Compare sports statistics. Create blueprints for a change to their room. Pick a news topic and have them read various sources (e.g. New York Times vs Aljazeera vs Fox News) about it to see if the facts match and talk about and debate any differences. 

7. Include hand-written assignments.

Writing by hand creates stronger memories and understanding, so when possible, disconnect from Google docs and try to incorporate journaling and other writing activities, including doing math, with a good old piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

8. Incorporate a “Genius Hour”.

If you haven’t heard of the genius hour, it’s a practice of letting your child explore anything of their interest for an hour. While it is preferable that exploration not be done online in our current screen time overload environment, try not to intervene or set limits on what they do with that hour. For younger children, what they explore could be something new every day – dinosaurs, bugs, magic tricks, how to tie knots. For older children, suggest they set a long-term goal and use their genius hour to work towards that goal bit by bit every day – build a robot, create an app, memorize a long poem, write a short story, create an urban garden.

9. Do an online safety check.

Make sure the apps and tools your child uses for school and learning are safe. Check privacy and data-sharing settings. See our guide to Google Classroom. This is also the perfect time to talk to your child about potential dangers on the internet. For example, if you change a setting to private, explain why. 

And, overall: Be realistic (give yourself a break!). What we are experiencing now, as the New York Times aptly puts it, is not homeschooling, which is a choice. What parents are really doing is “crisis schooling”. With remote learning, parents need to relax their expectations and be more open to mistakes and imperfections than ever before. The truth is, we are all still learning.

How can Qustodio help protect your family?

Qustodio is the best way to keep your kids safe online and help them create healthy digital habits. Our parental control tools ensure they don't access inappropriate content or spend too much time in front of their screens.