21 Sep Creating a Home Learning Environment
Many school districts have opted to start this school year with virtual learning, and parents are scrambling to create space in their homes to accommodate this. You may have an extra room in your home, or you may have a chair at the kitchen table. Both can be turned into an effective learning environment. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Minimal distractions –
If possible, turn the television and cell phones off during learning time. If this is not possible, consider turning your child’s chair away from the television, silencing the cell phones, and getting them a pair of headphones so they can stay tuned in to their online classes with fewer distractions. Consider using a divider such as a trifold board to minimize distractions and help separate multiple children.
Understand their learning style –
Is your child wiggly like mine is? Consider different types of flexible seating or fidget items that can help keep their hands and feet busy so their eyes and minds can stay on topic. Think about what types of “brain breaks” your child might need – a few minutes between activities to stretch or walk around, jump on the trampoline, listen to their favorite songs, have some water or a snack, use the bathroom. Think about different learning styles. Some children do better than others with e-learning. Is your child more of a hands on learner? Or perhaps they learn best by reading instructions or watching a demonstration? Talk to your child’s teacher about ways to supplement your child’s learning to best meet their learning style needs.
Monitoring and supervision –
Are you a stay-at-home parent who can dedicate their time solely to monitoring e-learning? Do you balance other responsibilities with e-learning because you work from home or have multiple children? Do you work outside the home and will have someone else supervising your child’s e-learning? Are your children old enough to manage their own e-learning? Whatever the setup, make sure everyone is on the same page regarding expectations that you and the school have for your student. Throughout the school year, there may be technology issues, missing homework assignments, trouble with motivation, or your child may have a difficult time digesting the material being taught. Have regular, open communication with your child, your child’s teacher/school, and other adults who may be helping your child.
Schedule considerations –
My own child is in 3yo preschool this year. He is required to participate in a 25-minute live morning meeting daily. Some days, he may participate in a 10-minute live small group. Some days, he will participate in 20-minute live speech therapy. None of his scheduled synchronous activities are back-to-back. The rest of this day will consist of asynchronous, or unscheduled, activities. On top of this, we do private therapies for both him and his little brother. Your family may have a similar schedule, or it may be even more hectic. Pick a calendar that works for you – google, outlook, a paper planner – and use it. If your child is young, consider a visual schedule for them. If your child is older, help them set up their own calendar system. Set timers if needed to remind you and your child when the next live/synchronous activity is.
Remember that our children watch us for clues about what to think/feel. Try to keep a positive attitude about it. Take first day of school photos with their at-home learning setup. Encourage and support them through any challenges they face with this new learning environment. Parents and children may feel nervous, anxious, sad, angry, or excited – your feelings and the feelings of your student are valid and important. Talk to your child, talk to other parents, talk to your family or friends, talk to your child’s teachers. Encourage your child to do the same. Reach out for help if you feel that you or your child are struggling or your need some additional support.
Consider your own needs as a parent. Be kind to yourself. We are all new to this experience together, whether we are stay-at-home, working from home, or leaving the home to work. Practice self-care by drinking plenty of water, making sure you eat, and getting a good night’s sleep. Move your body by taking walks, going for a run, or stretching. Spend time doing something you enjoy such as reading, knitting, or scrolling through social media. Stay connected with people who care about you. Spend time talking with your family about non-school topics and doing activities you enjoy together. Ask for help if you need it.
Beth Nakad, LCSW