Telling your kids to listen to their teachers or study for a science test is a no-brainer. Getting them to focus on the lesson plan you created while logging into the digital “assignment board” and trying to remember the life cycle of frog? Wait, what?
Now that the burden has fallen to you to keep your kids sharp and focused on their remote schoolwork, you’ve realized that distractions abound and everybody is flying blind. That’s where these six tips from teachers come into play. Buck up, Mom: You got this.
1. Stick to a schedule
We’ve all had to be flexible with our daily routines. (Hi, toddler on the conference call!) But this doesn’t mean the schedule should go completely out the window.
“Maintaining a schedule—even one that doesn’t start at the same time as before—will keep some semblance of normalcy in your kids’ lives and hold them accountable to the same level of expectations,” says Marisa Miller, a high school biology teacher in Queens, New York. Miller says they should go to bed at the same time, not take naps in the middle of the day (unless you’ve got a preschooler) and continue to do all the things that make life feel normal—whether that’s eating together as a family, ending the night with a story or starting the day with a sun salutation.
2. Limit distractions…within reason
Yes, we’re all relying on screen time and gadgets during this trying time. (No judgment!) But kids need to know that lesson time is not Nintendo Switch time, says Briana B., a special education teacher in Brooklyn, New York. Bottom line: The TV is off when they’re working, but kids can still use chat and text to talk to their friends and teachers just as they would throughout a normal day in school.
3. Devote the right amount of time to each class
It’s unrealistic to assume your sixth grader will spend exactly 45 minutes devoted to each of her subjects, but experts agree that kids should still be spending roughly an equal amount of time on all classes, just like they would in “real” school.
They also shouldn’t try to multitask. “The brain works better focusing on one subject for about an hour at a time,” Miller says. “Set an alarm on your phone or use a kitchen timer to know when it’s time to move on to the next class.”
4. Let them fix their own problems
Of course this depends on the ages of your children, but the general idea is not to do everything for your kids just because they’re home. “Tell them to figure it out and be patient,” Miller explains, whether that’s finding a new pen if theirs dries out or restarting the computer if it’s not responding.
5. Stay on top of new tech
Teachers are using new (and often confusing to everybody) online platforms, so it’s prudent to set yourself up for technological success. Miller recommends writing down passwords, reading all the “how-to’s” and updating your software if it’s out of date. Still feeling lost? Check in with another parent in the classroom who might able to talk you through it.
6. ‘Attend’ office hours
Remember: Your child’s teacher is an email, Zoom meeting or Google Hangout away. So if you’re worried your 5-year-old isn’t learning letters or your teen is having trouble with algebra, hit her up on a video call during her office hours or ask to schedule a conference if she hasn’t made them available. “We want to talk to you and see your faces!” Miller says. “Plus, it’s easier for students to ask questions, and they’re guaranteed a quick response when we’re ‘face-to-face.’”