Working from home used to be a pipedream for many of us. But after a year spent Zooming in sweatpants and slippers, we’ve realized that the functionality and organization of an office setting isn’t so bad after all. The same is true for our kids, who’re stuck at home before, during, and after school. Between claustrophobia, boredom, and distractions, learning remotely has its own unique set of challenges. But with a few simple changes, you can keep young minds (somewhat more) engaged.
The Johns Hopkins School of Education explains that “The term ‘engagement’ refers to the amount and quality of time students spend on distance learning activities. Distance learning activities can be in a synchronous (real-time) learning experience where students have some type of scheduled online interaction with a teacher or group, or asynchronous (not in real-time) learning experience where students interact with online resources at their own pace.”
It seems that no two school districts offer the same learning schedule. And that’s ok. But, explain Hopkins researchers, “Regardless of the mode of delivery, many students are asked to be engaged in a way that’s new to them. Teachers might hold live or video-recorded class lectures or activities, or perhaps parents are given digital learning resources to work through with their children. Without effective supports for children from teachers and parents in place at home, families can easily become disengaged and frustrated.”
They suggest several options to combat restlessness, distraction, and frustration. And remember that this is a new, (hopefully!) once-in-a-lifetime experience. Give yourself—and your kids—a break. As we look forward to 2021, with a little luck remote learning will slowly go the way of masks, toilet paper shortages, and social distancing.
Some Johns Hopkins distraction-conquering suggestions are simple. Use checklists of assignments, requirements, and accomplishments. If something goes smoothly or a new concept is mastered, provide immediate positive feedback. But more than rewarding movie nights or gold stars on a bulletin board, also try to understand how kids' minds and bodies work.
For example, “Kids need to move their bodies frequently throughout the day. Allow time for exercise before your child is expected to focus on a distance learning task. Some children are able to better focus on tasks when standing. Consider having your computer or tablet be on a raised surface so that your child can stand.” Also remember that for younger learners, play is as important as work.
Like adults, students benefit from a dedicated workspace and daily routine. If possible, set aside a spot with their tablet or Chromebook, supplies, and little else. Just as we’re distracted by snacks, the lure of a nap, or piles of unfolded laundry, our kids are even MORE distractible. Searching for a notebook or looking for a charger can be derailed by nearby toys, games, or snuggly pets. Start and stop at the same time and have wiggle and backyard breaks when possible.
2020 has been a learning experience for all of us. As it rolls to a close, take a minute to hug your kids, thank your teachers, and pat yourself on the back for making it through.