Virtual school is now in session. It’s not ideal and is tough for everyone involved, especially parents. So, I’ve compiled 10 tips from parents who are dealing with this very issue. Here are their top tips to help you manage virtual schooling.
1. Set limits
Virtual schooling can make structure tough. Setting limits on what your child can and can’t do, and having differentiation between work and playtime is key.
“Set firm limits that limit what your kid can do when they’re done with their schoolwork. My child is in 6th grade and she is e-learning every other day right now. She knows she can only read or write until 3:00 p.m., so she doesn’t try to ditch her schoolwork early to watch TV or play a game,” says Holly Johnson, mom and frugal living expert from ClubThrifty.com. “Having her work on reading or writing until 3:00 p.m. lets her know that she has the entire day to learn and that there is no benefit to hurrying up to get her work done.”
2. Have a dedicated space for school time
Kevin Payne of the blog Family Money Adventure emphasizes the importance of having dedicated space for school time.
“Try and create a dedicated space for each of your kids. They are used to having an assigned seat or desk in school,” he explains. “Having their own space gives them some ownership and provides a separation between school and home life. Plus, it helps establish a routine and signals the start of the school day when you sit down.”
If possible, create a distinct area for school and have a dedicated seat and place for work to help establish a sense of normalcy and routine.
3. Focus on your strengths
Let’s be honest, virtual schooling is not ideal for anyone. It’s tough on parents and kids. That’s why finance writer Emily Guy Birken recommends focusing on your strengths.
“Lean into what you’re good at, and let go of what you’re not. I learned this spring that I’m not a good teacher for my kids, even though I have a background in education,” she explains. “I was getting frustrated, and my kids were getting frustrated. So I took a step back from the formal teaching and leaned in what I was good at: reading with the kids, making jokes with them, playing games, and just talking to them. It’s not the same as formal instruction, but it is a kind of teaching, and it most definitely supports the formal instruction.”
So, have some compassion with yourself for not automatically being able to be the perfect teacher, mom, and employee. Do what you can and focus on your strengths.
4. Let some things go undone
Being able to manage virtual schooling, being a parent, working, cleaning, etc. sometimes means letting some things go undone. It’s easy to get trapped in the idea that you should do it all, but it’s not possible.
“A mistake I made early on, I think, was being too rigid in how I approached virtual school. I felt (and put on myself) a lot of pressure to perfectly manage my kid’s schooling. I had good intentions, but it quickly turned into daily power struggles,” explains Elyssa Kirkham, mom, and blogger at Brave Saver. “Many of us parents are still working from home or even out of the home while trying to supervise and direct our kids’ learning. It’s unrealistic to expect that to go perfectly all the time.
I reached a point with distance learning where I had to give myself permission to leave some things undone and not get to everything. It’s okay if you don’t get 100% of school work and assignments 100% completed, 100% of the time. It’s okay to do “just enough.” I aim to make sure my second-grader is on track for most subjects but allow for an “off” day every week. Or, I let her opt out of an art project or other activity she’s not interested in. I talked to our teachers to make sure I was prioritizing the most important subjects and activities — and knew which ones I could be more lax on.”
5. Keep a routine
School is broken up in a specific way that provides a routine every day. Children know what to expect. Similarly, it’s important to keep a routine as much as possible with virtual schooling.
“Keep to a rhythm every day and every week that most closely aligns with your natural rhythm. Sticking to a rhythm means you can be intentional about what your priorities are,” explains Lindsey Wander WorldWise Tutoring LLC. “For instance, try to keep the same wake-up time and the same sleep time. Put this schedule on a whiteboard. Block off times for work and school meetings first, then add in time blocks for exercising, eating, relaxing quietly, and fun. If you struggle to stay focused, you can also use a timer to go off periodically as a reminder to check on if you are paying attention and understanding. Or you can try a Pomodoro Timer, where you work for 25 minutes then take a 5-minute break.”
6. Have your child log-in on their own
Virtual school comes with a host of new technologies and various apps. Amy Nguyen, a mom of two young ones: an 8-year-old who is a 3rd grader and a 6-year old who is a 1st grader —recommends having your children log-in and practice on their own.
“Have them log-in and practice on new apps (Google Classroom or Seesaw) every day. Do not do it for them; they should go through the motions,” she explains.
You want your children to be able to use the technology on their own and figure it out. Doing it themselves will help them learn and give them a sense of independence.
7. Check progress
Having virtual school is new for everyone, and everyone is trying to figure it out on their own. Given that you are figuring it out as you go, make sure to set benchmarks and check progress.
“Be observant of your child’s progress and attitude. If something isn’t working, re-evaluate it, and try different curricula or educational philosophies,” says Brian Galvin, Chief Academic Officer at Varsity Tutors. “Virtual homeschooling can be very effective due to its flexibility and its ability to accommodate the needs of your child, your values, and your lifestyle.”
So, take note of what things are working and what doesn’t. Change course if needed and check progress.
8. Batch subjects
One thing you can do to make virtual learning a bit easier is to batch similar subjects.
“Don’t be afraid to chunk together subject areas. Tackle science one day and social studies the next. If assignments are due on a daily basis, have children work on the same or similar subjects at the same time,” says Melissa Lowry, founder/director of Melissa Lowry Education Coaching. “This will promote a “learning lab” approach to the content, allowing children to focus their attention and keep from becoming distracted.”
Taking this approach can help things flow more easily and help your kids stay focused.
9. Decorate your space
It can be so distracting to have school at home. To help the environment, David Cusick, the Chief Strategy Officer at House Method recommends changing the space.
“Decorate the space with educational posters and make sure your child has all the pens, paper, and tech they’ll need, as well as a desk or workspace that’s dedicated to school. Giving kids the mental space to separate play areas from the learning zone helps them better manage remote schooling.”
10. Set boundaries
It’s crucial to set boundaries while your child is virtual learning at home. Lucy Reyes, a mom blogger at Cheers to Life Blogging says, “Remind them they are in school which means ‘Mom isn’t here.’” It may sound harsh but it’s one way to set boundaries and separation.
“Whenever our kids have a question, their initial instinct is to go ask mom. However, while doing virtual schooling, I have set boundaries and do not accept ANY questions from him,” notes Reyes. “So remind your kids that they are in school which means we technically aren’t there. Set boundaries and route all questions to the teacher. The only time we spend together is during his brain breaks to catch up.”
Taking these 10 tips into account can help you manage virtual schooling a bit better. Remember, at the end of the day, you are doing the best you can.