The COVID-19 pandemic prompted thousands of school districts to close their doors, shifting to completely online classes in a matter of a few weeks. Students and parents are faced with the formidable challenge of finishing the academic year at home while adapting to the challenges and nuances of online learning platforms and videoconferencing.
A longtime teleworker and faculty member in Walden’s Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, Dr. Monique Lynch has words of wisdom for families as they adapt to homeschooling.
1. Set up a Learning Space That’s Similar to What Your Student Has at School
It could be a table or desk and a regular chair, with an organized space and bookshelves for school supplies nearby. “Having a dedicated space that is similar to what kids are used to will help keep the school norms in place,” Dr. Lynch says. “Trying to work from a couch or bed might introduce unfamiliarity and become distracting.”
2. Decide Which Technology You’ll Use for School
If your child has a school-issued device, this could a simple boundary (for example, “We only use the tablet for homework”). But if your child is accessing online education resources on a personal device, talk through what they can and cannot do during learning time. “This includes setting boundaries for chatting or texting with friends, social media, and other distractions,” says Dr. Lynch. Utilizing a device’s parental control settings can be an easy way to set boundaries for school time.
3. Establish Clear Expectations for (Virtual) Classroom Behavior
Many teachers are meeting with their students via videoconferencing apps to provide online instructional time. If your children are participating in live online classes, talk to them about paying attention. “The expectations for staying in the chair and paying attention should be just the same as when the kids are in school,” Dr. Lynch says. “Having a headset with a cord can help students stay in their seat since they are tethered to the device.” Also, teach students about videoconferencing etiquette such as muting themselves when they are not speaking so they can hear others.
4. Post a Schedule
Create a school schedule and post it in a central area of your home, such as the kitchen, so it's clear who is doing what and when. If parents are working from home, they should also post their schedule to ensure that kids know when they are available and when they are not. “Include meal and snack times on the schedule,” says Dr. Lynch. “Sharing schedules is very helpful when multiple people are trying to telework and participate in remote schooling within the same home.”
5. Plan for Shared Breaks
With shelter-in-place orders keeping most families home, social interaction is limited and family interactions are more important than ever. Dr. Lynch recommends being intentional about checking in with your students during the day. “Find twenty minutes when everyone in the house can take a morning break,” she says. “That way, you can check in with how things are going before the next time period. This helps minimize interruptions during work or class times.”
6. Include Physical Activity in the School Day
Plan 45–60 minutes of physical activity for kids every day, preferably outdoors. “This might mean that you are sitting outside doing a work task while the kids are riding bikes, setting up an obstacle course, walking the dog around the yard, or some other simple outdoor activity that maintains social distancing,” says Dr. Lynch. For indoor physical activity, check out online guided exercises. There are many options available, from yoga to dancing, on apps, YouTube, and television channels.
7. Keep up With How Your Students Are Adjusting to Homeschool
Hold regular conversations with your kids to get feedback about how things are going, what they are learning, and how they are feeling, as well as ideas for adjustments. “This might need to be daily or every few days at first and could transition to weekly or less often as everyone settles into a routine,” Dr. Lynch says.
8. Check in With Teachers
Make time to touch base with your children’s teachers, and be sure to applaud them for all they are doing to enable home learning for your kids during this time. “Ask them for help where needed,” says Dr. Lynch. “Remember that everyone is making big adjustments right now and regular communication will help everyone.”
Walden University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in education, including an MS in Education. This online master’s program in education allows students to choose a specialization, such as Integrating Technology in the Classroom, which includes a closer look at online learning and technology tools applied to the K–12 learning environment.
Dr. Monique Lynch is an educator who enjoys helping teachers improve their practice. She started as a secondary mathematics teacher and has worked in instructional technology, teacher preparation, professional organization leadership, and higher education accreditation. Dr. Lynch is interested in the role of technology in education, and she enjoys presenting at conferences and workshops. Her role at Walden as a program director for the MS in Education program allows her to interact with current teachers regularly.
For another great perspective on this topic, you might enjoy reading “Setting up an Elementary Homeschool,” featuring Walden program director Dr. Stacy Ness.
Walden University is an accredited online college offering several education degree programs for graduates and undergraduates. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.
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