The 2020-2021 school year will be unlike any other. Remote learning, either part time or full time, has become a reality for families around the country. Many school districts have instituted virtual education for all students, while others will have a blended learning schedule.
It’s good to keep in mind that there’s a learning curve for everyone: teachers, parents and children, and an adjustment period will be necessary. The “new normal” has caused significant and consequential changes in all our lives. If children were learning from home in the spring, they are likely to need time to adjust again in the fall.
Parents have reported facing challenges, as well as advantages.
We can continue to support our children with patience, persistence and a positive attitude. Here are some tips to help families adapt to remote learning:
- Set up a routine and stick to it as best you can. Schedule breaks for lunch, snacks, and exercise that reflect your child’s normal school day.
- Arrange a clutter-free space in your home for schoolwork. Reduce distractions and limit access to phones, games, toys and pets. Minimize background noise, such as TV, music and loud conversations.
- Post a large paper calendar and use color-coded markers to track assignments and deadlines. This can help your child stay organized and can be especially helpful if you have more than one child.
- Scheduling breaks for fun activities can help your child better focus and accomplish more. Consider a walk or run, game of catch or family-friendly virtual exercise class.
- Connect with your child’s school, teachers or guidance counselors for recommended practices to support remote learning. They can also suggest ways to address learning barriers. For example, if your child struggles with a specific subject, explore resources for virtual tutoring such as your local library.
- Consider providing periodic rewards, such as gold stars for younger children and phone or game time for older children.
- Maintain an open dialogue with your children about their thoughts and feelings on how their experience is going to support their adaptation to remote learning. Let them know that you acknowledge the change in learning and will support and advocate for them.
- Think about connecting with other parents for support, ideas and strategies to make the best of the situation.
If your child has a musculoskeletal condition and receives support services at school, ask their rheumatologist or orthopedic surgeon how their needs can be addressed remotely. For children who will be attending school on site, it would also be a good idea to consult the child’s physician for recommendations.
Finally, school closures have highlighted educational inequities related to income, English proficiency, and race and ethnicity. Children who have special learning needs or who live in inadequately resourced schools are likely to experience the greatest challenges. Parents may need to advocate for their child’s needs with their school or through a local educational advocacy organization, such as Advocates for Children of New York.
Rosalia Duarte, LMSW, is a Pediatric Social Worker at the Ambulatory Care Center at HSS.