Friday, July 17, 2020

Healthy remote learning and teaching

News articles make me wonder if some families are struggling with how to handle remote teaching and learning.

Some of the worries relate to compliance rather than good learning. For example, I read a comment by a scientist made about her son's learning--she said he was way behind and that the work piled up. It may be that all that work is not just-right learning for that child. She mentioned that his learning disability, a disability often connects with good energy and intelligence which left me wondering if the parent was more concerned with compliance than education.

How can you ensure that your child is happy and successful with regard to remote learning?

Family cohorts
If possible, I recommend joining with one or two other families so that you can help one another. You could possibly find a neighbor or one of your child's classmates that you are willing to safely get together with to provide your child with playdates and study support. Family cohorts can help one another with childcare and study help too. If you are uncomfortable with in-person family cohorts, you could set up one or a few online family cohorts--perhaps you find two friends for your child to regularly meet up with online to complete homework, read together, or simply hang out.

A positive schedule
Consider your children's at-home schedule and then create a good family remote learning schedule. I believe that schools should offer families a somewhat steady week of learning opportunities that stay mostly consistent. Families can match their schedules with the school schedules. A typical family schedule might include the following:
  • Breakfast at 7
  • Online learning/practice 8-12
  • lunch 12-1
  • After lunch reading 1-2
  • More classes 2-3
  • Playtime 3-5
  • Dinner 
  • After dinner family time
  • Before bed reading 
Ideally schools will create your child's schedule with at-home schedules in mind. Also, I do think that children should not be expected to complete school work with the exception of reading after 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. creating more time for play and family time. 

Study spaces
Rethinking the layout of your home to provide spaces for each child to store their study supplies, log on to the computer, and listen and interact with lessons is important. Setting up those spaces during the summer is a good idea.

Reasonable, engaging study efforts
It is important for family members to review a child's weekly learning menu. If there are assignments or learning sessions that seem unreasonable, it is important for families to contact teachers to see if those learning events can be enriched or modified. Parents also may want to suggest replacement learning ideas. For example, if you have a very active child, you may want to exchange a math fact sheet for sidewalk chalk facts. You can simply take a picture of your child's efforts and send them in rather than the paper/pencil worksheet. Keep the focus of the assignment in mind, and if you can make that focus more interesting and meet the same goal, why not suggest or try that.

Goals and goal talks
Make time to sit down with your child to discuss their learning goals. Educators should share clear goals with families. Talk about how your child can work towards that goal on their own and where you might be able to help. For example, for almost every student, daily reading is integral to learning success. You and your child can discuss their learning and what they need. It may be that your child listens to a book on tape each day for 30 minutes, reads with a parent for 30 minutes, and reads short passages or books on their own for 30 minutes. You can't read too much--lots of great reading is an essential skill and wonderful goal for remote learning. 

Speak up; ask questions
Typically ,in school, educators are always changing the learning experiences to make those experiences well matched to students' needs and interests. If you're confused about learning goals, reach out to the teacher to ask questions. 

Parents who are working may need to hire some extra at-home support. Ask a family member to help out, coordinate care with other adults in the home, or seek local emergency childcare help. I do believe that families should receive a stipend during the pandemic to help out with this. In Massachusetts, emergency child care was available during the spring. Many of those slots stayed empty. I'm not sure why this happened, but I hope that kind of childcare will be available again in the fall should we move to remote learning.

Maximize the benefits of learning at home with the following actions:
  • Look for ways to strengthen your family life with a positive weekly routine including chores, healthy foods, good bedtime routines, limited tech time, lots of reading or listening to books, playing math games together, watching terrific videos and films that connect to social studies' themes, and exploring the natural spaces around you.
  • Read, read, and read some more--children rarely read enough, and the ability to elevate the time spent reading and the quality of the books your child reads is awesome. School librarians are invaluable resources for this initiative.
  • Boost social skills by finding safe ways to get together with family members and neighbors for positive social events.
  • Learn about your local community via reading and exploring places. Many local museums are now open, but you have to make an appointment. Since the learning is virtual, it's likely that you may be able to make appointments to visit these museums at various times throughout the week.
Become tech savvy
This is a good time for every member of the family to develop their tech skills and abilities in safe, productive, and engaging ways. Advocate for your local school system to offer tech classes for whole families so that everyone is able to learn how to use the expected tech devices and tools together. To become tech savvy will serve you well throughout your life.

Learn with your children
Join online classes with your child to learn as they are learning. That will help you help your child.

Remote learning doesn't have to be onerous. Instead, it can be an opportune time to elevate essential skills, family life, and child-centered learning success. Educators are there to guide this journey in ways that best support you and your children. While we would all like to get back to school as we know it, in-school teaching with pandemic limitations will be difficult, uncomfortable, and ineffective for students and teachers alike--the pandemic limitations do not match who children are, how they act, and the ways they learn. Since remote teaching is the best solution, it's time to think about how to make that successful for you and your children.