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Helping Kids with Online Learning

As kids are heading back to school, many parents are continuing with Distance Education instead of having their kids return to public school. How can you support your kids’ education during these new and unprecedented circumstances? Here’s what the experts say.

Dedicate a quiet learning space. The first and most important thing is to dedicate a quiet learning space where your kids can do their school work instead of letting them do it in different locations around the house. This way, they’ll come to associate that space with doing school work and won’t be distracted by unrelated activities. Steve Bentley of Method Schools, a large chain of online schools, says the space should be large enough to have room for their computer and the other things they need during a regular school day like pens, pencils, notepads, and a calculator.

Create a well-functioning routine and structure.  It’s important that your kids have a well-functioning routine and structure that mirrors what they’re used to in public school. Experts agree that kids should wake up at the same time as they would on an ordinary school-day morning, follow the same routine (take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast), and start their school day at a consistent time. “Following a normal weekday schedule will be reassuring and set the expectation of what’s to follow,” says Edith Adams and Carolyn Nelson, counselors at Macmillan Education, an educational consultancy. Dr. Corinn Cross, physician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, adds that the kids’ daily schedule should be posted on the refrigerator or another place in the house where everyone in the family can clearly see it.

Become an educational coach. What role should you play in helping your kids accomplish all of the things they have to do during the school day? Mss. Adams and Nelson suggest that you should think of yourself as your kids’ educational coach: “Your children’s teachers will be providing the content to be studied, so your role is more of a coach to facilitate the completion of that work.” Just like professional educational coaches, you should help your kids set specific goals and develop plans (including tasks and timelines) for meeting those goals.

Give them lots of praise - and breaks. Online learning can be tough for kids, even with your support. Give them lots of praise throughout the day and compliment them on their final products, as well as on their ability to keep their focus on difficult assignments. Praise is important, but so are lots of breaks during the day. Mss. Adams and Nelson say that kids should spend no more than three minutes multiplied by their age in front of a computer screen doing school work in any one sitting. For a 10-year-old, this would be 30 minutes; a 15-year-old should be able to focus for 45 minutes
at a time.

Encourage interaction with peers. It may be tempting to insist that your kids be offline during their breaks, but that’s not necessarily the best rule. One of the things kids miss the most from their regular school day is the opportunity to interact socially with classmates. Since they’re at home, let them do that by calling and texting their friends and interacting with them through social media. As Dr. Chelsea Hyde, an educational psychologist, says, “Give them a chance to connect with peers during their breaks like they would during recess and lunch at school.”

Tanni Haas, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences & Disorders at the City University of New York - Brooklyn College.



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