I see the panic. My kids are going back in a remote learning format for the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the panic is real across all of my social media feeds. Parents are worried how they are going to handle this with their kids, but hopefully, this blog will give you a few tips to make it work. Every situation is different, but there can be a couple of lines to simplify the process. Consider this the essential tips to survive virtual learning.
Tip 1: Accept It
Think of any of the programs where you can get over an issue. What is often the first step? It’s to accept it. That’s going to be the key to remote learning. It’s going to happen, and once you accept it as a parent you can start getting into parent mode figuring out what you are going to do.
If you're struggling to accept it, just remember one thing: schools and districts are making that call because they want to protect their staff and students. There is not a school or district in the country that wants to go back to remote only, but because of the COVID-19 spread in their area, that’s what they feel like they have to do. That protection intent is what we want schools to do, so while it is tough on you as a parent, you can’t know the intent. Remembering that should help with acceptance.
Acceptance is such a key component of making this work because if you don’t, your children see that. If you show anger and hate to remote learning, they see that as being acceptable and they can use it as an excuse in their own remote interactions. You don’t want that.
Remote Learning isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing. It can at least give your kids some purpose at home, and I imagine everyone wants that based on seeing their kids home from the summer.
Tip 2: Don’t Blame Teachers
This seems pretty straight forward, but it’s definitely something to watch out for. Teachers did not ask for this. They want to see your kids. Teachers are people who thrive with personal relationships, and keeping them home prevents that. This is incredibly hard on them too.
If remote learning is failing in your school or district, it’s a failure of school and district leadership. It’s possible to have a great remote learning structure, but if teachers aren’t trained for it, it makes that a moot point. This is the point where those leaders have to step up and get the teachers what they need, and hopefully now that they have had some time, they have done just that.
It’s what makes me hopeful for the fall. I think remote learning will be much better. Schools and Districts have had all summer to plan for the possibilities not two days. They should be much better prepared.
Tip 3: Organize
The key with approaching a digital curriculum is organization. You want kids to be able to find where they are going easily while starting in one central place. I did not see that with my own children’s teachers in the spring, but I am hopeful that we will see it with more planning in the fall. It does not mean you can’t do it as a parent though.
As a parent, the key here is going to be to decipher and organize what kids have to do. If the school is not giving you a great format for that there are a multitude of ways both digital and analog that you can hack a system into place. Here are just a few:
Tip 4: Get Cheap Devices
If your kids go to a school where they are given a device, you are lucky. In fact, you're really lucky in this environment. One of the biggest struggles in remote learning is having a device for every student in your house. You want them all to succeed and if they have to share the device that becomes way more complicated.
While this won’t work for everyone (there will still be some who will need to depend on the district for this), you can easily get a cheap Chromebook that will work perfectly for remote learning. Chromebooks as a whole start in the $200 range, but one place that might get you even further is eBay. There are under $100 used Chromebooks there, and that can fulfill the need.
Tip 5: Work on your network
Let’s look at the reality of the situation. The pandemic made it perfectly clear that broadband is as important as a utility as things like water and electricity, and with the pandemic continuing, it means you need to invest in your home network.
I have done two things at my house to help with that. 1) I bought an ethernet cable and ran it to a place that makes my house network a bit wider. I have AT&T internet and just by running cable in my basement to the other side of the house has doubled my internet speed. 2) I built a mesh network where several internet extenders are extending my speed.
Why is all that important? I could have as many as 5 people on Zoom calls at the same time in the fall. Without a strong network, we might not be able to make that work.
Now, I know there are plenty of folks out there who can’t afford to do that. If that’s the case working on your network becomes a matter of finding places near your house that have an internet connection. If you have to go that route, think of EVERYWHERE. Your kids should be able to get on the school network if it’s close, but there are plenty of other places with strong internet connections. Places like libraries, coffee shops, fast-casual dining
restaurants, and more all have internet connections. It’s not great, but there are ways to make it work in most locales.
6) Make your own learning schedule
Yes, schools are going to have prescribed schedules, but it does not mean you have to follow it. Most teachers aren’t going to focus on the timing part because they will just be happy if kids are learning. Teachers want you to do what’s best for kids, so don’t feel bad if you have to tweak their schedule.
The thing that makes this tough is that parents also have to work at the same time, and many of us are working from home. We may have to work the kid’s schedule around ours, and that’s ok. You also may have a kid like my son (the type that bounces off every wall in a room), and they need breaks. If that’s the case take them.
Just remember throughout that it’s ok to be the parent and do what’s best for your kid. Everyone knows things are difficult, and they will adapt as needed.
7) Focus on Learning Not a Number
This one is really important, but it’s really hard to remember. For so long, we have seen getting a grade as the way to achieve in school, but often that grade does not measure learning. It has things like effort grades and check-offs in there that just measure effort, and it has assessments that are poorly written where they don’t tell you much about what a student knows.
This idea increases exponentially with remote learning. Many parents see that number as the only way to motivate their students, and they focus on that. What’s easy to forget though is the inequalities in education are exponentially increased by remote learning. Judging kids by a number is just much harder to do.
As a parent, it means we need to have other gates that kids cross. Maybe you just get there with a discussion centered on what they learned. Maybe you make them create a project showing what they know. It’s really about a mindset, and it will take the pressure off both the kids and yourself as a parent if you focus on the learning not the number.
8) Get Creative with Connections
Just cause schools not in, doesn’t necessarily mean kids can’t connect. I know for many balancing work and kids school is going to be very tough, and that’s where you have to move to what parents do best: get creative.
No one is preventing you from getting kids together in small study groups where they can get that connection and keep a low risk of COVID. Those kids could even meet outside. It could become one of those things where you take the kids one day and the other parent takes them the next to allow better work balance. You could even do this virtually if COVID is really bad in your area.
I would also look at organizations like the YMCA for opportunities and programs for your kids. They realize that some people just don’t have a choice and they will do the best they can to create small enough groups where the risk of COVID is less.
It’s all about being the best parent you can, and this is the time to make that creativity happen.
9) Be PATIENT
Remote learning is new to everyone. It’s new for most teachers (Yes, there are virtual schools), parents, and kids. You have to be patient with the process or you’re going to drive yourself (and as a result your kids) nuts.
The thing to remember through all of it is that it is not ideal, but it’s also what you make of it. We are all in this together in this weird time, and patience is going to be the virtue we all have to live by. Teachers won’t do it perfectly, you won’t do it perfectly, and neither will your kids. Give everyone that space to make mistakes and this will go much better than you think.