It’s September and that means children around the country are back to school, but not all are present in the physical sense. Whether your children have a mix of in-person and virtual or full-time remote learning, online home schooling has become the new normal in these challenging times. However your children are connecting to the classroom, you can help prepare and set them up for virtual success with these five tips.
1. Have a designated work area
In order to prevent distractions and keep children focused, it’s important to have a separate “school” area in the house where they will do their work. Ideally this is a place with a door, so they don’t disrupt others when on live video and can have some privacy to pay attention to their work. If that doesn’t exist, you can put up a desk partition to separate children working in the same space.
A desk and chair are ideal to mimic a school setting, but flexible seating such as a beanbag chair, exercise ball or big pillow can give them a break during the day to relax or read. Make sure the area has all the necessary supplies besides the computer such as notebooks, pens, pencils, a clock to keep track of the schedule and a bottle of water to keep hydrated and avoid having to miss a lesson to get a drink.
2. Get some tools
A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce outside distractions especially if you have other children schooling at home or adults working remotely. Buy an external mouse and keyboard for the laptop, so it’s easier to type and scroll. For older kids, you may want to set up a larger monitor, so they have multiple screens open to work and pay attention to the lesson at the same time.
3. Create a schedule and calendar
If your child isn’t already on a school-like schedule you should create one. Just like the high school experience with a bell and changing classes, you can recreate the experience at home. Allot specific times for each subject with a few minutes break in between. If they need more time for a specific subject, you can always build it into the schedule or add extra time at the end of the day to catch up.
Get a planner for your child to keep track of daily assignments and due dates. For younger kids, you may want to get a large white board and update it weekly. This is a good opportunity to help their organizational and planning skills.
4. Find time for non-school activities
Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours is tough for anyone, so make sure to set aside time for non-school activities such as sports, exercise, and hobbies like art or music or even a walk around the neighborhood. Kids need exercise and fresh air and some down time from the school-day stresses. To add some social interaction, set up some time with other children whether it’s a digital playdate, riding bikes, or safely playing in the park. Children need to connect with their friends to improve their social, emotional, and mental health.
5. Set good habits
Even though your child is at home, they should still have a set bedtime to ensure they get enough sleep. Make sure cell phones are turned off and not in their rooms as they tend to distract and keep children up late.
Set good eating habits by creating a meal schedule and menu. You can even keep the lunch schedule similar to school like grilled cheese on Mondays or pizza on Friday. For older kids you can prepare food the night before (like pasta), so they don’t waste time preparing when they only have a limited time to eat. Keep fresh fruit and other healthy snacks within reach if they need a little energy boost during the day.
Best of luck to all the parents, families, teachers and children navigating their way through virtual school.