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Concerned about virtual learning? Tips on how to support kids at home

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Following the decision from most Central Virginia school districts that the first nine weeks of the academic year will be remote, it easy for parents to feel overwhelmed with how to best support their children. (Courtesy of WMBD)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — First things, first, parents: Relax.

Following the decision from most Central Virginia school districts that the first nine weeks of the academic year will be remote, it’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed with how to best support their children.

“Parents can do this,” cautions Yvonne Bunn, director of Homeschool Support & Government Affairs with the Home Educators Association of Virginia.  

She says her office has fielded calls from parents worried about virtual learning since the pandemic began. While homeschooling and remote learning share a significant difference in institutional structure, both eliminate the traditional classroom setting.

But what if homeschooling is out of the question? What if virtual learning is the best option for parents and children in the immediate future? Meghan Manning, teacher and founder of Growth Education, says the best way to make the transition to virtual learning a smooth one is to take it one day at a time.

“Give everyone some grace – the teachers, the administration, your child, and yourself,” she said. “This is a whole new, ever-evolving world for everyone and we are all navigating it together, each in the best way we can.”

Parents caught off guard by the pandemic last spring can take solace in the fact that school districts were rocked as well. Its why Manning believes months of planning from school districts, principals and teachers will not only benefit parents but children as well. But planning, engagement and communication from parents are also paramount, she believes.

“Plan your daily and weekly schedule, set up a learning space for each child, establish some routines and boundaries, and involve your children in each of these processes,” she said. “You’ve had a chance to experience this already, so plan ahead for likely issues and have conversations as a family about different options for handling these as they arise.”

A virtual learning space is also important for children working remotely.

“Just as adults are more successful in our own space with all of our materials and supplies nearby and organized for easy access, children are the same,” she said.

Studies show that having an organized work or learning space will save time (for both parent and child), reduce stress, help maintain a routine and boost productivity. Organization is also fundamental in remote learning, researchers add. Parents should decide on a time when everyone will organize their work and learning spaces each day of the week.

“It will be well-worth it to establish this early on,” Manning stated.

Nourishing the parent-student-teacher relationship will also help ease any fears parents may have encountered about virtual learning. The beginning of the school year is critical for the teacher-student relationship, Manning believes. In the absence of the classroom, Manning says parents can help bridge the gap by helping the teacher learn more about their child.

Stephen Small, a Norfolk State University math professor and high school math teacher, says that even at the secondary school level, the relationship between parent and teacher is essential for the betterment of the student.

“Parents are going to be asked to be more involved in holding their child accountable during the virtual learning phase. That means logging into zooms, reviewing lecture videos, participating in online study hours, and ensuring the completion of homework,” Small said. “Of course, it’s an adjustment but I do believe all parties working together will result in the student’s success.”

Growth Education offered additional tips for parents:

  • While the schools should provide a schedule for the students and there will likely be synchronous learning, there will also be time during the day that is unstructured. Talk to your children about how that time should be spent.
  • Make sure you have variety in your schedule. Whether that means activities that change up on a daily or weekly basis, breaking up the monotony will be good for everyone.
  • Also factor in free time where your children get to choose what they do, preferably not screen time as they will be getting more than enough of that with virtual school.
  • Most importantly, involve your children in these discussions and in the planning process. Getting their buy-in from the beginning will make the days go by so much more smoothly for all of you.

The Virginia Department of Education offered other suggestions on their website to aid parents and families with remote learning:

  • Collaborate with your child to organize the day to include time for learning, activities and exercise.
  • Read to and with your child and have conversations about what you have read together.
  • Take a walk and ask about what your child is seeing and about being a good citizen.
  • Encourage critical thinking through cooking together or planning a garden.
  • Encourage conversations about mathematics in your child’s day.
  • Explore your child’s creativity by creating art, music, or dance.
  • Write a letter to a family member or friend or community hero.
  • Be mindful of screen time and have alternatives for children to play outside.
  • Listen to your child about his or her feelings and fears and offer comfort, honest, and reassurance.

The VDOE also encourages families to review resources provided by the school division, public libraries, public media, civic and community groups, and other resources by clicking here.

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