With many schools resuming classes virtually the challenges of remote learning for students are becoming clear for many parents. As parents attempt to navigate work and playing teacher/tutor it’s necessary to understand he limitations of distance education. Sure, doing math homework in your PJ’s can be a dream for many young learners. However, parents need tools and strategies to overcome some of the difficult aspects of remote learning.
The Challenges of Remote Learning
First up on the list of challenges to overcome is distractions. If you’ve been working at home yourself then you know distractions abound. The laundry needs to be folded, dishes are piling up, and the dog wants to go for a walk. Kids have the added distractions of TV, gaming systems, toys, and going outside to play with friends.
For students who have been in the traditional school system for a few years the transition to home-based schooling can be tough. They are accustomed to school being the place for thought and learning. Home is where the fun happens and (hopefully) some homework. That has all been flipped on its head and home must now serve as the learning facility.
Make learning fun and interactive is one way to avoid remote learning burnout. Remember all those fun science experiments you did as a kid in grade school? You can easily replicate many of those at home for some hands-on learning. The cost of supplies can be cheap and many YouTube channels, such as Kids Science, exist to walk you through the process and explain what you’re doing. Think of this as a chance to have fun with your kid while learning. Also, what dad doesn’t want to step away from a Zoom call and say “I have to go make a volcano erupt in the garage”? Epic way to end a meeting in my opinion.
Encouraging teamwork is a great strategy if you have multiple children. Have your children study in the same area, preferably an area dedicated to school work. The older child can be tasked with some responsibility to ensure the others stay focused. This provides the eldest a chance to demonstrate responsibility and encourages everyone to collaborate. Wins, such as good results on a quiz, can be shared with the entire family to replicate the feeling of success in school.
Heavy Screen Time
If your kids are involved in remote learning they are going to get a lot more screen time than normal. Now more than ever it’s important for parents to discuss and practice healthy family screen time. It’s important to set screen time boundaries early in the semester. It’s not healthy to stare at a screen all day (I can attest this does add pounds) and kids need an outlet for their energy.
Set defined breaks for your kids throughout the day. This can include science experiments in the backyard and physical exercise by walking around the block. Arts and crafts time can also be a nice break from a screen-heavy day.
Create a day planner together with your child. This can be fun for multiple reasons. First, you get to see what your child’s schedule looks like. You might be surprised by how much work even young kids are doing. It also gives you a chance to teach your children about time management and creating schedules. Breaking the day down into tasks and hitting those goals is an important skill, especially as your kids approach college age.
If you previously worked in an office setting and now work from the kitchen table you can relate to feelings of loneliness.
Kids are accustomed to seeing their friends at school, playing at recess, and laughing at lunch. With all those experiences gone your child may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is especially true for only children who don’t have a playmate. This may make it tough for some children to focus on their studies and grades may even slip.
Ask your kids how they are doing. This should happen even under normal circumstances, but now it is especially important. Ask how they are holding up. If they express feelings of loneliness don’t downplay their feelings. Let them know it’s normal and lots of people are feeling this way. If you are honestly dealing with similar feelings share your experience. Kids look up to parents and knowing that dad is even feeling the same way can be comforting. It lets the child know they aren’t alone. Honestly, it might even feel good for you to open up a bit. Even adults are impacted by the “new normal”.
Schedule virtual play dates as much as possible. This can be a bit challenging, but if your child has a best friend it’s worth exploring how they can still have fun. It could be a dedicated 30 minute block a few times each week to play Minecraft or talk on Zoom. Video conferencing has been a big part of remote working. While kids shouldn’t be using Zoom or other video software unsupervised, it can be fun to see their friend. They can show off what they’ve been doing at home and spend some time talking about their shared experiences.
Part of your new dad duties during remote learning will be playing tech support. This may be one of the most frequent challenges of remote learning parents will encounter. The WiFi isn’t working. The computer froze. The document didn’t save. The list goes on and you will be expected to have the answers. Something about “great power and great responsibility” seems fitting here.
While tech issues are frustrating you can’t rely on the school or teacher providing a solution. Imagine the poor teacher who is trying to play tech support to 30 kids at the same time. While it’s tough for working parents, you likely won’t be able to avoid having to troubleshoot issues during the school year.
Upgrade outdated technology if it is feasible given your current position. Not every family is able to drop the money on new technology for school. If you are fortunate enough to be able to upgrade some old tech it can help avoid issues. We previously reviewed some back-to-school Chromebooks that are affordable and should meet most, if not all, of the needs of your student.
Avoid network overload by keeping the number of connected devices to a minimum. If both parents are working at home as well as kids your home network can quickly become strained. Try to keep the number of devices operating at any time to a minimum. You might even experiment with staggered schedules if your job or child’s school permits.
Communicate with teachers more than normal, but don’t be the crazy obsessive parent. Email teachers at the start of the semester to share your contact info. If for any reason the teacher is having difficulty sharing homework they can send it to you, for example. This provides another outlet for the teacher to distribute assignments if, and when, their selected tech platform has an issue.
The challenges of remote learning are numerous. As dads we have to do our best to put on the brave face and seem like these issues are minor blips. We might feel intimidated and that’s fine. Balancing work, child’s school, and staying mentally healthy isn’t an easy undertaking. If nothing else my advice is to be patient with your kids, their school, and yourself. These challenges may be daunting, but are not impossible to overcome. If you start to feel especially stressed it might be time to join your kids for science class. Volcanoes and twisters in a bottle have an odd way of making us smile and relieving stress.