Nine Tips To Help Parents Plan for Online Learning

2020 has left many of us feeling, well. . .lost. This is a very uncertain time for all of us. No one is exempt from the stress and uncertainty from this pandemic and now we are divided about whether or not schools should reopen in the fall.

I understand and I can empathize with all of you.

The past few months I have been watching and reading the news from across the ocean in Spain where my family and I currently reside. I can empathize because we were in the exact same place four months ago.

On Friday, March 13, Spain declared a state of emergency and full mandated lock down across the country. This quarantine kept everyone in their homes until the state of emergency was lifted on June 21, 2020.

So what did this mean for students and teachers across Spain? 100% online learning.

Our family had a unique perspective during this time. My husband and I are both teachers so we were teaching online while our daughters were learning online. Our home was literally one giant classroom as each of us were “in school” between the hours of 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m.

Please know that this post was not created with the intentions to try to persuade anyone about whether or not your child should enroll in distance learning or what the pros and cons are. I am simply writing as an American expat sharing what worked for us as parents and as teachers during our three months of online learning.

How to Plan for Online Learning

1. Designate a “work only” area for your child that has zero distractions.

This area should only be used for school. It is good to have everyone in the home on the same page and in a positive mindset centered around online learning.

*This also includes having the same routine as your child would have during the school year. They should wake up around the same time, brush their teeth, get dressed, and have breakfast.

2. Shop for the school year the same way that you would normally.

Your child will most likely need supplies that you might not have laying around the home. Make sure that you have the essentials: pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, paper.
*If you do not have the means to purchase these items please contact one of the following organizations who have done school supply drives the past two years.

4. Include breaks.

Students should have multiple computer breaks a day. According to the National Institute of Health, “it is recommend that 20 minutes of class assignments be followed by 10 minutes of physical activity for younger children. Older children and teens may be able to focus on assignments for longer stretches. Remember to help children take breaks between subjects. Building in breaks is important, and adding in physical activity and movement throughout the day is helpful, but each family might want to work that into their daily routines in their own way. Routines and schedules are really important right now, and it will also help kids and families better understand when it is a good time to be on screens, working, and when it is play, relax and chill time.
My daughter (third grade) had two, 30 minute breaks and an hour for lunch and “recess”. Try to encourage your child to “unplug” during these breaks as well, since they are already spending a large chunk of the time in front of the computer screen.

5. Create a check list for assignments/ lessons for each day.

At the start of the day have your child (if older) go through each class and write down the lesson/assignment prior to starting. If your child is younger, sit down with them and read through the daily lessons before they begin.
  • Include time slots on the agenda – we organized activities by morning (writing, reading, and Spanish) and afternoon (math and electives).
  • Have your child mark off the item once they’ve completed it.
  • Be sure to include the breaks on the agenda as well.
  • If your child doesn’t complete a lesson (or has trouble understanding the lesson) have them highlight this area on their agenda. They can complete this the following day or be used as a reminder to contact the teacher with questions on that particular assignment.

6. Contact the teacher ASAP if you do not have access to essential items like a printer or the internet.

Do not wait until the last minute. Once your child knows who their teacher(s) is contact the them immediately. Do not wait until after online learning has started.
  • Request printed, hard copies of instructional packets for your child. Contact the teacher(s) and schedule a time for pick up and drop off.
  • Using a cell phone as an option – many online platforms such as Google Classroom and SeeSaw have mobile apps to be used for online learning if a student does not have access to a computer.
  • Library computers – contact your local library to see what your options are.

7. Know the tools that are being used.

It is a good idea that your child (and the parent) have a basic understanding of the technology being used during online learning. This will help eliminate any tech hiccups that might come into play which can cause frustration and delays in learning. Below are some quick instructional videos of how to use some of the more frequently used online learning platforms.

8. Be present

Sit down and discuss with your child what they are learning each day. Check for understanding by asking questions and reviewing your child’s work. If you see that your child is having a difficult time, contact the teacher right away. Open communication is key to successful online learning.

Some common questions that you can ask:

  •     “What was your favorite lesson today?”
  •     “Which assignment(s) can I help you with today?”
  •     “Are you feeling anxious or frustrated with any of your lessons?”
  •     “What were you proud of today during online learning?”

9. Try not to get discouraged

Virtual learning takes time to adapt to. Your child might seem excited at first but as time progresses you may find that their mood changes.

This is normal.
  • Listen to this podcast by Rachel Wigglesworth (Founder of Growing Great Families) to receive advice on tackling online learning as a family.
  • Sticky note feedback – Leave a sticky note on your child’s workspace as encouragement each night.
  • Encourage your child to check in with their teacher(s) periodically even if they do not have any questions or concerns. When a student feels connected with their teacher they are more invested in their learning.

Mary, a native of Rockford, Illinois, attended DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she received her BA in Secondary Art Education. In 2007, she moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after accepting a position as a high school visual arts teacher with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She and her husband, Collin, who is a teacher in the Iowa City Community School District, reside in Cedar Rapids with their daughters, Zoey and Munroe. Zoey is five and Munroe will be turning one in October 2016. In addition to being a full time mommy, full time teacher, and writer for the mom’s blog, she is also a professional artist who has shown and published works both nationally and internationally. Mary enjoys traveling, painting, and most of all, spending time with her family.


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