May 29, 2020 - No Comments!

How Parents Can Weather the Storm of At-Home Learning

Milagros Montalvo

This is part one of our ongoing series about edTech industry shifts in at-home learning. To check out the whole series, click here.

You wake up to the sounds of banging. You pad over to the kitchen and find scattered pots and pans on the floor. Your child is making you breakfast — but you don't have much time to enjoy it. There's only 45 minutes before your first meeting of the day, and you still need to wrap-up edits to a slide deck, make yourself presentable, and get your child set-up for at-home learning.

Sound familiar? You're not alone. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has put parents in a near-impossible position. Suddenly you've become a teacher and a learning software expert, in addition to a stay-at-home parent and work-from-home employee. 

We get it. Backpack's staff is made up of former educators, UX designers, and parents who know how daunting wrangling your child into an at-home learning routine can be. 

Here are three tips for weathering the storm of at-home learning as a busy parent. You can do this — no matter how much time you have, or how new you are to digital learning.

Create a Schedule

Children crave consistency. It’s really important for them to know when something is happening and what the expectations are when it comes to their day — and accessing tech. 

Create a visual representation of your schedule and refer to it throughout the day.
Feel free to create something together using a poster board or a simple dry erase board w/times and activities. Check-in throughout the day to see if your child is on task. Creating and sticking to schedules will be especially important for households that have competing technology needs and may even ease tensions or points of friction.

Announce transitions 5-10 minutes ahead of time.
Give your child time to transition to the next activity with ease. Transitions also give your child time to clean up after an activity and set up for the next one.

Rapid Reflection

  • How flexible can you be with your schedule? Can you coordinate your work hours around your child’s at-home learning? If not, work around your schedule.
  • When are computers available for at-home learning? How can other devices, like phones or tablets,  help balance your work-from-home needs with the needs of your child?
  • Is your child an early riser? Do they have a ton of energy in the morning, or are they more low-key? What activities are appropriate for their energy?
  • Can your child work on a focused activity while you take calls? 
  • Can you leave guided activities for times when you're available to help?

Need more help with time management?
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America has put together some great resources for parents on time management and technology safety. Visit the link and scroll to the bottom to access the PDFs: https://www.bgca.org/i-am-a/parent.

Create a space for self-directed learning

Just like you depend on your desk or office to get work done, children need a dedicated space for learning activities they can tackle on their own — whether they're using laptops, tablets, mobile devices, or good, old-fashioned pen and paper.

Stay flexible.
As long as everything they need is within arm's reach, a comfortable floor pillow and a coffee table work just as well as a traditional desk. Your child can also explore a few spaces throughout the day. No one said they have to stick to one spot! 

Personalize their space.
A decorative name plate or family photo creates a sense of ownership that encourages children to embrace their new learning environment.  

Rapid Reflection

  • Where are your children currently doing their work? Has this been successful? Are there too many distractions in that area? 
  • Is there a single place to keep track of all the items they need, like a basket or table?
  • What materials do they need for the day? The week? 
  • Do they need access to a power source for laptops or mobile devices?  An additional light source to read more easily? 
  • Can they easily sign in to their school accounts and devices on their own? Do you need to be there to help?

Looking for self-directed reading activities?
Scholastic put together a wonderful and comprehensive book list broken up by grade band: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/teaching-tools/book-lists.html

Manage expectations—yours and theirs

Setting expectations with your child creates mutual understanding about what needs to get done when—and why.

Check in often.
Have emotional and productivity check-ins throughout the day in order to survey your child’s level of frustration or excitement about their learning. Longer check-ins at the beginning and end of your day will give you enough time to set expectations and reflect on learning together.

Stay flexible.
At-home learning means students may complete digital assignments around a schedule that works best for them. While schedules create consistency, it's ok if learning is happening in time-frames that don't "fit" the normal school day 

Anything is better than nothing.
Give yourselves space to have an unproductive day. If you only get two things accomplished on your schedule, it's okay. You can always try again tomorrow. And when all else fails— read a book! It’s a great way to bond and support literacy skills at any age.

Rapid Reflection 

  • What needs to get done today? What can wait until tomorrow or later in the week? 
  • Do tasks or assignments need to be time boxed to move them along, i.e. giving your child an hour to wrap online research?
  • How much support do they need to complete a task? Is it something they can tackle on their own? 

Want to connect with other parents to discuss all things at-home learning?
Join Learning Ally on Facebook or review their other great resources on their site: https://learningally.org/Solutions-for-Home/Parent-Resources.

Whether you create an iron-clad schedule or simply work around your Zoom meetings, everything you're doing to support your child's education speaks volumes—and it'll pay off in the long run, too. We know it isn't easy, but parents like you are crucial champions for your children and their learning. Thanks for everything you do! 

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Milagros comes to Backpack Interactive with almost a decade of teaching and administrative experience. She holds an M.S.in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and was a former columnist for Scholastic Teacher Magazine. A native New Yorker, Milagros enjoys a good Broadway soundtrack and a strong cup of coffee.

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