Across Maine, parents face a new challenge. Schools are closed, the kids are home – and suddenly they’re doing something called “distance learning.” A month ago, we sent them onto the school bus and welcomed them home at the end of the day. Today, it’s all happening in the living room. Now what?

At Maine Connections Academy, we’ve taught our students exclusively through online, or distance, learning since 2015. Along the way, we’ve learned some tricks and tips to help make the process work for parents.

Here are eight tips for parents and caretakers to help your child continue their education in an online environment.

1: Make a plan. Talk to your children about what the new normal will be and have everyone agree on expectations. “No, recess will not extend from 10 o’clock until noon. Yes, you get to choose what we have for lunch.”

2: Stick to their daily routine. Your school will have a plan for how online classes work, and you need a plan, too. Getting up, having breakfast, getting materials ready – these all continue, even though students are at home.

3: Build the right space. We’ve learned that it’s the rare student who can work efficiently from their bed. Going to school from home usually means a proper workspace, such as the kitchen table, a comfy chair in the living room or a computer desk. Keep in mind that some students do well by rotating among various spaces for various subjects.

4: Incentives can be a good thing. Let’s be frank: Many students are not used to studying from home. That may mean a small incentive to keep them going. “You need to finish your history homework before you can watch TV.” For some students, it works to check items off on a dry erase board.

5: Take breaks. That applies to you as well as your children. Call it recess, call it staying sane, but everybody needs breathers throughout the day. Have them go outside when it is safe and appropriate.

6: Set boundaries. You may be working from home yourself. You’ll need your own schedule and breaks, of course. You’ll also need to make sure you have dedicated work time, by yourself, without interruptions. Your plan with your students (see No. 1, above) should include their understanding when you cannot be disturbed.

7: Plan some online fun. Going to school online doesn’t limit your on-screen opportunities. Many museums are opening their collections for virtual visits, there are numerous interactive games to explore, and of course, there is always the online chat with Grandmom or other relatives, who would love to catch up.

8: Stay involved. It can be all too easy to set a plan, make sure the internet is working … and walk away. You’ll want to do some periodic check-ins with your students. Are they getting their assignments done? Is the space working out? Are some classes harder online than they had anticipated (or easier)? Use this time to check in with your child to see how they are progressing.

Obviously, the COVID-19 crisis has brought us into uncharted territory. Our children need to know that while we don‘t have all of the answers, we do have a plan for helping them continue to learn. School makes up a huge part of our children’s lives. Now that, for many, school is occurring online, your confidence and forethought can make a significant difference in how well your children adapt and keep learning.

 

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