Inside: 10 virtual learning tips to get prepared and set up your family for success.
2 months ago, I couldn’t wait for school to start back up.
When it came down to deciding whether or not to send our kids back face to face or to enroll them in virtual learning, I was truly stuck though.
Neither decision felt like a good one. Luckily our school superintendent decided for us.
We live in the largest county in Georgia where classroom sizes are usually at least 20 and there are almost 100 schools. Many families have children at more than one school. Those same students ride the same buses, and some teachers even travel to different schools.
All these things paired with the number of COVID 19 cases in our county being on the rise when school started, led the school board to decide it wasn’t safe for anyone to go back to school face to face yet.
I was a little disappointed at first, because it meant I wouldn’t get my days to myself back.
After being stuck at home with my family for almost 6 months, I definitely could use some alone time. I thrive on having time to focus on the things I want to do.
What mom doesn’t?
But I was also relieved that I didn’t have to be the one to make such a huge decision for our family.
Last week was our first week of virtual learning. Despite some technical issues and boredom from my 1st grader, WE SURVIVED!
I know that this semester and really this year will be a learning process for all of us. In the end, it’s something that will only make us stronger. But I think we’ve learned a few things already that might make virtual learning easier for your family.
10 VIRTUAL LEARNING TIPS
1. SET UP A DESIGNATED WORKSPACE
I definitely waited until the last minute to do this, so if you’re starting to panic, don’t. Our workspace is nothing special, but it’s a room we don’t often use. So it was easy to clear it off and designate it for school.
We got some basic school supplies like paper, pencils, markers, erasers, folders, glue, and a pencil sharpener. Also, if you don’t have a good pair of headphones for your child, make sure to invest in a pair!
I put everything in a small crate and stackable bins like the ones below. Then I got a simple bookshelf to organize everything and make it easy to put it all away at the end of the day.
2. LOG ON EARLY
This might seem obvious, but we had to learn it the hard way. Even though you’ll be at home and won’t have to worry about finding everyone’s shoes, it will still take you some time to get ready in the morning.
I don’t know if it’s just my kids who aren’t morning people.
Or maybe my 6-year-old is the only one that needs 5 reminders to brush his teeth. But you won’t be saving that much time by doing school at home instead of in person.
Our schools are using Microsoft Teams. After a few days, I learned how easy it is to create your own meeting instead of joining the meeting your teacher started. If you log on before she starts the meeting, you’ll see a meeting request pop up on your screen though. So being early definitely helps in this case.
Plus if you have issues logging on and try to email the teacher once the class has already started, she may not see your email if she’s already focused on teaching the lesson.
Being online early will help you get your day started out with fewer frustrations due to technical issues.
3. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
Having a designated workspace is the first step in helping to minimize distractions for your students. We try not to have any toys on the table when school is going on. If I sit next to my 6-year-old doing something he’s interested in, it’s distracting to him.
My 8-year-old doesn’t want my help and tells me he’s got it, but my 6-year-old wants me next to him all day.
So I’ve been sitting next to my 6-year-old with my computer. When he asks me what I’m doing, I let him know that I have work to do too. I have a little alarm clock next to his work station that tells him the time and his daily schedule.
4. TURN OFF OTHER DEVICES
Unless you have a crazy amount of Wifi, having more than one person doing a conference call at once will more than likely cause some connection issues. I realized a few months ago that when I’m zooming it helps to turn off all the devices we aren’t actually using.
You can just turn off the wifi on your phone if you aren’t using it, but I also turn off all the ipads in the house. I put my smart watch on airplane mode and I also turn off all the smart TVs in the house. It’s crazy how many things in our house rely on wifi!
5. TAKE SCREEN-FREE BREAKS
Anytime my kids have a break in their schedule, we try to do things that don’t involve a screen.
My 1st grader’s teacher told the class that they need to do something screen-free during their lunch and recess break. She also told them to read for 9 minutes before they can have screen time after school. This week, they have to read 20 minutes every day as their homework.
6. SEPERATE SIBLINGS
We started out with both kids in the dining room. Since my younger son does everything his older brother does, I thought he would get more work done if he was in the same room.
After the first day, we realized that wasn’t the case. My younger son didn’t like wearing the headphones all day and my older son figured out that his teacher couldn’t hear him speak when they were plugged in.
That’s all part of the process though, learning and adapting as you go!
We moved my younger son to the kitchen table so that they could both unplug their headphones if they wanted to. Having all of the school supplies in a small bin has made clean up at the end of the day easy.
7. BE PATIENT
Patience is not always easy, but again, we have to remember that this process is new for everyone! Especially our kids and their teachers.
Yesterday my son cried because he didn’t want to log onto school. His cousins are in town visiting and he said that school ruined his vacation.
We reminded him that he had an extra-long vacation this year and that it was time to go back to school.
I gave him permission to cry for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes were up, I told him he had to stop and log onto school.
His school counselor taught us this little trick last year when he was having a hard time adjusting to school starting back after the Winter Break. Surprisingly, he doesn’t usually need the whole 5 minutes to cry. But if he did, he would have that time to get it all out.
8. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Remember that you aren’t the only one trying to figure out how to help your child with virtual learning.
Not only is it hard on the teacher, but every other student is trying to learn how to navigate something that is totally foreign to them. So far, our teachers have been very patient, and I think they want parents to know it’s ok to not have it all figured out yet.
Sometimes, it might feel like you’re failing, but I promise, you’re doing it right momma!
9. STAY POSITIVE
We may not realize it, but our kids take cues from our attitudes. Try to stay positive and remind them that it’s ok if they don’t have all the answers.
My kids also do really well with positive reinforcement. We use rewards often, but if you don’t find this helpful, that’s ok.
I know that having time to play video games is worth everything to my kids. So before the first day of school, I told them that they couldn’t have screen time after school if they complained.
It worked really well the first day. The next day was a little harder and I realized I had to give them some time to adjust. But after this week, I’m going to be consistent about this rule!
10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
I know all moms struggle with asking for help, but we need it now more than ever!
Find a community. We’re all relying on social media right now to connect with other moms. It’s definitely not the same as meeting in person with your friends, but it still can help you feel less isolated.
If there isn’t already a Facebook group for moms in your neighborhood, start one. Or you can even start another one that focuses only on struggles moms of school-aged kids have.
We have one in our neighborhood called surviving the pandemic with kids. We share tips about virtual learning, but also other challenges that have come up this year!
Some parents don’t have a choice but to work. If this is you, you will more than likely need to figure out a plan for getting help before you even get started!
I can’t even imagine how hard it will be for you to juggle your job, keeping your house in one piece, and now having to help your child with virtual learning.
Just remember that any help you can give them is better than nothing. Make sure to communicate any struggles that come up with your child’s teacher.
Communicate with the school administration and the school board. If they don’t hear from you, they won’t know what your struggles are.
What other virtual learning tips do you have for parents who might be struggling with the same issues as you? Make sure to share them in the comments!
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